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Answer Box

  • Bed of Coals

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | March 2, 2015 How a propsmaker used glass to give life to a dying fire "What we are ultimately looking for is a hot fire that they are cooking over that slowly goes out so you see the burned coals,” said my director on a production of As You Like It. “Because the scene starts at night slowly moves to the morning … au-vista.” Read More...
  • Living Lighting

    Ryan Joyner | Answer Box | February 2, 2015 One team got creative to have an audio-controlled lighting effect—but gave lighting the final word  Last fall, the theatre department at Baylor produced One Third of a Nation, the Living Newspaper show about problems of housing in the U.S., complete with a character entitled “Loudspeaker,” who narrates the action. In our production we had her stationed on a 12-foot-high scenic unit with a broadcast-style microphone and a large VU meter. But despite its size, the needle on the VU meter was just too far from the audience to be seen. We decided we needed to make it glow—better still, we wanted to make the VU meter’s backlight pulse in relation to the microphone signal. Now we’re talking! But what if the lighting designer wants to be able to fade out that light for a true blackout? Well, that gets complicated… Read More...
  • Displaced Desert

    Natalie Robin | Answer Box | January 6, 2015 Immersive, site-specific lighting helped make an immediate In Darfur for the Women’s Action Movement Theatre When Kristen van Ginhoven, artistic director of the Berkshire-based Women’s Action Movement Theatre (WAM) planned her production of In Darfur, Winter Miller’s gut-wrenching exploration of the Darfuri genocide, she wanted the audience to feel the realities of the story in a way that was personal and immediate. I was recommended to her because of my experience in immersive, site specific work using non-traditional lighting equipment, and along with the rest of the design staff—sound and projections by Brad Berridge, costumes by Govane Lohbaur and scenery by Juliana von Haubrich—we geared up to introduce the Berkshire audience to the political realities of the Sudanese conflicts.  Read More...
  • Where There‚Äôs Smoke

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | December 2, 2014 In order to create fire for an Iron Age King Lear, we needed something stronger than silk "You’re obsessing again, we have the hand torches approved and ordered—just let it go.”  So said Dan Sullivan, director for The Public Theater’s production of King Lear for their 2014 Shakespeare in the Park summer season. But despite his request, this Disney princess decided not to Let It Go.   Read More...
  • All in the Traveling

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | November 1, 2014 Sometimes you have to get creative to use a simple solution All in the Timing, by David Ives, is a play about language, wordplay, and existence—but, arguably, it’s also just as much a play about theatre, with its many theatre and drama references. It was appropriate, then, that Dorset Theatre Festival’s production of All in the Timing—with its central, raised circular disc on which sat bright red rock ‘n’ roll truss, and its out-in-the open costume change areas all around—aimed to embrace its theatricality. A primary feature of that theatrical expression was a 55-foot-wide traveler track, on which scenic elements for each of the six one-act plays that make up the performance entered and exited the playing space. Read More...
  • Spinning Voices

    Becca Stoll | Answer Box | October 1, 2014 The sound design for a deconstructed Antigone needed to build up an environment in an empty warehouse In November of 2012, Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama’s production of Antigone by Mac Wellman (directed by Caleb Hammond, MFA ’14) inaugurated the use of Studio 201 as our school’s fourth performance space. Until then, the 110-foot-long warehouse had only been used for offsite props and costume storage. It fell to me to create the sound design for this bizarre and beautiful adapation, including a soundscape that allowed the play to be understood as well as a sound system that would let the audience understand the actors—and for that matter, where was the audience going to be, anyway?   Read More...
  • A Set Built on Sand

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | September 2, 2014 One team built a beach that was big enough for the stage, but small on sand Dorset Theatre Festival’s recent premiere of Leslie Ayvazian’s new play Out of the City takes place primarily in an inn in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; however, two scenes occur on a lakeside beach some distance from the inn. The design called for a detailed box set representing the lobby of the inn, but during the lakeside scene the upstage wall tracked open to reveal a sky-blue cyc and a hanging pine bough, while the action was played on the apron of the stage, designed to look like the rocky-sand shore of a lake in Pennsylvania. Read More...
  • Deus ex Spelling Bee

    Erik Diaz | Answer Box | August 4, 2014 Jesus flies in for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee The Deus Ex Machina, or “God from the machine,” is not a new idea to the world of theatre. In fact, it’s so old that even the classical Greek dramatists thought it was cliché. In this plot device, characters saddled with an unsolvable or insurmountable issue are rescued by the sudden appearance of a god that solves the problem. While it may not be useful for drama the very hoariness of the device means it can be well used for comedy—a tactic the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee uses when it has Jesus appear to help a struggling contestant. In the 2010 production of Spelling Bee at TriArts Sharon Playhouse, I got excited about the idea of introducing a vehicle for Jesus, taking the joke a step further.  Read More...
  • Dance to the Music

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | June 4, 2014 EDM meets theatre with Choices, and gets a control network to make it happen Choices, a development and research project helmed by Rick Thomas, faculty sound designer at Purdue University, is a foray into the world of electronic dance music, with more than an hour of music and interactivity created entirely by Thomas and students at Purdue. Layered on top of that is a narrative about love, honesty and the choices we make to hurt each other or to love ourselves and those around us. To make it all work as a show requires authentic concert elements: splashy lights, immersive video effects and loud, loud music. And, right, there’s an interactive game in which audience members/concertgoers use their smart phones to make suggestions about what should happen next—suggestions that end up projected on the back wall of the venue.  Read More...
  • Digging for Rigging

    Thomas S. Freeman | Answer Box | May 2, 2014 iWeiss supplied the motorized rigging for an upgrade at Willard Straight Theatre at Cornell University, but a backhoe supplied the final assist The Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University is home to the Cornell Cinema—a space that, in addition to screening movies, often hosts other performance events. The building dates back to the 1920s and while the hemp rigging system wasn’t that old, it was in need of repair. Which is where iWeiss and Richard Parks come in.  Read More...
  • Pride and Prejudice and Complications

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | April 3, 2014 For a sweeping set stair unit the shop at Purdue had to contend with the helix effect, and over-thinking their plans For our recent production of Pride and Prejudice at Purdue University, the set designer envisioned a grand sweeping staircase that was both freestanding and free-wheeling: able to be moved, spun and shifted at will by the actors during transitions. The project presented a number of key challenges for second-year MFA candidate and technical director Alex Owens, but the biggest two were the fact that the structural elements were complex to visualize in 3D and then flatten into two dimensions for the construction drawings, and the so-called “helix effect” of inclined curved members. Read More...
  • A Fresh Coat

    Rachel E. Pollock | Answer Box | March 1, 2014 Digital textile design helps the new touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat keep its coat dazzling For the new touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat the costume designer, and my friend and colleague, Jennifer Caprio approached me to help work on a series of digital textile prints for the titular costume.  Caprio’s design concept for the dreamcoat was inspired by the famous series of 12 stained-glass windows which Marc Chagall created for the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. Created in the 1960s, each of Chagall’s windows represent one of the twelve tribes of Israel. In Caprio’s vision of the dreamcoat, it’s an ankle-length frock coat, the skirt of which is cut in 12 gores, each corresponding to one of Chagall’s windows. Read More...
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