Theatre Thursday

That’s a Wrap – CET 2019

My summer was crazy busy… per usual over the past 8 years … working at Children’s Education Theatre. Going into the season I knew it would be my last season. It was also the last season to be held in The Rose Theatre at South Salem High School. I knew I needed to go out with a bang. This season featured Frozen Jr., The Phantom Toll Booth, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, Much Ado High School, and three small children’s plays. I wanted each of my sets to feature something new and exciting, especially the show in The Rose Theatre. I even went all out on the models. (It was the first time I put lights on a set model).

My inspiration for my Frozen JR set design came from Frozen card cutout. I thought it was beautiful and I loved the Christmas paper feel in the colors. I was pretty sure I could pull off the angles and set pieces on a large scale.

Because the materials for a decent turn table are spendy, I brought the pieces of the 16 foot turn table from my school and assembled it on the stage with an army of kids and parent volunteers. The first step it to lay the castor spokes on the floor. Then we assemble the base platform upside down. As we build, I run the electrical line through the center. Then we assemble the top plywood deck. Since I wanted a two story deck with a ladder going up the center to get to the upper deck, we build legs that could safely hold up the deck and yet remain see through for the lighting effects.

So many little projects to do… Creating PVC pipe frames and sturdy curtains, painting the “art deco” bath tub from school to become an ice sleigh, building 12-16 foot angular pieces, building platform levels for a couple shows, cutting out and painting mountains and a toll booth, Strengthening a wardrobe floor and making it able to walk through, cutting out and painting many, many trees, glitter, decorating an ice throne, and so much painting! Classes and work nights all worked together to get the work done within out 4 week window.

I really couldn’t do it without the help of my fabulous team. Dani has been my rock for the past 8 years. I knew she needed to be the one to take over as soon as I stepped away. I kept hinting and she kept denying that the end was near. The boys had also been with me for my whole CET journey, first as students and then as assistants. Every day I dreaded letting them all know I wasn’t going to be back for the following season.

The first show to open, right at the end of week 4, was Much Ado High School. This cute little play was done by out level 7 kids – mostly 9th grade students. I didn’t really design much for this production. I just taught a class where the students designed their own set, props, and costumes. My responsibility was to keep them on track and to teach them how to do what they wanted to do.

The next show to open a day later. This production was done at the Salem Art Fair in Bush Park. Our moving committee didn’t have the vehicles to move the set, so I made a mad dash to get the set to the park. This cute little show included layered platforms to create level, a toll booth, stair units, and lots of props. My co-worker who taught scenic painting for me, did a great job re-creating my designs and drawings in the larger set.

The next set to move and begin production was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at the Salem Public Library. Again, the moving committee came with vehicles that were not able to move all the set pieces, and lighting equipment, so I made the mad dash again to get the set to the library. (I also had to bring it all back and ended up loading it myself with only my TA to help me. Talk about being grumpy). This show had several large pieces that were moved on and off the stage. The real trick at this venue is lighting. The lighting that the library provides does not provide enough to cover the entire space. The circuits can’t even handle having extra lighting fixtures added. The library will be closed to CET for the next two years for renovations. Hopefully, when the library is ready to host CET again, lighting will no longer be an issue.

The next show to open was a traveling show, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. This fun little show was so funny. For this show I designed PVP pipe frames with heavy canvas panels that were painted on both sides and had flaps that could be opened or walked through. For this design, I designed the panels to be black and white, like a coloring book, with splashes of color here and there. I wanted the color to look a little like water color paints. I needed this set to be light and able to quickly travel and assemble in a new location for every presentation.

In between these shows opening, the three little shows opened and closed. I don’t do much for them. I just create an acting space, which I did years ago by creating colored fabric panels to cover doors, and providing acting blocks. I also help co-ordinate props and technical support for their productions.

The last big show to open was Frozen JR in the Rose Theatre. I loved how the revolving set turned out. I was sad that I didn’t get any good pictures of the set. But I loved how it was lit from the inside. I loved hearing the audience gasp when the set turned around to the ice side.

I love the group of kids I work with. They are great kids. This year a couple really stepped up as leaders and will easily fill the holes left by the TAs who are graduating. They work hard. They are smart. I will miss many of them.

This year the painting class made these cool posters for people to take pictures with. We hid them around the Art Fair and had them on display at each of the performances. Students designed and painted each poster. I think they did a great job.

I will miss CET. It was what my Lilli needed. However, she has grown up now and has moved on. I am 8 years older and 8 years more tired. It is time to move on. It is time to take a summer to recuperate, to rest, and to reconnect with my kids and my grand kids.

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