Theatre Thursday

Carving out the Savannah – creating foam rocks

There are 3 more performances of Lion King Jr.  I love the work of art we have created.  It is truly beautiful… a visual feast!

As the set designer, I needed to keep things simple.  With 63 cast members, I needed as much floor space as possible.  I also needed to create Pride Rock, an Elephant Graveyard, a desert and a jungle.  This is a rather tall order.  I settled on rolling staircases to be the main set piece that would assist me in all of the quickly changing locations.

However, I didn’t want them to look like ordinary stair cases.  I needed rocks!  After all, It is Pride Rock.

I recycled the rolling stair cases I built for Addams Family in October.  We covered these staircases with 4×8 sheets of cardboard and then used liquid nails to glue on 4×8 sheets of foam insulation.  I also built 2 4×4 platforms, legged to 30 inches on either side of the stage.  I faced these structures with the cardboard and foam as well.  I used our acting blocks to create even more levels.  I covered the blocks with cardboard and foam.  The reason I started with the cardboard was to preserve the stock units I use time and time again.  I didn’t want to glue the foam directly to these valuable assets.  I built a structure at the back of the stage to create more levels and used the same method to cover and face the structure.

I then used the scrapes to create “rocks” and attached them to the foam walls with liquid nails.

set build for Lion King 7

Then, we carved and carved.  It made a HUGE mess.

Then covered the foam with a layer of wood glue and cheese cloth.

set build for Lion King 10

This was very messy.  We mixed 3 parts glue to 1 part water.   We cut the cheese cloth into strips and glued it all on.

The sticky mess also died hands yellow.  We had to use gloves.


It took us several days to cover the entire set with the glue and cheese cloth shell.


Really… days and days…

After the glue and cheese cloth dried, we painted the whole thing.  First I covered the entire structure with a dark yellow base.  Then we sponged a little pine green into the yellow.  Finally, we used a dark brown and a light tan and a different yellow to create high lights and shadows.



Eventually I added burgundy in the carved out claw marks.

I  wanted the set/rocks to look like cats had sharpened their claws on the rocks of the Savannah.  For me, it was a symbol of how often we need to claw through the experiences of life to truly lean the lessons life has to offer.


I love how it all turned out.  I may be on of my favorite sets I have created.

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