I just wrapped up a production of Crimes of the Heart at Central High School. Once again, I served as the Tech Director and Set Designer. For this play I mentored my daughter, Hannah, as a Lighting Designer as well (I even had her draw her first light plot and learn some lighting theory for this job).
I started with a model…
I drew out plans on graft paper including a basic floor plan…
… back elevations…
… and platform maps.
I taped the floor for the first few weeks of rehearsal. There were many functions scheduled for the stage, so we only had 10 days to put the set up, paint it, decorate it and light it. Crimes of the Heart is the first production that Central High School has put the audience on the stage with the set. I designed it to be a thrust stage (although the director choose to not put the chairs fully on all three sides).
On our first work day we were able to get all the platforms legged and placed. We were able to start the back stairways as well.
I had to send a couple kids under the set in order to tie the platforms together.
We also got the beginning wall structure up and primmed. We had to build a few small flats.
However, over the week, one got stepped on and we had to repair it. lesson learned: don’t leave flats on the floor. Kids don’t pay attention to what is around them.Our second work day we repaired the flat, finished a few odd shaped flats…
… painted the floor with primmer… finished the back escape stairs… finished the window… collected all the props and painted the stage floor for a band concert.
While kids were working on the stage, Scot, my shop foreman, build kitchen cabinets and a screen door for me in the shop.
It is hard to keep 30 kids and 3 adults busy and useful. I have to be extra organised. I have to plan in advance all kinds of jobs that can include kids with a variety of skills. The play only had 6 cast members, but I had 20 something kids show up on work days to help out. Now that is cool. I’m starting to help kids think that learning tech theater is fun!
Because I wanted to hang kitchen cabinets on the walls, I used two platforms for walls… I wanted the ability to screw the cabinets into the wall. I also saved money by using recycled cabinets that weren’t originally meant to make a counter. We used 3/4 plywood and made the counter. We used cardboard to make a template and then cut the counter top. We painted it and then used silver duct tape as the edge. We were able to set a kitchen sink into the counter… have one working cupboard door under the sink, and 4 working drawers. Not bad. We framed a window and used 1×2 to make the window panes.
I was luck enough to borrow a small refrigerator and a small stove from a local community theater. My husband was awesome and worked on getting running water for the kitchen sink. He used a 5 gallon bucket and connected it to the kitchen sink with a garden hose. He put the bucket at the highest part of the set with a pulley and rope so that it could be easily filled each night. He used regular drain plumbing pipes and a bucket as a drain. The actors were then able to get water for “coffee” or to wash dishes. In’ many ways the running water became the highlight of the set. We got so many comments about that silly running water. LOL
On our third work day we started our serious painting. It is my goal to teach as many skills as possible to these kids. On this set I used a feather duster to create texture on the “hallway” walls and on the kitchen floor. The result was great! The floor actually looked like 1960’s linoleum flooring! I had the kids strip the walls and then stencil a leaf pattern before adding tiny flowers to create a “wallpaper” look in the kitchen. I tried to choose colors that reflected the ’50’s and early ’60’s. Oh… and we had a little bit of carpet that had been donated so we carpeted the lowest level of the stage.
Finally, on our fourth work day, we were ready to decorate the set. We made curtains… we got knick-knacks… we hung pictures… and looked for tons of cookie jars. Set dressing is not my favorite part of the set design process. This is where my friend Jeff, the director, shines! He loves to go shopping for little things. Anyway, we make a great team. if I were to do this more professionally, I’d want to hire him to help me with the finishing details.
We started out with a green table with chairs that we painted white from our friends at Pentacle Theatre. Then, one of our actors’ mom came in and offered her family table and chairs. They were perfect!I was so impressed with how well it tied all the colors together and made the set look complete.
Our last part of the process was to focus the lights and set the 11 light cues. My Hannah did a good job with her design. In all, Crimes of the Heart has moved up as one of my favorite creations. It was such a cute little kitchen!
In addition to set design and construction, I also got to help with directing this show. I sure love directing. Once again, it works because my friend Jeff and I make a great team. We compliment each others strengths and weakness well. I came into rehearsal when he wanted me to and helped with character development and a little with blocking. It is amazing what a little understand of a back story can do for a character. Anyway, I had a great time with this show and look forward to further adventures at Central with my friend Jeff.
See! Isn’t it cute!
Funny how all that work comes down so quickly… Next show… Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.