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Answer Box

  • 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...
  • Coronation Animation

    Lucas Krech | Answer Box | February 4, 2014 Creating pop art animations for a production—no drawing skills necessary L’Incoronatzione di Poppea is a stunning musical drama from the late-Renaissance/early-Baroque period. Set in the Roman empire it follows the intrigues of Poppea as her affair with emperor Nero evolves from simple tryst to her crowning as Empress of Rome. Our production at West Edge Opera set the show in an alternate-history 1962 where Nero and Poppea were conceived as JFK and Marilyn Monroe leaving their respective Jackie and Joe in the dust. 1962 is also the year pop art exploded on the world stage with Andy Warhol’s first major gallery show, introducing the larger world to Campbell’s Soup cans, among other classics. This was the wonderful and fertile ground in which I was tasked to design video projections.  Read More...
  • Not Burning Down the House

    Bryan Reesman | Answer Box | January 3, 2014 The passion of Romeo and Juliet ignites (literally) Fire is almost commonplace in Broadway theatres this year. There was a burning cross onstage during A Time To Kill and three battens of fire lit up several scenes in the recent production of Romeo and Juliet. Special effects design consultant Jeremy Chernick assisted Gregory Meeh with the former show and designed the effects for the latter. To make the effect happen safely he leaned on his years of experience to help him understand both the engineering of the effect and the process of working within fire regulations and with the New York Fire Department. [In short, don’t try this at home, OK? –Ed.] Read More...
  • No Smoking in the Tropics … Or School

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | December 2, 2013 Actors “smoking” a cigar in Anna in the Tropics at Purdue University How can you comply with a ban on smoking in a scene that demands smoking? How do you smoke on stage when you can’t smoke on stage? That’s the challenge we faced this fall as we started working on our production of Anna in the Tropics at Purdue University. If you don’t know the show, it takes place in a cigar factory in Ybor City, Florida, in the 1920s. The play includes an important scene in which a number of the characters enjoy a cigar together. Read More...
  • Home Stump Home

    Sandy Phillips | Answer Box | November 1, 2013 Travis Gilmore standing next to the partially-completed stump gives a good sense of the true size of the forest behemoth. A challenging set piece for A Midsummer Night's Dream didn't stump the scenic artists at Oregon Shakespeare Festival A Midsummer Night’s Dream is all about the magical forest. For the summer 2013 production of Midsummer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, much “theatre magic” was employed to transport our audience. There were fireflies and toadstools to sit on, and, to act as Titania’s bower, a stump of unusual size. This giant, organic-looking element presented a unique challenge for our scene shop. Read More...
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