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  • 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...
  • Knife in the Dark

    Eric Hart | Answer Box | October 1, 2013 Cheryl Koski in Triad Stage’s version of Wait Until Dark The best solution for a throwing knife at Triad Stage was also the oldest The stage is dark but for a single light. The heroine is at the fuse box, ready to pull the fuse and plunge the apartment into darkness. The villain throws a knife at her, and it sticks in the wall just above her head. Read More...
  • Burnishing the Golden Theatre

    Jacob Coakley | Answer Box | September 1, 2013 Rose Brand supplied the main curtain at the Shubert Organization’s Golden Theatre, and the custom-sewn over-valance. Currently home to Christopher Durang’s satirical update on Chekhov, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, the Shubert Organization’s Golden Theatre recently went through an update of its own, a complete renovation of the audience chamber. To guide this renovation, the Shuberts turned to the head of the small creative firm Francesca Russo Architect—Francesca Russo herself. Read More...
  • Hole in One

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | August 1, 2013 Michael Simpson in the Dorset Theatre Festival’s production of The Whipping Man The design and build team behind Dorset Theatre Festival’s The Whipping Man built a broken ceiling that worked perfectly For our recent production of The Whipping Man at the Dorset Theatre Festival here in Dorset, Vt., the set designer, Debra Booth, and director, Dina Janis, had dreamed up a beautiful interior from a Civil-War era home. Of course, the house had gotten a bit battered during the war and was designed to be in disrepair: broken glass in the entryway, cracked and shattered balusters on the stairs and a large—roughly 6-foot-by-6-foot—hole in the ceiling where the plaster had fallen in—perhaps due to a cannonball falling through it. Read More...
  • Transforming Act

    Greg Fiebig & Ryan Akers | Answer Box | June 1, 2013 A moment from the Indiana Wesleyan University’s Theatre Guild’s production of Secret Garden The team at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Theatre Guild built one turntable for two venues As soon as Indiana Wesleyan University’s Theatre Guild finalized their 2012-2013 season, with Pygmalion in the fall of 2012 and Secret Garden in the spring of 2013, we started discussing staging. As technical director for the IWU Theatre Guild (Dr. Greg Fiebig), scene shop supervisor for the same (Ryan Akers) and scenic designers for each of the shows, we were both wary of the elaborate scene changes that mark both plays. Read More...
  • Making a Forest

    Cassandra Phillips | Answer Box | May 1, 2013 Left to right: Claire Dana, Jim Schumcher and Cassandra Phillips glue tulle to the mylar stencil cut-outs. The scene shop at Indiana Repertory Theatre had to solve a problem of trees for a production of The Gospel According to James One of the most exciting parts of being a scenic artist is the adventure of thinking critically, so you can make things creatively. When a project comes my way that presents some potential problems, my heart revs. I see it as an adventure, not a setback. In 2012 I was working as the assistant Charge Scenic Artist under charge scenic artist Claire Dana for the Indiana Repertory Theatre. A show was fast approaching by the name of The Gospel According to James, by Charles Smith. The play is a historical fiction about the last lynchings to take place in Indiana and explores the nature of memory in regard to our collective history. Read More...
  • How Did They Do That?

    Kevin M. Mitchell | Answer Box | April 1, 2013 Scenic Designer Scott Loebls with his ingenious toy-making machine for Imagination Theater Company’s production of A Gnome for Christmas. The magic is not in the box When it came time for the cast to come out and take questions from the kids, the first one on everyone’s mind was, “How did the invention turn wood into toys?” The show was Imagination Theater Company’s Christmas Production of  A Gnome for Christmas, which was written by Sarah Brandt, with music and lyrics by Stephen James Neal, and was directed by Doug Finlayson. The company is part of the St. Louis Repertory Theater, and the four actor/one stage manager troupe does three different shows a year, traveling the region and putting on 40-50 performances a year. Read More...
  • What Is the Best Broadway Can Be?

    David J. Loehr | Answer Box | March 1, 2013 Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatricals, spoke of ways to welcome new demographics into the theatre—including allowing refreshments into the theatre itself. That question was the focus of the recent TEDxBroadway conference held Jan. 28 at New World Stages in New York City. Speakers included actor George Takei, producer Daryl Roth, magician Steve Cohen & ethnographer Ellen Isaacs. Many of the talks touched on ideas that can apply not only to Broadway but to theatre companies everywhere. Read More...
  • Hot Stove Heater

    Christopher Hideg | Answer Box | February 1, 2013 The stove for Bishop Foley Catholic High School’s production of Oklahoma! was an ingenious design incorporating buckets and normal stove elements. An economical pot-belly stove design In the musical Oklahoma!, Curly comforts Laurie after she fires Judd and eventually proposes to her. During the scene he sits on a stove, and, thinking it’s hot, jumps off. It’s a funny moment, but there are more considerations when building the prop stove than may be apparent at first glance. The design of the stove has to be convincing as well as be sturdy to hold the weight of a person, especially when jumping off. Plus, for the production at my school, the prop needed to be economical as well. Read More...
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