Before I get started, I need to thank Lonnie Thurston for the majority of the pictures in this blog. When I am working I really don’t have time, nor a good camera, to get decent pictures of my work.
Beginning December 28 I had 10 days to get a set built, painted and functioning for a 4 day run of the Pentacle Theatre Fundraising production of Mary Poppins. I had a great time working with the director, Deborah Johansen, and the choreographer, Geri Sanders. I appreciated the many people that came to the first build day where we were successful in building a bridge for the rooftops, the skyline for the rooftops, and 4 wagons for the many set changes.
We had two more short days where we painted. I introduced my crazy feather duster and sponge paint techniques. We taught lots of people about the virtues of double coring cardboard. The results were stunning when the whole “minimalist” set was put to use.
I created two 8’x8′ wagons with walls in the center – including a fireplace. One side I painted yellow (with highlights and low lights using a feather duster) and blue trim. I had a fireplace painted with stone from a previous show. However, I needed people to be able to come through the fireplace, so I needed to build a fireplace flat with a hole. I needed to have a functioning window. (Mary releases a bird in the show). Luckily, I had a window flat in stock.
I had some furniture that was suitable in the prop rooms. The prop lady brought props to dress the set and the director brought some paintings to dress the walls.
The other side of the 8’x8′ wagons was the nursery. I made “beds” from my acting blocks and used a borrowed fireplace and cabinet with a hole at the top for the “trick” cabinet that Mary takes her props from her carpet bag. I painted this side with pinks and blue strips (textured using a sea sponge) and painter an alphabet boarder in yellow. This was my favorite paint job in the design.
The roof tops were a creation made with platforms and stairs, painted black. I attached silhouettes of a London skyline made from the double core cardboard.
I pulled out the trees I made for Oklahoma!, made from plastic table clothes, for the park.
The kitchen was a challenge. It needed to “break” and then, magically restore. I put a wall on an 4’x8′ platform, using stock platforms and flats. I added a Hollywood flat to either side. I needed a more sturdy flat to hold up the few tricks I had up my sleeve. I found an old clock in the prop room and rigged the face to fall forward and restore. I had my friend John Hatch build a small cabinet that the door fell off and restored. I found a shelf that I could hang and let one side drop and then restore. And finally, John and I built a table that hinged in the center and would collapse and could easily be restored and pinned back together. I painted this set yellow with a sea sponge texture and added random bricks. I worked well. I was sad I didn’t have time and money to make it a little more elaborate, but it worked.
I pulled out the white curtains I had from a previous show to create the bank.
I had a free baton and that helped create a quick scene change when needed.
Many years ago I made this stain glass window wall for Once Upon a Mattress. I didn’t have the heart to take it down. Not only was it a pain to get up in the air, but I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy it because it was so impressive. It worked out great as the Cathedral for the Bird Woman to Feed the Birds.
The Talking Shop is my only small regret. I wish I could have made it more circus like. However, resources were scarce. I ended up putting a wall on 4’x8′ platform and painting it in fun primary colors.
We didn’t have the resources to make Mary fly, but that worked out because we we able to fake it well enough. See. Doesn’t this picture prove we could fake it? When Mary was suppose to fly with the children I added a mirror ball for a flying stars effect.
My favorite “special effect” was sending Ms. Andrews to “hell” ( a quote from John Hatch’s little boy). We put in a trap door… pumped in fog… added a strobe… and a red light from below… and it really did look like we sent the lady to hell. LOL.
The only thing we did fly was a kite… I used fishing line. but it looked like it took off all by itself.
One of my favorite parts of the show to watch was Step in Time. The most impressive part for me was the stellar stage crew that quickly moved the parlor back into place mid-scene so that the chimney sweeps could all come through the chimney to shake Mr. Banks’ hand.
I had a great time painting with color in the lighting. The lighting really did make the costumes pop. I was glad I got the opportunity to set the mood of this creative venture.
I was able to recycle many set pieces I had previously created for Central High School. CHS was generous in sharing all it’s set materials, set pieces, props, fog machines, strobes, mirror balls, etc. This allowed me to create this whole look for under $800… including set, lighting and some sound costs. Not bad. I even impressed myself with how under the $1100 budget I was given. I was especially impressed with the crew I worked with. Normally, I would hand off cues to a good production stage manager. However, we were unable to have a tech rehearsal due to freezing rain. By the time we got to opening night we had only run the show 4 times. That being said, spot lights were near perfect. Thanks Rachel, Abby, Claire and Brenna. The scene changes were smooth thanks to Paula, Renee, John, Jed, Danielle and her mom, Ed, and James. THe barking dog and the canned orchestration was run by the delightful Andi Bean. Over all I am pleased with how this production turned out… and after 14 days it was gone… we were down to a bare stage for 30 minutes before we started out next productions – opening in 10 days. I think fast turn arounds are becoming a thing.