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. . . .

The Addams Family Musical

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26th, 2020 by Eric Appleton

Well, “The Addams Family Musical” opened yesterday, first with the well-attended student matinee, and then the well-attended evening performance. The afternoon was spent working on the set, as I had fallen ill the previous week and a number of things had be abandoned or re-addressed.

I designed scenery. Lighting was by student Nick Sole. Costumes by Tracey Lyons. Props by Siena LoMastro and Jamie Love. Sound designed by Hans Pregler. Music Direction by Dr. Bob Gehrenbeck. Stage manager, Alex Carey. TD., Ruth Conrad-Proulx. My assistant was Abby Lezama-Smith.

To start off with, here’s stage manager Alex heading to the tech table at Sunday’s dress rehearsal.

A pic from the run. Pugsley and Wednesday in the playroom. The ancestors have brought along happy singing birds and butterflies.

Wednesday’s love interest and family arrive, surrounded by ancestors:

A close-up of the love interest’s family with Lurch in front of a family portrait:

What with illness and the set’s state of completion, I didn’t get much in the way of photos at the final dress. Here, though, is a pic of the stage under worklights this afternoon, with the banquet table set up (the yellow stanchions are there to prevent folks from falling into the pit during the day. . . .)

Issues still arise, though. Here’s Megan from earlier today putting some beefier casters on Pugsley’s bed unit:

A few detail images. First, one of the gravestones. Stage management requested that they be part of the joke, so this one conflates Alex’s and Megan’s names:

A close up of the foliage side of one of the flip panels:

The interior side of one of the periaktoi (the sconces were one of the things that had to get cut. Sigh.).

The exterior side of one of the periaktoi. In my rush to get them done Tuesday afternoon, I made the shutters too long. On the other hand, since the flat frame wasn’t built with members to support the exterior elements the window sill ended up on top of the bottom of the window, which left a gap in which to slide the shutters. . .

And then a tour of the backstage, taking photos of elements in the half-light. The students in the technical direction class were each assigned projects on the show. Abby engineered and built the rack:

Alden did the portrait wagon (with frame):

Michelle did Pugsley’s bed unit. It’s on it’s back in this image since Megan was replacing the casters:

I painted the signs that hang above Pugsley’s bed:

I engineered the heretic chair, and then Abby finished it off with panels and paint:

And finally, Grandma’s poison cart, a repurposed drinks trolley that Jamie and Siena filled with stuff.

And now, it’s time to start working on Miss Lulu Betts while the costume shop gears up for Dancescapes.

The Addams Family Musical

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14th, 2020 by Eric Appleton

The light hang for “The Addams Family Musical” is wrapping up. On to the focus! Below are some pics from the last few days. First, I finished painting the platforming and deck:

ME Mary works with other students on hanging lights on the balcony rail:

A close-up of the floor treatment, with one of the periaktoi bases in place:

Here’s KG basing one of the shutter flats for the upstage flip panels:

The play calls for a chair with a spike popping up through the seat. I finally settled on a simple and reliable lever with a catch. Huzzah for the fulcrum!

Action photo. Megan waits for an electric to fly out while TD Ruth darts off to the side:

I had decided that the banquet scene needed a portrait. Here’s the start. It’s loosely based on one of the family portraits seen in an original Charles Addams cartoon:

Megan, ripping narrow pieces of wood:

One of my projects on Thursday was to start blazing through paint treatments. Did four of these vine flats:

Ruth assigned the students in the Technical Direction class projects for the show. Alden is engineering and building the wagon that carries the portrait. Here he is, installing rather beefy jacks on the back of the finished portrait:

I dug out a decent chandelier from storage. Here’s Nick showing me that it does indeed work:

And finally, here’s Megan again, working on the frames for the periaktoi units:


The Addams Family Musical and Advanced Design Seminar

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6th, 2020 by Eric Appleton

On “The Addams Family Musical,” the platforms are all in place and primed. The other day I got base coats on a couple of them (the yellow). I plan to hit the rest today. We’ve also been getting lights hung.

Student ME Mary’s not holding her head in terror — just thinking about what she needs to do next. . .

KG and I started in on painting facing yesterday:

Megan worked on the periaktoi bases:

Here’s Faith helping props manager Siena on the apparently delightful task of adding wings to birds:

This morning, in Advanced Design Seminar, we continued on two tracks. Part of the class went into the costume shop to work on flat patterning, and part remained in the design class room to work on Vectorworks. Here’s the flat patterning group, with Marshall explaining things (I believe darts and hiding darts was on the agenda for the day. . . ):

And here’s Nicolas, Megan, and Alden working through Vectorworks exercises. Today was about layout and line weight.

And as long as I was in the costume shop getting photos of class, here are some of the costume pieces for “The Addams Family” currently under construction:

The Addams Family Musical

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30th, 2020 by Eric Appleton

It’s the end of the second week of classes, and construction of “The Addams Family Musical” is forging ahead.

Megan has been leading the students in the shop on getting the platforming up. Here it is, in place. Today’s projects included cutting and labeling the facing pieces:

Ruth, our TD, has given the students in the Technical Direction class various items of the production to engineer and build. Here’s Alden pulling caster blocks for the portrait unit:

And here’s Michelle, looking at drawings and planning Pugsley’s bed unit:

In the theatre, Megan works with two students new to the shop on installing a step unit:

And, selecting hardware from the bins:

2020 KCACTF Region 3 Festival!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13th, 2020 by Eric Appleton

This past week, we accompanied a group of our students to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 3’s annual conference. We had a number of design/tech/stage management (DTM) entries, as well as Irene Ryan acting nominees. The conference was held in Madison, WI this year.

Here are the students, in the hotel lobby, waiting for conference check-in time to arrive. What an eager bunch!

Then it was time to set up design presentation boards. Here’s Sam H, getting started:

We had a little trouble with registration for Sam P, since the the festival website had a few too many layers. It got sorted out though, thanks to the helpful festival staff and volunteers:

Grace contemplates her materials. We’re pretty sure she had the single largest fully printed presentation:

Sam B. started putting up his boards:

Alexa’s board for a costume design of “She Kills Monsters:”

Carlee’s board for the make-up design of last semester’s production of “Twelfth Night:”

Sam H seems happy about something. . .

Here’s Megan’s boards for the scenic design of “Twelfth Night.” One of her stated goals was to do as much of the design work via digital means; this effort was noted by the responders. . . . more on that in a below.

Alex brought two stage management projects, “Angel Street” and “Resort 76:”

It’s a small world. Here faculty member Sara Griffin runs into lovely responder Brandon Kirkham, who she knew years ago and hasn’t seen since:

On to watching Irene Ryan auditions! Here’s Abrya, Grace, Alexa, Nate, and Sam P waiting for Jon M’s session to begin:

Alex was one of the stage management intensive students this festival, and was one of the SMs running the audition sessions:

And other things to do! Besides the seminars, workshops, design presentations, and performance auditions, there’s participation in the new play readings! We had a number of students audition for and be cast in the readings. Nate directed one of the ten-minute plays. Here’s Kory, in the cast of one of the one-act plays, waiting to start:

And then, of course, there are the response sessions for the DTM projects. Here’s Alex at his SM interview:

And here we crowd around Alexa, waiting for her response session to begin:

Kory went on to the semi-finals of the Irene Ryan competition, and Alexa, Abrya, and Sam P went onto the semi-finals of the DTM competitions! Here are Abrya, Alexa, and Sam P waiting for their second round of respondents:

Another activity at the festival is Design Storm. Students sign up, are put on a team with students from other schools, and given about 24 hours to come up with a design/dramaturgy/directing presentation on an assignment play. Here is Sam H’s team setting up their presentation for “The Legend of Georgia McBride:”

And the finished project board:

Then it’s time to take everything down and head off to the awards ceremony.

While none of the semi-finalists moved forward to the finals, we did have some pleasant surprises at the closing ceremony. Sam H’s team won the Design Storm competition:

Megan won the Vectorworks Award for her efforts in using digital media in the creation of her “Twelfth Night” scenic design. She recieved a full, unwatermarked copy of Vectorworks as her prize!

And Jon L received a Cal State award, which is a scholarship helping to fund attendance at a summer performance workship:

I couldn’t corral Jon L afterwards, but I did make Sam H and Megan pose with their certificates. Well done!

In all, an excellent experience. Our students went in with good solid work, received some recognition, but just as (if not more so) importantly, were active participants who sought out learning and career opportunities. I am so proud of them all!