Theatre Thursday

Modeling Reality – Set Models

I am off and running on my next theatre adventure… Children’s Educational Theatre (CET). I work as the Tech Director for CET. I am responsible for the set designs for 5 shows, lighting for 2 shows, and helping other tech staff getting their assigned jobs done (sound for 9 shows, props for 8 shows, puppets for 2 shows), and the eventual clean up of the chaos, leaving the school we are in as if we were never there. We load in all our supplies, and build from the ground up everything. Then, we pack it all up and disappear in the end. All this in 5 long, yet short, weeks.

It takes me a hours of planning to get it all done. I have to plan what is needed from storage, lists of jobs that can be done by people with a variety of skills, materials I need to shop for, and some kind of hands-on fun way to teach the skills of tech theatre to kids from 4th to 8th grade. It’s exhausting… and I am getting tired enough to leave this job in my past soon.  However, my own daughter looks forward all year to this experience and the friends she has here and that keeps me coming back until she is too old to be involved (1-3 more seasons).

To help me stay on top of my game plan, I start with models. These are the models I have created for this year:

First up – our travel show… The Stinky Cheese Man


The director wanted large shapes to represent the illustrations of the book. I used the book and Picasso to inspire me, both for the flats and for the blocks. I didn’t make detailed drawings of this set because I wanted the kids in Advanced Construction and Scene Painting class to design the flat’s structure and look. After they drew their plans or  front elections, they brought their work to me for approval. If I gave my approval, they were allowed to start the building process. They are coming along nicely. I can’t wait to see the finished product. I do hope the director likes them as much as I do.


Next, our library show… The Tempest.

The director showed me pictures of thin curtains that inspired her and this is what I came up with based on her thoughts. I used Chad’s old Kenex set to build a model of the structure I hope to make out of PVC pipe. I will hang white see-through curtains and twinkle lights on the structures. The idea is that we will be able to create a star field effect, or the curtains can blow in a breeze, or become some unusual space the director can play with. I also thought some level would be good. I had some curved platforms from previous seasons and I thought they could make a great “rock pile” the director could use for some interesting blocking.


After our first work night, parents were able to complete the construction of 2 extra platforms and leg the structure. The next phase will include facing the front and painting the rocks onto the structure. I am excited to see how it will come together.


Next is our Park Play – The Prince and the Pauper.

They perform first at the Salem Arts Fair. The director wanted something simple, yet will be very time consuming. He wanted 4 free standing flats at the back. Then, he wanted 12 4×5 handheld flats with various things painted on them. All gray scale. Talk about time consuming!!!


My last model is a recreation of Lion King Jr from Central.

The CET director for Ling King Jr came to see my Lion King and said, “I want that.” Ummmm… hard to do. 1.)  I have a real fly system at Central and there really isn’t on to speak of in the school we use for CET. So my rising sun and jungle drops will be hard to pull off. I will do what I can.  2.)  The stage is smaller at CET. My permanent structure has to be smaller. … and 3.)  I have real lighting options at Central. Let’s be honest. Lighting makes or breaks a show. There is absolutely NO WAY I can recreate the lighting I had at Central at CET. Again… I will do my best. This set is moving along quickly too. Of course, it helps that I can bring most of it with me from Central.

So, there it is… how I get started and attempt to get my act together, so to speak.

I am responsible for 4 other shows as well. However, my second year, I created colorful banners as a traditional set piece for those shows. Three of the four shows are the shows that the youngest kids in the program perform. The stage is a small outdoor stage and the flats we used my first year kept falling on the kids and made the playing space even smaller. I hang the banners in the doors to cover the glass. Same look year to year. More playing space. No crushed kids. I know the directors aren’t always pleased that they can’t change it up, but the focus really needs to be on the kids at that point, not on my cool art. The fourth show is the end of season show case. My banners give the stage a little pop and are easy to set up and strike. After those 5 weeks, I am tired. I am not in the mood for working longer than everyone else (but I do). So I made it easy for me. It’s done, ready to go, but it still takes time the day of to make it happen.

I am also helping my “work husband,” Jeff, with his show. He is directing a “traveling show” of sort with the oldest kids. In theory, they are suppose to create all their own stuff. For the past 3 years the director of the program had thrown level 7 kids at me for the first period of the day to work on their tech. This year, Jeff needed they with him for that class time… besides, he needed the rehearsal time. Since there is a very limited budget as well, we decided to use stock from our school. So, out of the kindness of my heart, I will piece it all together this Saturday and haul it over the river and through the woods to CET next week for him.

So there it is… me, modeling reality, one show at a time.

2 thoughts on “Modeling Reality – Set Models”

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