The Fabric of Our Lives

No, I’m not talking about cotton. However, the theater is FULL of soft goods. This means the theater requires quite a bit of fabric. But what kinds of materials are we referring to exactly?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Muslin is the most common type of fabric used in the theater. It’s a natural fabric that holds dyes well.  It is overall very versatile, as a myriad of staging effects can be created with muslin. You can paint this fabric with any scene you can imagine, hang it straight or draped, or even treated to appear semi-translucent. This last effect gives a look similar to a scrim. Being lightweight and inexpensive are significant assets for a fabric used in set design, and Muslin certainly fits the bill. 

Next, I would like to talk about Velour. This fabric is also widely used in theater, mostly for grand drapes and valances. This fabric can also be seen in costume design. Though it is not as widely used as Muslin, velour can come in handy within the theater design world. Velour is a thick, luxurious feeling fabric very much like Velvet. Yet, unlike Velvet, Velour is a knit. This means that the fabric is stretchy, and will give easily with movement.

Look at how wonderful that Velour looks! It just drapes so nicely.

Third, we have to mention the many uses of Commando Cloth and Duvetyne. Both of these lovely fabrics are great for masking fabrics. The legs, borders, and traveler used in theaters are all commonly composed of either of these fabrics. These two fabrics are also great for softening the edges of a scrim or other backdrop. Depending on the budget of your local theater, you may be looking at masking fabrics made of Duvetyne rather than Commando Cloth because of the price difference between the two, the former being cheaper than the latter. 

Lastly, Opera Netting proves very useful when it comes to theatrical production and design. When you need to make a cut drop for a scene, it must be reinforced with Opera Netting. Otherwise, your drop will not hold up correctly, and your scene will be a mess! Opera Netting furthermore reinforces cut legs, borders, or any other soft good that needs extra structure and support. This image below and to the left is of a cut drop. You can see the evident cut out that bring this drop to life.

However, without that beautiful Opera Netting shown above, the cut drop would fall apart!

In short, these are the most commonly used fabrics in the theater world. I know that my descriptions were short and sweet, but if you would like to read up on more about these fabrics, I would recommend

 http://www.rosebrand.com/ or http://www.northeaststage.com/store/

for more information, fabric descriptions, and pricing. That’s all for now. 🙂

Art Makes All Things Better

Knowing your values is key to knowing yourself.

Recently on Elon University’s campus, there have been incidents reflecting ideas of intolerance. This is not something that should ever be allowed to go on. Everyone should feel welcome and safe wherever they are on campus, NO EXCEPTIONS. This idea of intolerance directly stems from a lack of good, moral values. If you don’t have a strong moral fiber that directs you, you’re probably making quite a few mistakes along the path.

For me personally, my values drive everything I do. I’m a very family and goal-oriented person. I also look to religion to find answers to my larger questions in life. However, no two people are the same, neither are their values. Each one of us as individuals must decide between what is right and wrong. However, I believe we can all come to a clear consensus on the fact that intolerance in any form is just wrong. It is important to empathize with those you may not agree with. Put yourself in their shoes. See through their eyes. You never know what is going on in a person’s life, so don’t be quick to place judgment. Core values should be universal in the fact that we are all a part of the human race. We should strive to help one another. We should only wish for the betterment of one another.

Another observation that I would like to make, is how much the arts is doing to teach tolerance in our very intolerant world. I read a deeply moving story located here, http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-33-spring-2008/art-makes-all-things-better. A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center,”Teaching Tolerance” is an initiative to promote better understanding of other cultures through the study of the arts. I, once again, was very touched and impressed at how very universal art is. We can all enjoy a beautiful painting no matter where we’re from, what religion we practice, what color our skin is. We are all truly one people when it comes down to it. We just need to learn how to act like it.

I feel like there is no better way to conclude this little sermon than with a song by one of the most pro-peace musicians I’ve ever heard, Bob Marley. Really listen to the words in this song. He describes “One Love, One Heart.” We really should heed these words and make an effort to reach out to others. We are all much more alike than we realize.

 

 

Times They Are a Changin’

As my journey through Tech Production in Theater progresses, I realize that my perspective on technical design and production has been changed a bit.

I have learned numerous new facts about the theater industry in only a short amount of time. There is so much hard work and sheer, pure talent that goes into the designing and producing of a theatrical venture. People are literally slaving behind the scenes to make sure the show goes off without a hitch. This new idea fascinates me. Of course, I always knew that there were many more individuals to thank for a fabulous show besides just the lovely faces you see singing show tunes on the forefront of the stage. I did not, however, know how much skill these “unsung heroes” truly possess.

http://rickyleepotts.com/2011/03/beef-boards-dinner-theatre-a-hair-raising-experience.html This link speaks about the production Hairspray and how Dan Benslay planned out his wig designs for this show a year in advance. Further, he spent a full month designing, crafting, and carefully constructing each wig. What made this show such an undertaking, was that 51 wigs had to be created for the show. Also, “Some people play multiple characters,” [Dan] explained. “I wanted them to look very different each time they came out on stage as another character.” Thus, each wig had to have a style of its own. Wig making is a skill for the outrageously talented and unusually patient. Neither of these characteristics can be found within me, nor any other person I am familiar with. It’s a rare ability that many people simply don’t have.

I’m ending this blog short so that you all won’t fall asleep while reading. However, I’d like to leave you with a video clip that actually happened right here at the ‘Ol Elon University. It touches on yet another aspect of production that I am thoroughly fascinated with: costume design. Check it out!

Sure, it’s necessary. But why?

So, how important is design and production in the entertainment industry? Well, to start off, when we speak of the entertainment industry, we are typically talking about a much larger enterprise than we realize. From the silver screen to Broadway, the local news to circus performers, the radio to stand up comedians, there are innumerable facets to the beautiful world of show business. So, with this idea in mind, I will give a few examples of recent works to explain the true value behind design and production.

These days, the design and production of films has been taken to an all new level. I, myself, have never preferred a 3-D experience to the traditional 2-D movie. However, my younger sister is now viewing films in 4-D Aromascope such as the latest Spy Kids film directed by Robert Rodriguez. Feel free to read one review located at http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/spy-kids-4d-stinks-more-ways-one-30257. It seems clear that the over-production did not add to but take away from the film. How much further can we go before we completely forget the real reason we started creating these sacred art forms?

Since I’m already on my soapbox, I might as well stay here. Let the record show that I’m not saying that the production and design of a film is not vital to its overall success. What I would like to point out, however, is that when a movie is stripped down to its raw, bare form and is STILL entertaining, that is truly something special. I, myself, may be a bit biased in this area. As you can see from the layout of my blog, I am a huge fan of classic black and white movies. Give me a film starring Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, or Fred Astaire any day and I’m there. It seems to me that if I can find a 1930’s or 1940’s age film as fascinating and moving as the technical and visual spectacle of today’s Avatar, a motion picture’s significance may come from just a bit more than how many special effects can be added to it.

Maybe I can better explain myself with an analogy. The story, content, acting, and directing of a film make up what we’ll call the “cake”, whereas the design and production add the “icing.” Let’s face it, both are needed for a good time! Example: If you walked into a party and someone offered you a bowl-full of icing, you may be pretty stoked for a while. Nonetheless, after several minutes of only eating icing you start to realize you would very much enjoy some cake with that. You start to feel that you’re missing something. You may even begin to feel ill with the amount of sugar you’re taking in at one time. In the same respect, you can sit and eat cake for as long as you want. Further, you might could eat that same cake for hours and not feel the same sickly effects of an icing overdose. But, when all is said and done, a little icing to top off your cake is the real way to go.

I’ve now beaten that idea to death. Can you tell I’m a Communications major? Let me try to move away from the film world a bit and on to theatre. I’m fairly sure we have all heard about the new Broadway show Spiderman: Turn off the Dark. I know for a fact my Technical Production in Theater class has because our lovely professor Bill went on a tangent about this show as well. You think I can get on a soapbox? You haven’t met Bill. Thus, I think I know what I’m talking about when I say that it’s a technical and visual spectacle to behold…but there is no real content to the show itself. Many reviews describe people who are at a loss for why they were so enthralled during the show, but can’t recall any real dialogue or storyline afterward. http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/theater/reviews/spider-man-turn-off-the-dark-opens-after-changes-review.html. Once again, feel free to read more on this at your leisure.

To add a little personal experience to my rant, I went to New York City recently where I had the pleasure of watching How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The great thing about this show is that there are amazing actors, fantastic direction, and the right amount of design and production to give the viewer an all around enjoyable Broadway experience. I honestly feel that this show highlights the whole “icing” idea that I’ve been talking about. In the first scene of the play, Daniel Radcliffe “wheels” himself up to the stage in a window washer type seat. No, he’s not flying over your head in a Green Goblin mask while trying to cause Peter Parker’s untimely demise, but he is involved in just the right amount of design and production to grab the viewer’s attention without feeling overwhelmed.

To wrap this whole long-winded speech up, let me say that I hope I’ve shed some light on the value behind design and production in the entertainment industry. Yes, it’s necessary. Why? When you have great content, actors, and direction, you most definitely need great design and technical production behind it. I believe the two go very much hand in hand. In fact, the more film and theatre shows that you see, the more you will be able to identify how over-producing and over-designing an entertainment venture is often an OVER-COMPENSATION for the fact that what you are viewing has no real content or significance.