She Kills Monsters and The Orange Room

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

Second week of rehearsals, and second week of build for “She Kills Monsters.” First a photo of student Jadon applying papier mache mush to the beholder:

The modular crates are just about ready for painting:

Our student prop team, Abby and Lucas, at work in the green room, working on build lists and selecting fabric for the gelatinous cube:

Of course, no production would be a production without production meetings. Here is the production team at our production meeting this past Monday:

Finally, one of the nifty things our department has is a department library, also called the Orange Room, because of its orange color scheme. We’ve got a wall of scripts, books of monologues, another wall of design resource books, shelves of criticism. . . Here’s student staffer Nicole doing some straightening and re-alphabetizing in the books about acting section:

She Kills Monsters

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

One week into the build, and things are happening! Here were see some of the students legging up platforms, while behind them another group works on the modular crates:

Some of the almost finished 24″ tall crates:

The beach ball arrived yesterday, so I was able to lay down a first layer of papier mache to start building the beholder:

And I worked out the shoulder armature for one of the dragon heads. After mounting the somewhat fragile prototype dragon head to it, I invited director Sara Griffin down to try it out:

It met with approval.

She Kills Monsters

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

Construction and rehearsals for “She Kills Monsters” began this week. We’re doing the show in arena configuration, which eliminates the need for projections and larger scenic pieces. It does, however, place more emphasis on puppetry.

The SketchUp image below shows the scenic environment we are planning. A note: the dungeon images used for the floor treatment, as well as the images used for the two human figures were pulled from the internet — authors unknown. The floor treatment will eventually include original dungeon maps and incorporate high school floor plans drawn as dungeon maps.

There will be an assortment of modular crates that can be mixed and match to build counters, tables, desks, chairs, thrones, stones, etc. The small ramp will be portable, with wheels on one end to allow it to shift easily to where ever the action requires it be.

One of the puppet elements we’ll be constructing will be the five headed dragon, Tiamat. Here’s student Sam holding a prototype head over his head to provide a sense of scale. The head will be mounted on a shoulder riding armature.

A Place with the Pigs

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

We opened Athol Fugard’s “A Place with the Pigs” (directed by Bruce Cohen) this past Tuesday, and closed it this past Saturday. The run went smoothly, and congrats to everyone on the production team!

First a few pics from technical rehearsals. This is my office computer as I work on the projection images and the log. Our two student projection programmers, Trevor and Natalie, worked valiantly on getting everything into the system right up to opening.

Here’s Natalie at her station behind the cyclorama stage right:

And Trevor at his station stage left:

This is the set under work lights; the three projection screens, with one of the three guard towers housing the projectors visible upstage right:

This next image is from the first night of tech. We decided afterward to turn all of the projectors on their sides to maximize the image size, which meant that I had to re-edit and re-orient all of the images. We were working with the projectors that were available from the university AV department, so the we were a bit constrained with what size of image they would project. Unfortunately, with only about three and a half weeks to put the whole show together the tech that was available on campus was the tech we had to go with. Since the selection of the play came late in the summer due to COVID and casting considerations, there wasn’t must prep time — still, for the amount of time we had, we came pretty darned far!

Here’s student stage manager Abigail during tech. We’re somewhere in the “A Midnight Walk” scene.

This photo is from the last night of tech, during the “Orders from the Commissar” scene.

And finally, student Sam Hess (also the co-lighting designer) took photos for our publicity department at final dress. Here’s one of his shots, also from the “Orders from the Commissar” scene:

This week, we start putting “She Kills Monsters” together in the shop, with rehearsals starting tomorrow night.

A Place with the Pigs

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

Tech rehearsals start this week! We’re finishing up focus and forging ahead with final scenic construction — our technical director was stuck in quarantine for a while, so we’re not where we’d like to be. But, well, pandemic, you know?

Here’s co-lighting designer student Sam Hess checking notes before Monday’s lighting call:

And here he is again, at Sunday’s run through, taking notes. That’s director Bruce Cohen further down the row:

Here are the bases of the three guardtowers that will support the three video projectors:

And Abby leading some of the Intro students in the shop as they build the house part of the guardhouses:

I’m also designing the projections. Here’s one of the slides from the pig stampede sequence:


The Place with the Pigs

Posted in Uncategorized on September 2nd, 2021 by Eric Appleton

First day of classes for the new semester! Due to pandemic issues, we were late in choosing the first title of the season, but did our best to catch up on design work over the summer. We’re doing Athol Fugard’s “The Place with the Pigs,” which is the tale of a Russian WWII deserter who spent forty years hiding in a pig sty. Our director, Bruce Cohen, finds the deserter’s wife the more compelling character and has chosen to shift focus to her.

The design concept uses screens and projections and an otherwise bare stage. Upstage, projectors will be housed in ‘guard towers’ to suggest the observation of both neighbors and the state.

Now we have just five weeks to get the whole shebang together. Hopefully the pandemic will not worsen and we will be able to present the show before a live audience!

God of Carnage

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

We’ve started the filming process for God of Carnage. A camera at each corner, taping each run through. We’ll select the best footage and stitch it together as our virtual production offering.

In the meantime, this is an early SketchUp model of the set:

And here’s a photo of the set under work lights from one of the corner camera angles:

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God of Carnage

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1st, 2021 by Eric Appleton

It’s already nearing the end of the semester and I haven’t updated the blog at all in the past year! Whoops! For the Fall, I plead sabbatical (I wrote a book about drafting). For the Spring, I plead getting back in the swing of things.

We’re now rolling into the tech rehearsals for God of Carnage. It will be a virtual offering, but because the COVID guidelines permit us to have twenty five people in a space provided everyone is masked and distanced, I’ve designed a set that completely surrounds the action. A camera is placed at each of the four corners, and we will record the whole show over multiple nights so that the footage can be edited together to create a slightly more cinematic experience. I am soooooo not fond of Zoom tiny multi-screen theatrical experiences.

We’ve checked with the university authorities and received guidance and approval for eating and drinking during the action, as well as for the vomit scene — as long as proper distance is maintained, the actors are allowed to take off their masks for those brief periods. We’re being super cautious about our COVID precautions, as we don’t want to risk anyone’s health.

Tonight is first dress, and we’re taping with two cameras to see how the cameras read the lighting. The first tests this afternoon have been encouraging.


End of the Fall

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1st, 2020 by Eric Appleton

Well, it’s after Thanksgiving and the campus has moved to fully remote learning. Our two Fall productions, “Vanity Fair” and “The Misanthrope,” have been recorded and sent out into the world. They did what they needed to do, and we consider them to have been successes for all involved. New modes of perfomance, technical challenges, lots of unknowns to be met and surmounted. We’re now in the midst of working out the Spring season; “Pirates of Penzance” of course, is impossible, being a major health risk to the musicians and performers (as well as technicians and audience. . . ) and has been replaced with “Antigone.” “Bandersnatch” was to be the final Spring production, and while the director considered staging it outdoors at the city of Whitewater’s new outdoor amphitheater, the health risks (even in April) were considered to be too unknown and too fluid to consider pursuing that option. We are now considered other titles that are more amenable to on-line performance modes. We hope to revisit Pirates and Bandersnatch next season.

Onward. . .

End of the Summer and All That. . .

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4th, 2020 by Eric Appleton

Well, it’s been an interesting Spring and Summer, and while there’s been a lot of activity, not a lot of department production activity to post about. The final show of the Spring, “Miss Lulu Bett’ was canceled when campus closed, but the design/tech students working on projects kept working on them and presented them in May as part of a showcase Webex production meeting. Those actors who were playing roles as part of senior capstone projects presented monologues and scenes, also on online.

Our Summerround season was cancelled, and during the summer as the campus and UW System debated on courses of action for the Fall, our department decided that we didn’t feel there was any way to rehearse our students safely, even though protocols had been created for audience seating, and Bruce Cohen, one of our directors, has been talking to the City of Whitewater about using their new outdoor venue. It looks like we will attempt some sort of digital offering for our two Fall shows, “Vanity Fair,” and “The Minsanthrope.” One of the Spring shows may move the outdoor space. Conversations are still taking place on how to proceed with Dancescapes. The Music department doesn’t feel it’s safe to do a musical/opera for the Spring (and I agree), so it looks like we’ll be looking for something non-musical and digital-friendly to fill that slot, and hopefully returning with “Pirates of Penzance” in the Spring of 2022.

In the meantime, Facilities has finally turned over the renovated prop and costume collection storage spaces and my personal goal is to get all the props moved back in before the students arrive on campus. . . .