The model for “Come Back” continues. I combed through the script again this morning to double check on moveable items and where and how they needed to get around the space, and I haven’t yet worked out the masking upstage into the shop, but I feel I’m getting close. I need to get the director’s comments before I move any further on it. . .
Now that I’ve watercolored a bunch of clouds, I’m cutting them out into tree shapes.
There are a couple of reasons I’ve chosen to fore-go the 3D computer modeling (Sketchup) on this show. First is that with the trees, clouds, the curved walls, etc, there were enough reasonably non-geometrically complex features on the set to make me want to go analog; I would spend too much time in Sketchup trying to make it look how I wanted it to look and still not get as close as I would like to. There are spatial things I wanted to work out in real space.
Second, I discovered last year that sharing the 3D computer model with the directors actually confused them — if they didn’t actually have the program on their computers, and weren’t familiar with manipulating their way through the model, it was just another 2D image. and not as expressive as a painted rendering. It’s much, much easier to move a couple of paper figures through an actual model than it is for the directors to move them through the virtual version. A 3D model on a computer screen is still, ultimately, a 2D image.
Finally, with the time it takes to make a detailed computer rendering, I could build the model and still draft the whole set by hand. While the computer model would certainly have a high degree of detail that the tech director can use, I found last year that there was a lot of detail that was better off described with a note on a plate of drafting.
With the curved walls I am planning to use for “Come Back,” I decided it would be best to play with a model before committing myself to the drafting (I also need to run this permutation past the director, and she’s proven more receptive to models rather than 2D images),
Here’s the deck in the theatre’s box. We’re staging it in the corner of the Hicklin.
Even though the curved walls will do the bulk of the masking, I’m considering staggered tops, and with the audience sitting along both sides of the playing space, making the back walls blue seems like a good idea. They will be darker blue than the walls themselves, though.
A run (after several previous runs) at the clouds that will be painted on the curved walls. Not quite the clouds of my photos, but getting much closer. Clouds are hard. . .
Returning from a trip to Appleton, WI, I ran across these clouds, which are the exact clouds I want to paint onto the walls for “Come Back.”
One of the reasons I’m not fond of model building is the time it takes to wait for the glue to dry before you can do the next thing. I have little patience for that. In any event, I’ve cut down the planks and glued them onto the platforming. These will get piled with books and left to dry. On looking at what I’ve got, I’ve decided to wash the planking down with greys and browns to darken the floor more and gently suggest dirt and the road. That will happen after everything has set for a while.
The piece of Bristol board painted sky blue will be the facing for the raised platform area.
Now that “Master Class” is open, it’s back to departmental shows. Our first of the year is Neil Haven’s “Come Back,” so here’s the drafting table as I begin to work out the ground plan. Since the set is mainly comprised of curved walls, I’ve decided to work out the ground plan via a model to get a better handle of the spatial relationships and distances.
And here is the beginning of the wood plank floor:
We opened “Master Class” at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre last night. Here are some photos from the photo call rehearsal on Wednesday. Someday I will be able to afford a digital camera that takes better low light photos (I rather miss my old Canon AE-1); since the monologue sections featured a tight pool on Maria with projections in the background, my camera, even on the best setting, tends to bleach out faces.
I always take my own portfolio photos since I’m after full stage shots — theatres and photographers tend to go for close ups that they can use for publicity, so those shots are of limited use to me. One of the important reasons for getting full stage shots of this play (aside from overall composition) is that the battens and booms are part of the scenery and in full view. The point is that Maria belongs in the theatre, not the concert hall. As she admonishes the students over and over, it’s not enough just to sing the notes — no matter how beautifully. If you don’t know why you’re singing the words, if you don’t understand the feeling behind the passage, the pretty notes are empty and meaningless. Callas’s revolutionary act was to inject theatrical truth back into opera.
The first soprano takes a stab at “La Sonambula.”
Maria remembers the great nights at La Scala.
At one point, Maria recalls how Visconti brought up the houselight at the end of her aria, including the audience in the image as Amina wakes from her dream. I projected templates and color into the house, and as our houselights came up, our boxes felt as though they, too, were festooned with flowers.
The tenor works on “Tosca.”
The second soprano announces that she will attempt Lady Macbeth’s letter scene.
Maria remembers her own performance in “Macbeth.”
As the the memories continue, Maria becomes more and more alone. . .
And a return to La Scala. . .
Finally, Maria offers a few words of wisdom after the second soprano storms off.
Yesterday was first tech, and we got almost all the way through the show. For lighting, we’re about three cues from the end, which we’ll pick up in the first hour today (it’s our ten out of twelve day today). For a show that takes place on a supposedly bare stage (an empty stage where a master class is taking place), it’s actually a rather complex show, especially when you add in the music and the projections.
Speaking of projections. . .
. . . here’s one of the directors (James and Jill are co-directing) James with Chris, the projection/sound designer, working through some things.
A view from the tech table of the image they were working on. It’s the ceiling and chandelier of La Scala projected onto the bandshell of the set. The projectors are hidden on the booms stage right and stage left, obscured by old lighting instruments (the play takes place when Maria Callas was giving a series of master classes at Julliard) and are surprisingly strong. Often you worry about a careful balance between actor light and projections, but beside the strength of the projectors, a very helpful thing is that the projections are used only during Maria’s monologues, when she retreats/reveals/confronts the past and most of the stage light drops out.
There are some moments when I feel that this is turning into one of my best lighting designs.
Today is focus for “Master Class” at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
Here is the set under works at the start of the day. It’s pretty simple, and that meant focus went pretty lickety split with no scenery to move around or time needed to situation the lift.
The front of house in the Cabot Theatre.
The Cabot also has a fabulous ceiling. The quote is “To help us forget some things, remember others, and to refresh the dry places in our spirit.”
Colleen and Greg, hard at work.
And Colleen at the tech table. She was running the plot for the call.
Tonight, I head back in to write some cues over the evening’s rehearsal. Tomorrow is first tech!
Yesterday, I drove in for the designer’s run of “Master Class.” Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is housed in Milwaukee’s Broadway Theatre Center, along with Skylight Opera and Renaissance Theatreworks.
It is, of course, an Equity show, so no photos of the rehearsal itself (which would also be rather distracting). Instead, on a break, here’s director James Zager (on the right) speaking with Chris, our sound and projections designer.
And here’s our stage manager, Judy Martel, cuing up sounds cues the old fashioned way.
Today, the ME begins to hang the plot — I’ll be returning on Friday for focus and cuing writing over that evening’s onstage run.