Theatre Thursday

Building a Taverna for Mamma Mia

For the last 6 weeks I have been working on the set for Mamma Mia at Central high School.  It has been a huge project.

It all started this past summer when my husband, daughter and co-worker went to see Mamma Mia at Broadway Rose in Portland.  My co-work turned to me and said, “I want that set.”  I laughed.  We were planning on producing Mamma Mia as the fall musical.  We had already cast the show.  But there was no way I was going to be able to recreate the beautiful set we were looking at.

Joke was on me.  A couple of weeks later my co-worker said that he had a friend donate 2 of the large walls used on the Mamma Mia set.  It was time for me to figure out how I was going to re create the look of that set with the gifts I was given.

First, I needed to work out how to build a 24′ turn table.  I had never built one that big before.  I thought about it for weeks.  I watched videos on Youtube.  I discussed my ideas with my husband.  Finally, the two of us came up with a plan.

The first weekend we worked on the set mapped out the circle of the turntable on the floor.  Next, we laid out the bottom layer of plywood, drew a circle and cot the plywood to fit.  Meanwhile, teams of workers made 2×2 frames for each piece of the turntable.  Other teams assembled the “spokes” with 4″ castors.

The next day we laid out the “spokes” and screwed them to the floor.

Then, we pieced the lower level of the turn table together, bolting the pieces together with carriage bolts, on top of the castors.

Finally we topped the turntable with a layer of plywood.  After it was screwed down, we cut the top to match the bottom.

End of the first weekend of set build.

The following two weeks we added the walls and platforms to the turntable.  It was a bit of a challenge.  The 2 walls we were gifted fit, but it took some creativity to come up with the best way to use them on our turn table that was at least 4′ shorter than the turn table used at Broadway Rose.  I also had to be creative adding the doors, stairs and platforms because I spent $2000 on the turn table.  It didn’t leave me with much for the rest of the set.  Thankfully, I have stair units, platforms, and doors in stock.  I had lots of scrap lumber to use as legs and to rebuild a couple platforms to  make everything fit on my circle.

Then, commenced the work of painting.  We started with a base of white with gray texture.  Then, I added turquoise trim and accents.

I also painted the floor with rock… lots and lots of rocks.

My friends, Joy and Julie came and helped me re-paint the backdrop.

And… we continued on the work of rocks.  We also added working practical lights to the rotating set, wall art and flowers.

These two beautiful pictures were my inspiration for the look of the show.

My dad created a motor from an old rototiller, a tire, motorcycle shocks, turnbuckles and angle iron.  The motor for the little machine is a hole hog.  That’s right… this 5000 pound turntable turns with a drill.  I added an edge to the turntable and worked at making it level and even, before adding slats as teeth for the motorized wheel to push on.

Here are few pictures of the finished results.  It’s pretty impressive.  I’ve said this before in a previous blog, but this is one of the most stunning sets I have created.  I may need to retire because I won’t be able to top this one!

Here is a time lapse video from floor to finish.


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