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She Kills Monsters

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

We opened “She Kills Monsters,” by Qui Nguyen, this past Monday. I did the scenic design. Lighting design by student Harry Heinrich, Prop Designer and Manager was student Abby Lezama-Smith, costume design was by student Lydia Oestreich, stage manager was student Moira Kowalski, with sound design by alumnus Jon Mickel. Directed by Sara Griffin.

We were painting detail on the dragons right up until crew call that evening, but they got done and from audience reports, look pretty impressive in action. Here they are on their saw horses before we added scale shading and horn and eye details. The university photographer visited that afternoon and counted about 275 scales on the black dragon. That means we cut out and glued on about 1400 scales. . .

Here are the blue and green dragons, finished:

This photo is from fight call at the start of the final dress rehearsal:

After a couple of attempts, I ended up very happy with how the beholder turned out. We went old school with it (the play does take place in 1995). I must admit to being a little disappointed that it’s only onstage for about twenty seconds.

Here’s a picture of the finished floor, with the house set up for the night of final dress:

And now, some final dress photos. Here, Agnes and her DM Chuck begin the adventure, with the shadowy form of Tilius in the background.

Agnes meets the members of her D&D party.

In this photo, Agnes wonders why she can’t have a sword like Tilius has:

Agnes and Tilius meet Orcus in his lair:

In this photo, Tilius just cast a magic missile spell at the evil fairy:

Agnes meets the student that Lilith is based upon.

Vera, Steve, and Miles in Vera’s office, as Miles tries to figure out what Agnes is up to.

The great mage Steve, about to be devoured by the gelatinous cube.

After Agnes has a meltdown, DM Chuck makes a decision.

Agnes meets some of Tilly’s friends.

Agnes fights the five headed dragon Tiamat (one head killed thus far. . . ). My camera’s a little slow, so please excuse the blurry action.

End of the evening. Dragons have been vanquished. We all get to clean up and go home. . .

And begin designing the upcoming opera production, “Signor Delusa” paired with “The Harpies.”

She Kills Monsters

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

First tech rehearsal was last night; we worked through the first half of the show. Tonight we will work through the second half. Student props designer and manager Abby and her props team have been working hard to create all of the very specialty items this show requires. I wish I had more photos of them in action, but then, I’ve been building dragons and haven’t been able to snap as many process photos as I’d like. Still, here’s the breastplate and shield that was built for Tilly:

And the gelatinous cube. This has been thought a few iterations; originally the thought was to encase it with a sheath of stretchy material. This was deemed expensive, so we went with plastic wrap layered with fabric scraps. Since there needs to be an opening through which a character is consumed, this did not prove tremendously structurally stable.

It was necessary to re-secure three sides and re-engineer the opening with independent flaps:

When we run this moment during tech tonight, we’ll find out if it works.

One of my projects has been working on the beholder. Here it is, with a coat of primer:

And here’s an image of two of the dragons, one primed,. the other awaiting a coat of paint. One of my goals for today is to work out their lower jaws. . .

Here are the dragons — or rather, the one five-headed dragon — in action, during the fight call before tech rehearsal proper began:

Here’s the production team at the tech table getting ready to begin. We’ve got Alexis as light board operator, Harry as lighting designer, Moira as stage manager, former student Jon returning to design sound, Valerie operating sound, student assistant director Josh, and way at the end, director Sara Griffin.

And a moment from tech, from behind the light board:

She Kills Monsters

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

We’re now less than a week away from tech rehearsals and I’m not sure how everything will get done. We shall certainly try, however. The floor is done and focus has commenced. Here are student LD Harry and student ME Trevor patching the show:

And then, a bit later, beginning focus:

In the shop, dragon work continues. Madison glues scales onto necks:

Lillian frames out the fourth head:

I’ve covered the first and second heads with a combination of wood glue and toilet paper:

Here’s the fourth head, framed out:

And finally, a shot of the floor from the booth, as focus is prepping to begin:

Time to get back to work!

She Kills Monsters

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29th, 2021 by Eric Appleton

The build on “She Kills Monsters” continues. There’s not much permanent scenery, so the focus remains on all of the puppetry and prop items that need to be constructed. First, a pic of the stage floor, getting closer to completion:

My first attempt at the beholder failed. In my rush, I put fans on the papier mache, which then dried on the outside and prevented the interior from hardening; therefore it remained much softer than hoped. We’ve begun again.

Light hang began this week, with student lighting designer Harry and student M.E. Trevor running the show:

In the shop, the craftiness ramps up. Here’s Alexis cutting out scales for the dragons, of which we will need ever so many. . .

Props assistant Lucas attaches a layer of muslin to the dragon neck harnesses. Eventually, we’ll glue the scales onto this surface (once I finish the heads and figure out how to attached them to the frames.

Props manager Abby and assistant Madelyn work on bugbear clubs, the fireball, and boxing ring signs:

Assistant TD Mary works with Kate on putting casters on the gelatinous cube frame:

One of my day’s projects was to build up the structure of the dragon heads. Here’s the first of five, in progress:

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!