Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mary Poppins for Pentacle Theatre

Before I get started, I need to thank Lonnie Thurston for the majority of the pictures in this blog.  When I am working I really don't have time, nor a good camera, to get decent pictures of my work.

Beginning December 28 I had 10 days to get a set built, painted and functioning for a 4 day run of  the Pentacle Theatre Fundraising production of Mary Poppins.  I had a great time working with the director, Deborah Johansen, and the choreographer, Geri Sanders.  I appreciated the many people that came to the first build day where we were successful in building a bridge for the rooftops, the skyline for the rooftops, and 4 wagons for the many set changes.  

We had two more short days where we painted.  I introduced my crazy feather duster and sponge paint techniques.  We taught lots of people about the virtues of double coring cardboard. The results were stunning when the whole "minimalist" set was put to use.

I created two 8'x8' wagons with walls in the center - including a fireplace.  One side I painted yellow (with highlights and low lights using a feather duster) and blue trim.  I had a fireplace painted with stone from a previous show.  However, I needed people to be able to come through the fireplace, so I needed to build a fireplace flat with a hole.  I needed to have a functioning window. (Mary releases a bird in the show).  Luckily, I had a window flat in stock.

I had some furniture that was suitable in the prop rooms. The prop lady brought props to dress the set and the director brought some paintings to dress the walls.

The other side of the 8'x8' wagons was the nursery.  I made "beds" from my acting blocks and used a borrowed fireplace and cabinet with a hole at the top for the "trick" cabinet that Mary takes her props from her carpet bag.  I painted this side with pinks and blue strips (textured using a sea sponge) and painter an alphabet boarder in yellow.  This was my favorite paint job in the design.

The roof tops were a creation made with platforms and stairs, painted black.  I attached silhouettes of a London skyline made from the double core cardboard.

I pulled out the trees I made for Oklahoma!, made from plastic table clothes, for the park.

The kitchen was a challenge.  It needed to "break" and then, magically restore.  I put a wall on an 4'x8' platform, using stock platforms and flats.  I added a Hollywood flat to either side.  I needed a more sturdy flat to hold up the few tricks I had up my sleeve.  I found an old clock in the prop room and rigged the face to fall forward and restore.  I had my friend John Hatch build a small cabinet that the door fell off and restored.  I found a shelf that I could hang and let one side drop and then restore.  And finally, John and I built a table that hinged in the center and would collapse and could easily be restored and pinned back together.  I painted this set yellow with a sea sponge texture and added random bricks.  I worked well.  I was sad I didn't have time and money to make it a little more elaborate, but it worked.

I pulled out the white curtains I had from a previous show to create the bank.

I had a free baton and that helped create a quick scene change when needed.

Many years ago I made this stain glass window wall for Once Upon a Mattress.  I didn't have the heart to take it down.  Not only was it a pain to get up in the air, but I just couldn't bring myself to destroy it because it was so impressive.  It worked out great as the Cathedral for the Bird Woman to Feed the Birds.

The Talking Shop is my only small regret.  I wish I could have made it more circus like.  However, resources were scarce.  I ended up putting a wall on 4'x8' platform and painting it in fun primary colors.

We didn't have the resources to make Mary fly, but that worked out because we we able to fake it well enough.  See.  Doesn't this picture prove we could fake it?  When Mary was suppose to fly with the children I added a mirror ball for a flying stars effect.

My favorite "special effect" was sending Ms. Andrews to "hell" ( a quote from John Hatch's little boy).  We put in a trap door... pumped in fog... added a strobe... and a red light from below... and it really did look like we sent the lady to hell.  LOL.

The only thing we did fly was a kite... I used fishing line.  but it looked like it took off all by itself.

One of my favorite parts of the show to watch was Step in Time.  The most impressive part for me was the stellar stage crew that quickly moved the parlor back into place mid-scene so that the chimney sweeps could all come through the chimney to shake Mr. Banks' hand.

I had a great time painting with color in the lighting.  The lighting really did make the costumes pop.  I was glad I got the opportunity to set the mood of this creative venture.

I was able to recycle many set pieces I had previously created for Central High School.  CHS was generous in sharing all it's set materials, set pieces, props, fog machines, strobes, mirror balls, etc.  This allowed me to create this whole look for under $800... including set, lighting and some sound costs.  Not bad.  I even impressed myself with how under the $1100 budget I was given.  I was especially impressed with the crew I worked with.  Normally, I would hand off cues to a good production stage manager.  However, we were unable to have a tech rehearsal due to freezing rain.  By the time we got to opening night we had only run the show 4 times.  That being said, spot lights were near perfect. Thanks Rachel, Abby, Claire and Brenna.  The scene changes were smooth thanks to Paula, Renee, John, Jed, Danielle and her mom, Ed, and James.  THe barking dog and the canned orchestration was run by the delightful Andi Bean. Over all I am pleased with how this production turned out... and after 14 days it was gone... we were down to a bare stage for 30 minutes before we started out next productions - opening in 10 days.  I think fast turn arounds are becoming a thing.

Seussical the Musical

The fall play at Central High School 2015 was Seussical the Musical.

I started with my model.  I am beginning to truly enjoy making models and solving the design issues on a small scale first.  The director, my friend Jeff Witt, wanted the show to be set in the 1920's and wanted the set to have an art deco influence. He and I researched some art deco art and architecture.  We found some great pictures that inspired us - art deco palm trees and a great art deco bath tub.  We were impressed with the use of mirrors and wanted to add mirrors to the set.  I wanted to make things shades of gold and black and I wanted to use metalic surfaces are well.

My answer was metallic wrapping paper and tin foil.  I used different golds, silvers, blues and printed metallic wrapping paper on the tree tops and even added crystals from a chandelier for extra glitz.

We started the trees by double coring (gluing 2 pieces) cardboard. Then we cut them into "Seuss"like shapes.

We taped the edges to keep the integrity of the card board in tact.

Then we covered the tree tops in the foil wrapping paper.

We framed out the tree trunks and covered them with cardboard too.  The large tree trunks we painted black and added metallic "grass" to the bottoms.

We also built a false proscenium with the largest trees.  My friend, John Hatch, helped me tap into the wall with cement bolts so that we could secure the large trees to the wall from the back.  We anted the "monkeys" to be able to climb the trees, so the attachment to the wall needed to be extra strong to hold the ladders.  I now have the ability to add a false proscenium in the future without too much difficulty.

The kids worked hard.

I think it is best to supply levels for the director to work with.  I wanted the "footprint" of the set to resemble an elephants head (to honor Horton the Elephant).

We created a sweeping staircase/bridge.  We lined the stair case with mirrors.  This proved to be harder than I expected.  My problem came with the card board being flexible and the mirrors not being flexible.  When the actors stepped on the stairs and the stair would flex but the mirror would not, the mirror would pop off.  Of course, it didn't help that the kids just blopped the liquid nail on the mirror rather than covering the mirror back from edge to edge. 

I used stock platform and only built extra when I had to build.  This became a problem because all of our stock is not necessarily square and doesn't always fit well.

This meant that the art deco painting had to be altered a bit to make both sides of the stage to match.

We made a rolling platform/ladder for the nest and attached our metallic trees.

It was fun to watch the whole thing take shape. The finishing touch for the large structure was the railings for the stair case.  I wanted something whimsical and Seuss like.  I went to the hardware store and looked around.  I finally bought gold spray paint, dishwasher drain hose, irrigation tubing and zip ties.  The resort was awesome!  Even better, I guessed the perfect amount of materials I needed.  (I planned it that way John Hatch. Really I did. :)

We used the scrumbling (a wet mix) method to paint the floor.  Originally, I wanted to to be a sun burst, inspired by some art deco walls in a Los Angeles Hotel I found.  However, Jeff pointed out that it looked like the clover Who lives on.  Nice.  I meant to to that. (wink, wink)

I don't usually scrumble with rollers.

This space was too large to do it all with brushes.  By midnight my back was killing me so I finished the painting while sitting on my rolling chair.

I found a picture of a great art deco looking chair.  I drew it for my students and they started to build it.

I drew on my memory of my Grandpa White and taught the students how to upholster the chair.

We added the chair to a platform with gold, copper, and silver palm trees for Mazie's Palm Beach scene.  One of my favorite creations was the bathtub.  We used broken dvd's to make a mother-of-pearl look that turned out stunning!


We sent in a recording to the State Thespian Office and entered the show for competition.  That meant we had to carefully take the set apart and store it until we find out if it goes to the State Convention in late March.  It's a long shot, since we have only been a Thespian Troupe for 1 year... But I loved how the show turned out.  In addition to the set, I was also responsible for the light and sound design.  The light design was fun.  I know what I have and how to use it best in my space.  The sound was challenging because I was working with a new sound board.  Listening to the recording I am impressed with how it turned out.

I think the best part of the show was working with my daughter again.  There are very few opportunities left that have my daughter Hannah working with me and giving me the opportunity to see her perform on stage... a place where here heart lies.  Next year she will be off to college and watching her perform will be a thing of the past for me since I don't like to travel.