Category Archives: Theater Production

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly.

With a lighting designer as a theater professor, it is only fitting that my final blog entry for this class concern holiday style lighting techniques.

To begin, I will show you a place very near and dear to me. It happens to be my home! Yes, straight from Thomasville, NC…

So, no it’s not spectacular. But I personally helped design this fantastic set up while I was home for Thanksgiving. The inside of the home is even better! But I did not even think to take a photo of that while I was there. Opportunities missed…. Anyway, the lights on the porch twinkle and give the front of the home a beautiful “starry sky” type feel. The deer’s head moves up and down as well. All in all, it’s an adorable, well-put-together holiday set up that is not overwhelming!

The next best place I thought of to show you all was my home away from home: my dorm room!

Notice how the multi-color lighting continues throughout the room. I sure did not want anything to look tacky! Further, I think the poinsettia adds a nice Christmas touch. It’s not a lighting aspect mind you, but it brings a little something special to the table. The real trick to Christmas lighting is not overdoing it. I know some homes light up their front yards so much that a random floating spaceman could see it, but in my home(s) this is not the case. You have to know your space as well. Think about the best way to utilize your area! I strategically placed the tree in one corner that I feel never gets enough attention. Now, there’s a nice little lighted surprise every time you walk in the room.

On a grander scale, the luminary night last Thursday on the already beautiful campus of Elon University was breath taking. I got one photo that I believe sums it all up…

The luminaries and lighting on the trees is really something spectacular. I truly believe no other campus does Christmas quite like Elon does! The lighting design all over campus is something that anyone could appreciate. The time that was put in to the project was really worth it. This is by far, the best set up of holiday lights I’ve seen this year.

In short, go out and look for your own favorite holiday light decor! I hope my theater tech class, Bill, Paige, and everyone else enjoys their holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

It’s not for lack of bread, like the Grateful Dead…

Where do I even begin when talking about the production elements of Hair? It goes without saying that the show as a whole was fantastic. However, I believe the show would not have been nearly as effective without the excellent production team behind it.

To start, let’s talk about the lighting. This was by far, in my opinion, the most evident production element in the production. Several different colors were utilized throughout the show from several different angles. Hair itself is a lighting designer’s dream. A designer has nearly endless possibilities when considering lighting options. This production of Hair made great use of lighting in such songs as Walking in Space when it synchronized the light colors to the lyrics. Further, another one of my favorite lighting techniques was the lighting that reached out into the audience during Aquarius. It made the audience feel as if they were literally being swept up into the show. The cool color palette mixed with the, dare I say “groovy” patterns, greatly enhanced that “blast from the past” 1960’s setting for that song in particular. Even further, I very much support the decision to have two backspots on stage. In scenes with focal points, most focusing on Claude, the backspots were essential to creating areas where the eye would naturally be drawn.

Next, the scenery was key to the show. This production of Hair was set on a New York City rooftop. Of course, this would not be clear to the audience without the scenery on stage. The water tower built to house the on stage band was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. Not only did it allow for the band to play without being seen by the audience, but it also allowed for a piece of scenery to be put to good use. The Washington Square Arch, brick rooftop, and scaffolding all gave another dimension to the show. The set also increased interactivity with the audience. In the beginning of the show, audience members were invited to come on stage and write with chalks. This I thoroughly enjoyed becasue it gave the stage a different look and feel with every performance. The show you were watching was literally being shaped from the moment you walked in the theater. It was interesting to give the actors different heights with the scaffolding levels. At some points in the show, it seemed you couldn’t look anywhere on the stage without seeing someone dancing and singing their hearts out. So, I particularly enjoyed the scaffolding aspect of the scenic design.

Thirdly, I feel it necessary to speak on the video clips shown at several points during the production. From a Hazardous Waste projection during Breathe Deep, to Native American projections during Claude’s acid trip, to the powerful projections and sounds of army helicopters closer to the end of the play, every video clip added to the show gave it power. I especially liked the fact that the video clips gave a quick change of scenery. It was a rather easy transition to project an image onto the existing scenery, but the effects of the image gave the scenery a momentary transformation. It was great to see the resourcefulness of the production crew in this sense. I thought that the video clips just added that extra something special to the different scenes in which they were used.

There weren’t many props used in Hair, but the ones that were definitely served a purpose. The American flag used in Don’t Put it Down gave a very authentic feel to the song. The small tea lights used when the cast conjures Claude delivers an interesting feel to that portion of the play. A dark, black stage with only small tea lights for lighting is a beautiful set up. The conjuring of Claude was also a notable part to the production because no other scene in the musical is done like it. All other scenes have some sort of theatrical lighting clearly visible, but this one does not. Also, the flowers Crissy holds while she sings Frank Mills automatically gives her character and her song a sweet, innocent, almost vulnerable feel. It’s a small addition to that one song, but it tells the audience so much. Lastly, the yellow, satin shirt that Sheila presents to Berger is a key element to the show. It illustrates how volatile their relationship is. It also introduces the love interest between Sheila and Claude. In many ways, this shirt prompts a mutli-dimensional storyline that will continue throughout the rest of the production.

The costumes in this show were fantastic. I believe the costume that stood out the most for me was Woof Daschund’s. The furry vest that he wore accented his “wolf” persona. The army green color of Sheila’s outfit gave her a very patriotic feel from the moment she walked on stage. We later find out that she’s the freedom fighter of the group, but her costume was able to indicate that message much earlier in the production. Berger’s clothing, when he decides to keep it on, takes on a life of its own. Everything about his costume screams peace, love, and a LOT of freedom. Claude’s clothing is notable as well, especially his headband. The simple feather headband gives Claude’s character a Native American look. It illustrates how he’s slightly an outsider to the group. There’s something different about him. Later in the musical, when Claude says he wishes he was invisible, I thought this was even more symbolic of the Native American culture. He’s a unique individual, beaten down by the outside world and forced into a lifestyle that ultimately leads to his demise.

In conclusion, the show was an amazing production. The technical production and design crew should be very proud of all the work they accomplished on the show. I, my classmates, my friends, and random people I met on performance night all agreed that the show was worth watching not once, but multiple times. I heard one older couple on tech. night comment that they had seen Hair multiple times, including Broadway, and were still impressed by this particular interpretation. Don’t get me wrong, the actors put their hearts and souls into their performance, but the overall feel of the musical would have been lost without the work of Elon Performing Arts Department’s wonderful technical production and design crew. Once again, Hair was a wonderful show, and I thank everyone who played a part in its development for giving me the chance to witness something that will stay with me forever.

 

How to Succeed at a Blog Post

For this next entry, I’m supposed to choose a Broadway production and analyze the different ways in which it is produced via the wonderful world of YouTube. It would be a travesty for me not to choose How to Succeed…obviously. I love that show! So, here we go.

How to Succeed was first released on Broadway in  1961 and ran until 1965. It starred Robert Morse as J. Pierrepont Finch and Bonnie Scott as Rosemary. This particular production of How to Succeed won seven tony awards including distinguished musical actor (Robert Morse) and best musical. This was also the production that was later adapted to film in 1967 by United Artists. Most of the original Broadway cast was kept for the film save Michelle Lee who played the on-screen role of Rosemary. To illustrate the amazing Robert Morse and the film adaptation, here’s the video!

The production elements on this are of course slightly different from the original Broadway performance. However, YouTube doesn’t seem to be too forthcoming with any 1960’s theatrical footage. So, this video will have to do! I actually believe it adds to the conversation anyway since it’s interesting to think about what features of the theatrical production were taken away/added to create the film. In this clip, it’s obvious to see that the overall “Broadway” feel of the performance is toned down for the sake of cinema. The set of the film adaptation is probably the most significant difference. In the video clip, the set looks much too realistic (Hollywood style flats) to be featured on Broadway.

Next, there was a Broadway revival from 1995-1996 starring Matthew Broderick as Finch and Megan Mullally as Rosemary. The production elements in this performance are interesting because it seems that it almost completely strayed from the original staging. Side note: I’ll mention that my next two video clips are the H2$ performances at the Tony Awards. But back to the production elements…the background image is very simple. The only thing they really have to back up this particular performance is the giant H2$ symbol featured behind the cast. Other than that, they pretty much rely on talent (and Lillias White’s outstanding voice). I will say I found it fascinating how very different it was from the original. But I’ll stop talking about it now, and just let you see for yourself.

Last but certainly not least, the 2011 Broadway revival starring Daniel Radcliffe as Finch and Rose Hemingway as Rosemary. You probably get tired of hearing about it, but this is the first and ONLY Broadway show I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. So, excuse if I’m biased, but it’s kind of my favorite. This show, I can say from watching it in person, uses quite a few fly-in pieces of scenery and standard flats. However, I’ve also noticed that this version of H2$ and the 1995 revival have several similarities. They both use larger flats with several colors of lighting. Though, it’s notable to see that even the 2011 version shows slightly more complex background scenery shapes and color schemes. Of course, the similarities between the 1994 and 2011 revivals are probably due to advancements in theatrical production since the 1960’s.

And since I’m sticking with the Tony Award performances, here’s H2$ at the 65th Annual Tony Awards.

My Love for the Theatre

I’ve been involved in some form of the performing arts all my life.

I suppose my first taste of the stage was through dance lessons as a young child. Right around the age of three, I was enrolled in dance classes at Bobbi’s School of Dance. I later moved to On Stage School of Dance. Throughout the years of instruction, I realized that there was nothing I enjoyed more than the thrill of the stage. Recitals were all I thought about. I began to wonder if there was anywhere further I could go…

I signed up for a summer program at a local dinner theatre to learn the wonderful art of acting. It was one of the best decisions of my life! Every day was something new. Yes, we learned acting skills, but there was so much more instruction going on behind the scenes. I learned to take criticism, to trust your fellow actors, to improvise, and most importantly to be proud of what you love. I remember opening night like it was yesterday. We were putting on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I was playing the role of the bashful dwarf. I’ll digress for a moment and honestly say that I was completely broken-hearted when I learned that this was to be my role. I, of course, wanted to be Snow White. Yet, I was not tall enough. I was actually the shortest person of the group, making me the best fit for the role of Bashful. The only redeeming quality I found in the part was that I had a solo in the middle of the play. At this point in my “acting career” I was only concerned with being a star. This solo seemed pretty “star-like” to me. So, I soon came to love the role I was given. Without it, I probably would not have made the next decision in my life.

http://www.thecentennialstation.com/ <– this is a link to the actual dinner theater that I performed in! Check it out.

After the summer program was over, I wanted to continue my on-stage studies. Since my part in the play involved a singing element, I decided to try my hand at musical theatre. I joined a musical theatre group and began travelling around the community performing several different productions. I continued this program until high school. Until then, I had had plenty of time to commit to the rigorous schedule that is musical theatre. Nevertheless, I figured it was best to focus on my studies and retired from the group. Don’t get me wrong, I was very involved in the arts throughout high school as well. I was involved with drama club, art and design club, and marching band. I felt the need to keep that element of performance in my life in any small way possible. I never lost the love I felt for entertainment.

I feel this is what has led me to my current path in life. I’m studying communications at Elon University in the hopes that it will take me into the fabulous world of the entertainment industry. I am still debating on whether I would rather concentrate on entertainment broadcast or cinema. However, I am also considering picking up a theater studies minor to implement my major. This is, of course, why I am in Tech Production right now. I am completely certain that wherever my major takes me, whatever branch of entertainment I focus on, I will enjoy my career.

I have never felt a stronger love for another career path than that of the entertainment industry.

Getting the Heck Out

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Elon University’s Performing Arts Department perform the utterly heart wrenching Getting Out. E-Net described the play by summarizing how the “characters Arlie and Arlene, two versions of the same individual” struggle to find common ground. “Arlie is a young and unrepentant criminal while Arlene is the more mature, rehabilitated woman who struggles to put her youth behind her. Throughout the story, both are confronted by the characters and experiences that accompany them to the present. The play, like life, offers no simple answers but compassionately conveys a heart-wrenching battle against incredible odds.”

http://www.elon.edu/e-net/Note.aspx?id=953794&board_ids=5

Now, of course, I’m going to give you all a very fascinating examination of the technical production and design aspects of the show and describe how they influenced the show as a whole. Trust me. You’re going to want to read this.

First and foremost, I have to comment on the beautiful painted dresser that was used throughout the play. Mostly, the small dresser found itself below an actor’s coat or some other prop. In all honestly, the dresser did not have that much purpose at all. I just wanted to point out that I painted it.

On a serious note, the design of the show was fantastic. It took place in Elon’s Black Box Theater, which means the area itself was very intimate. This is definitely a space that must be analyzed in great detail if a department wants to put on a show that utilizes the space to its fullest extent. Wow, that was a lot of words. The fact that the audience was in a Black Box is possibly the first aspect of design that really pulls you into the show. The enclosed space makes the viewer feel much more immersed in the show. I remember feeling the wind as an actor walked by in several different scenes. It forced me to pay attention to even the smallest details of the actors. At many points during the show, I recall feeling as if I was truly there in that dusty old apartment with Arlene seeing everything that she saw.

Secondly, I enjoyed the use of the black traveller type curtains in the back of the theater. It masked everything that the audience did not need to see. Further, it made transitions for the actors quite easy. After an actor’s role had been exhausted, they merely walked behind the curtain. This may seem like a simple idea, but to me it was fascinating. After a while, I completely forgot the curtain was there. It seemed to melt into the rest of the Black Box. This illusion gave me the sense that the actors as well were simply fading into the background.

Another great aspect of the traveller curtains, was how well it worked at absorbing light. The play itself covers some dark subject matter, and this should be reflected in the design of the play. The large black curtains made it impossible for any light not completely planned out and designed by the production team to be shown. Everything concerning the lighting was very controlled in this sense. Furthermore, the sound effects were just as huge within the play. In the opening, when the audience is walking in and waiting for the show, jailhouse sounds could be heard. Arlie’s jail cell door was totally indicated by the sound of it opening and closing. Since Arlie’s jail cell is one of two major scenery pieces, I would say that this greatly emphasizes how very necessary the sound effects were to show.

Also, another notable fact is how the scenery was placed. The jail cell piece was located right above the door to Arlene’s apartment. I found this particularly significant because it showed the audience, or at least showed me, where the importance of the play was located. Almost all of the major action either comes through Alrene’s apartment door or through Arlie’s jail cell. It made it easier for me to connect the idea that both Arlene and Arlie were in fact the same person dealing with separate problems, but very much interconnected beings all the same. All that Arlie did influenced Alrene as the woman she is now. There truly was no escape from that. As much as Arlene wanted to “get out” of her past life, she needed to reconcile with it. This idea was totally reinforced by the placing of the scenery.

Next, I would like to observe and emphasize how much they did with so little. Once again, the Black Box theater is a small space. The Performing Arts Department did such an amazing job at utilizing this space in its entirety. There was room for everything and nothing. Every piece of scenery was properly placed so that it consumed the area it was in. You knew where each setting began and ended. You also knew that the fact that there was no excess space left was yet another technique employed to add to the presentation as a whole. Everything needed to be just as separated as it was interconnected, much like the personalities of Arlene and Arlie. There also needed to be a continuous tone of suspense and growing intensity that could only be implemented by the intimacy of the Black Box space.

In short, Getting Out was fantastic. I was very impressed not only by the actors, but the wonderful design and production team who knew exactly what they were doing. The location, scenic design, props, sounds, and lighting all immersed the viewer in a true visual spectacle. The technical design and production of the show influenced its overall intensity and effectiveness as a theatrical show. My friends and I all agreed that the play was a tremendous success as well all could not stop talking about it for hours. The great part was that most of the conversation would end up relating back to some aspect of the theater’s scenic design. It was evident that we were not the only ones deeply impressed. Other audience members could be heard announcing how moved they were not only by the department’s performance of the show, but the design of the show.

And that in itself tells you all you need to know.

My Most Memorable Theater Experience

I feel that everyone in my tech. production class has fond memories surrounding the theater, and I do as well. However, if I was asked to choose just one memory to speak about, I would explain the first Broadway show I ever went to see.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was a show not to be forgotten. I know I mentioned this show before in my first blog, but I would like to specifically elaborate on this how this experience influenced  my overall love for the theater.

It all started when I entered an essay writing contest sponsored by the United Nations for a free trip to New York City. About two weeks after entering, I found out that I was the lucky winner. Of course, I was excited simply by the fact that I was finally going to New York City, a place I had never had the chance to visit before. You can only begin to fathom my excitement when I was told that a Broadway show would be on the weekend itinerary. And if you thought I was “shivering with antici…..pation” at this thought, (yes, I did just quote Rocky Horror) I was completely bowled over when I realized what show we were actually going to see. How to Succeed was a show that I had only read about in newspaper and online reviews. Being a huge fan of Daniel Radcliffe’s cinema based work, I was extremely curious as to just how well he acted on a theatrical stage.

He and the rest of the cast were phenomenal. In fact, the whole Broadway experience is phenomenal. Witnessing a Broadway play is something that everyone should have the opportunity to experience at least once in their lives. I know that for me it was not only my most memorable theater experience, but one of my most memorable life experiences. I could not believe the amount of hard work and sheer talent that went into the creation of a Broadway production until I witnessed it for myself.

Further, to better explain one of the greatest parts of Broadway, I’ll relate back to a Communications student’s terms. In cinema, we learn that there is nothing quite like the group experience. Watching a film on the silver screen of a movie theater, surrounded by a large group of people enhances your overall experience. When others are around you, sharing your emotions, sharing your reactions, you become immersed in another world. You become a part of the journey that the movie set out to take you on. This is the same for Broadway. Broadway is the big, silver screen of the theater world. In New York City, I was surrounded by people who had all come to do one thing: enjoy an amazing show. My own reactions were echoed by at least five people in every direction of me. The only perk of Broadway over cinema is that the show you’re watching on Broadway is live. The show is raw and real. There are no “do-overs” in the theater world.

So, in closing, I would just like to reiterate how fantastic of an experience it was to watch How to Succeed on Broadway. I will never forget sitting down in that New York City theater seat preparing for the show. I remember laughing, crying, and just feeling a massive amount of emotions throughout the play. My expectations of a Broadway show were far exceeded in the fact that I was consistently emotionally moved. I’ve watched movies on far more serious topics that were not able to evoke the emotions that a humorous Broadway show could. It merely goes to show how talented every working member of a theatrical production must be in order to produce a masterpiece on stage.

I will truly never forget my first Broadway theater experience, and I only hope that I will have another chance in the future to go back again.

http://www.howtosucceedbroadway.com/

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. 🙂