Theatre Thursday


This year the winter play was Oklahoma!  This show has never been on my favorites list…. however, I may have to change my opinion of the show real soon.  This show was BEAUTIFUL… beautiful to look at… beautiful to listen to… beautiful to watch.  That is a pretty amazing feat considering the production was a bunch of high school students.

I had to be creative with the construction of this set.  We couldn’t put the set on the stage until 1 week before tech.  The stage was rented out to a different production.  I had to come up with a way to get my set pieces down in a timely manner, all while keeping out of the way of the rental show.

Thankfully, I have a great group of volunteers and students.  They all came in the last 2 days of Christmas break so that we could get started.

Just so you have a clue what that mean… I come up jobs to keep 30-40 kids with very little skills busy, plus a handful of adults and 2 guys that have a clue.  I have to be very organized and I have to be able to communicate through my drawings as well as verbally, what each job entails.  Often, it means I have to teach them what to do.  Always, it means I run laps around the theater space checking and re-checking all jobs in progress, and keeping track of every student in the building.  It is pretty amazing that I can answer 40 questions and yell at a kid in the rafters at the same time and never need to look around.  LOL

I started with the small stuff first.  I had the kids make a scarecrow… they were a little creative with their construction ideas, but they eventually got the job done.

The kids worked hard on that funny scarecrow… even though I knew it would be at the back of the stage and barely seen.  I love that they take pride in their work.  I love that they are willing to work hard on the set and most of them are eager to contribute and to learn new skills.

These funny kids took 6 hours to work on a fence for the back of the set… it had to be finished the following week at the next work party.  The thing is, I want this set to be kid made.  I want them to take ownership for their production.  I want them to look at the set and feel proud that they “did that”. Thus, I let it go. I let them figure out the plans. I let them measure and cut and secure.

This wind mill was made 12 years ago for the production of Oklahoma! on the little cafeteria stage.  I had these two guys secure it to a large box and then paint it all to match.  Once again, it would be at the back of the stage, but details count!  I love that we are able to recycle stuff.

Laurie’s house needed to double as Skidmoore Ranch house.  I had the kids start by painting flats with the a base coat and then lining then and shading them to make “lap board” siding.  Meanwhile, other workers put 5 platforms together and attached castors to the platform since I needed it to roll.  Then we attached the flats to the platforms and added an upper platform for the up stair windows to be functional.  We had to store the rolling units in the shop while the extra show was in our space.  That meant we couldn’t add the second story and the peak until we could get on the main stage.

Once we were able to move all set pieces to the stage for the final time, we added the second story.  I had to build it more sturdy than I would a regular flat because the walls would need to support a porch roof that kids could climb on.  Good thing we had a bunch of 2x4s donated to the program.  🙂

It was a little tricky adding the upper deck, walls and roof because I had some “kick outs”.  I wanted to give shape to the house.  I didn’t want a plain square house.  I wanted to make it as realistic as I possibly could.  Much harder than it looks!

The barn was the next big piece.  I really wanted the texture of real barn wood.  I put out a call for old barn wood on Facebook and I was pleased to have someone donate some giant pallets that did the trick.  All we needed to do was to tear them apart and salvage the wood.  I am blessed with great friends and before I knew it, I had a pile of barn wood and a pile of 2x4s.  I had the kids “white wash” the boards with a red wash.  I was hoping for a weathered barn look.  It worked!

I wanted the barn to move too so we put together 4 platform and put castors on them.  Next, we put an upper deck on the platforms and used the barn wood to make the lower walls.  My friend John Hatch made a door that fit the style.  I was so pleased that it even squeaked!

It was time to add the walls to the upper deck.  These boys never really built anything before.  They were great!!!

They built the frame…

… they added the barn wood…

… they hoisted it up 8 feet…

… and secured it in place.

Then they repeated the process until all the walls were on.  Eventually, we added the peak.  The whole thing was about 23 feet tall.  it was a monster.  but it moved successfully to center stage for Skidmoore Ranch and it turned around and moved down stage for the smoke house that Jud lived in.  It was impressive!

By the time we were done with the barn it had a finctioning rope swing that the kids could go up and down on… a hay loft with real hay… 2 pot belly stoves… farm tools… a ton of antiques in Jud’s lair… it even had animal skins in Jud’s house that were in the shadows and still added to the mood of the place.  It rocked!

I was dead set that I wanted to frame the stage with trees… so I did.  At first I thought I would make it from fabric.  That would be very expensive.  Then I found a way to make tree leaves (like a weeping willow) out of plastic table clothes. We cut the table clothes into strips…

Then we cut slits into the strips.  My friend (a math teacher) made the calculations to get a nice arch to begin the trees and then we filled in the spaces.

We sewed the plastic strips to black fabric…

… and hung them from batons.  I made a truck by sizing brown fabric with glue and scrunching it up to dry.

The final touch?  A SWING!  It was by far my favorite set piece.  It was so fun to work with and to play with….

John learned knots from my dad and made it strong enough for anyone to swing on… it was so much fun that we left it attached after strike so we could play with it later.  🙂  I know.  We are children.

The scariest part of this set was the back drop.  I have never got up the nerve to paint this giant, expensive piece of fabric. but this show screamed “BACK DROP”.  Thankfully, my friend Joy was willing to dive into the unknown with me.

We had to pull down was we painted because we couldn’t get tension as we painted.
I used left over table cloth plastic to make corn for the back of the stage.
Even without lighting it was a master piece.
The ballet was fun to light.  Actually, I used 2 students to help with the lighting design.
I added Mason jars with candles on a rope to decorate Skidmoore Ranch for the “dance and auction”.  It was an impressive way to open Act 2.
My friends in the pit were awesome.  Our sound system at school is not working just now.  We had to borrow one.  It was tough to get all the sound issues worked out, but eventually, it was smooth.
I know I am bias, but my favorite part of this show was this girl… I love this kid.  She lights up the stage.  I am proud to be her coach and her mom.
These guys slay me.  I really love the kids in this group.  It is sad to see them move on.  It is exciting to see them move on.
I started this production with a strong dis-like for Oklahoma!  I ended this show with a real love for the production… not only for it’s history in musical theater, but for the beautiful piece of art it can be.  I am a lucky girl that I am able to create and participate in theater with my friend Jeff Witt.  Thanks friend!

2 thoughts on “Oklahoma! ”

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