Posts Tagged ‘theater’

Spring Awakening on Broadway

Katherine and I just got home from seeing Spring Awakening on Broadway which was an outstanding production.

Smart, with an excellent cast, the musical is both moving and funny. It’s based on an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind which deals with themes that I can’t even imagine audiences watching back then. Sexuality, puberty, homoeroticism and abortion… it’s powerful stuff and somehow the play ends with a note of hope. I highly recommend Spring Awakening and my niece does too.

Distressing a table

First you start by taking the table firmly in your hands and saying, “Stupid table, you’ve got no future and you’re poorly designed.” If it still looks chipper, discuss the economy until you can get the varnish to peel. It shouldn’t take long.

In all seriousness, sometimes in theater we need a piece of furniture to look as if it was older. The process of taking a new thing and making it look old is called “distressing.” In the show that I did props on, the original show table broke and had to be replaced. Someone else picked up the new one, but I had to run over to the theater to distress the table.

I use a steel wool to dull the finish, a little paint for staining and honking big rasp to create dings and scratches. By honking big, I mean the about eighteen inches long and an inch wide.

On the way home, I’ve got all the tools in my bag and the rasp handle was poking out. It rested at my hip at almost the angle of a sword’s hilt. At one point, I passed this guy who tried to get me to stop and talk to him. Never works, but this time I got a story flash.

See, I always want to write stories with people in theater, but really need the fact that they are in theater to have an intrinsic role in the story. So, showing a props master at work on a show and the bag of tricks used and then getting to reuse those tools in very different ways later would be a lot of fun.

I mean, can’t you just imagine drawing the rasp like a short sword? And from the time or two that I’ve accidentally caught myself with one, those suckers hurt.

Last minute change of venue

Hannah and the Hollow Challah is supposed to open tomorrow, but there’s this slight question of where. Apparently work on the theater means that the building will be closed tomorrow. We just found out yesterday that it might happen and today found out that it will happen. Thank heavens I built a touring set, eh? That’s right, the director found another theater and we are shifting the show over to it tomorrow.

Tomorrow should be very interesting.

Almost finished with tech

It’s 2:40 am and I’ve just gotten home from the theater. For the first time in a week and a half, it’s not because of a crisis, but because we went out for drinks afterwards. I’m almost out of the woods. I think I’ll even begin to dive into the email piled up in my inbox. It’s a little daunting. Remind me not to schedule two shows at once next time.

Help, please: How big are pounds?

Specifically, what are the dimensions of British 10 and 20 pound notes?

Thanks! Googlefu is failing.

Edited to add:
A hearty thank you to Sean, who found the info for me.

I have blood on my hands

Zesty, mint flavored blood. That’s right, it’s time for another show with blood. The effects in this show are significantly easier, which makes me a happy camper. One stabbing and one razor cut. All fairly run of the mill.

BUT. I’m in tech week for two different shows for the next week. I will be largely offline during this.

While I’m working, would you take a moment to share your favorite curses? It’ll come in handy. Remember that couch? Yeah… I’ve got stories to tell about it, once I get past this week.

Buying an ax in NYC

The first thing you should know when you call hardware stores in NYC to see if they have axes, is that all of them, without exception, will ask you who you are planning on killing.

The second thing you should know is that after you pick up the axe, you will have no problems finding a seat on the subway.

The third thing is that random passerbys will engage you in conversations like the following.

“Whoa. You mean business,” the man says as he comes out the door and sees you.

“Yeah, well,” you said, not really wanting to explain the show for which the axe is a prop. “There’s not much call for them in the city, I’ll admit.”

“He must have really pissed you off.”

You smile. “It’s so true. There’s really not a reason to have an axe in the city unless you’re planning to off someone.”

If you say that, the passerby will suddenly find something else very interesting on the other side of the street.

All of which makes me wonder why I could buy an axe in a city with no need for cutting firewood.

The Scottish Play

One of the things Mom had wanted to do while she and Dad were here was see some theater. So, her birthday present to me was to take us all out to see Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart. When we realized that we had two tickets available, Rob and I invited Rick Bowes and Emily DeCola to accompany us.

All of us agreed that this was the best production of Macbeth we’d ever seen. Start with a good strong cast. Then, my god, give them a production design that is about as close to perfect as anything I’ve seen. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s sharpest plays and this dives right in and cuts.

It’s hard to explain why it’s so good, without spoiling some surprises for people who are planning on seeing this production. So — don’t click on the cut if you don’t want to know. Before I get all private on you…

Thank you Mom and Dad!!!

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Blurbs and context

When we get reviewed in the theater, there’s always a moment of scanning the review looking for the pull quote. We’ve got to have something we can plaster on brochure’s and flyers. It is always tempting to pull something out of context like pulling, “Amazing!” out of “It’s amazing that anyone came back after intermission.” (Completely fictional example.)

In the writing arena, I quote reviews and mentions here, and yeah, usually focus on the juicy stuff. For instance,

Gardner Dozois talked about his picks for the Nebula short story categories, saying:

My vote would go to Andy Duncan’s “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse,” … My next choice, I guess, would be “For Solo Cello, op. 12,” by Mary Robinette Kowal … followed by “Titanium Mike Saves the Day,” by David D. Levine…

Woot! Gardner Dozois puts me in the number two position! Except… if you read the whole quote.

This is the weakest of the categories.

My vote would go to Andy Duncan’s “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse,” although it’s not even really a fantasy let alone SF–what it is is an Andy Duncan story, who’s a genre to himself, much like Howard Waldrop. Since Duncan is popular with the membership, it might have a chance, although it did appear in an expensive hardcover anthology from a small press.

Not much else here I’m really enthusiastic about. My next choice, I guess, would be “For Solo Cello, op. 12,” by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is SF (but which is probably unlikely to win), followed by …

Ow. Gardner Dozois says, “Not really enthusiastic!” and “Unlikely to win!”

Ah, context… Think I can put that on a poster?

Thumbnails for the Odyssey

Thumbnails for Odyssey Well, the director wasn’t keen on the helmets because he wants to preserve the uniqueness of Athena’s helm and feels that it will be less special if everyone gets one.

I argued that since the play is supposed to use things that come off of the Odysseus’s ship, that helms make a good deal of sense. I think they lend a consistency to the abstractions in the show.

He really wants Athena to be the only one with a helmet and he also wants movement and beards. So, these are the thumbnails I’m sending up to him.

Thankfully, he liked everything else I sent him.

The Odyssey Experience

I’m designing props and masks for The Odyssey Experience for McCarter Theatre’s education department. Here are the drawings I’m sending up to them for review.

Athena The idea is that rather than masks, each character has a helm which they wear, to signify which character they are. Athena has her classic helm, which I want to be silvered to make her really shine.

Athena's shieldAthena’s shield plays with the look of Greek vases. However, that is the most unfortunate Gorgon that I’ve ever seen. I was working from an actual vase and yet somehow I’ve wound up with Betty Boop.

EagleAgain, using the lines of a vase, but here, for the Eagle, it is batiked on China silk and used like a ribbon dancer.

Poseidon For Poseidon’s helm, I’m using the shape of his beard to suggest waves. I also want to make this one look like copper with a heavy blue-green patina in the beard. From the crest I want something that has the shape of a classic Spartan plume, but can double as a wave about to crash down.

Zeus Finally, Zeus. Here I see weathered bronze and gilding.

I’ve got no idea if the director will accept these or not, but I’ll keep you posted.

Delivering the First Stages set model

I took the train up to Princeton to deliver the set model to McCarter theater’s education department. For this project, I needed to come up with a single set that could work for eight different plays. After our last meeting, the next step was to create a set model. Since each play has a different director, we decided that the easiest thing to do would be to show a variety of possibilities with the set and let the directors decide how they were going to use them.

I’m just going to show you the same photos I showed the head of the program. Each photo uses the same elements. Two platforms that are four feet by eight feet. Two that are four by four and two that are two by eight. 2 x2 poles can peg into the decks of the platform. Spandex ribbons will add color and help define scenic locations.
First Stages model 1 Example 2

Example 3

Example 7

Farewell 2007

Rob and I have a tradition of making sushi New Year’s Eve and staying in. Tonight, on my way home, our neighbor was standing in the lobby and ready to hop on the elevator. I rode up with him, chatting about New Year’s plans and, quite spontaneously, I invited him and his wife to join us for sushi.

I’m so glad I did. We just had a great conversation ranging across theater, philosophy and cinema. They’re coming over tomorrow for the traditional New Year’s Day meal. We’ve got a small group coming for black-eye peas, collards and cornbread. I don’t know about you, but where I come from, you must have those New Year’s Day to ensure health and prosperity.

It’s a fine way to send the old year out and bring the New Year in.