Wednesday, December 15, 2010


First this post in incredibly overdue. This show took place in mid October...oh well better late than never.

So many times I have read on theatre blogs about education and collaboration. "We should be getting other parts of the school involved," high school teachers always seem to be saying. "We should take better advantage of our resources."

Recently I worked on a high school production that did exactly that. I had a great experience with the students and I would like to share it with you.

The production was of The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice. One of the main themes of the show is the interaction between men and technology, and the inability of the main character to cope with a world in which he becomes irrelevant, because his work can be done by a machine. Our director wanted to use projections, live video feed and other modern technologies to comment on this 1920's play.

I loved the idea and thought it was exactly the right direction to take the play, but also knew that the look we were hoping to achieve was WAY out of my league in terms of technical expertise. Fortunately the high school's AV club (called "tech team") was incredibly excited to get involved.

At the very first meeting as I described the concepts to both the theatre tech students and the tech team, the students were getting excited and suggesting new ideas that I hadn't even thought of ("during the Elysian fields scene could we project clouds and a blue sky on the acoustic tiles on the ceiling of the auditorium?" "Absolutely"). I told them what I wanted for each scene; they took the ideas and ran with them. We had live video feed onto projectors in two scenes, live video feed onto a tv screen in another scene, edited projections of both video and still images at all other times, and I hardly had to touch any it. A few of the students even moved from functioning as technicians to functioning as designers. They started to explore the meaning of the play and discuss how the projections contributed to the overall stage picture in each scene.

Our actors and theatre students learned a lot about the technology they were working with (both physically and within the themes of the play) and the tech students got to explore (and I think found a new appreciation for) art and theatre.

Overall the experience was amazing, and all we had to do was ask, the faculty advisor for tech team did the rest and was grateful, I think, for the chance to do something totally different with his students.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Take your Breaks

"Embrace your breaks" was a lesson that one of my professors tried very hard to teach me in college, and it is one I constantly try to learn, and one that I constantly struggle with.
In this business, he would explain to me, there will be times when things are insane, when you go weeks working 15 or 18 hour days, hardly see your friends or family, and don't even have time to clean your home, do laundry or cook a decent meal.
There will be other times when you have nothing to do, no pressing concerns and no upcoming deadlines. You have a choice in the down times. You can let them stress you out, spending all of your time trying to find projects, worrying over small details; or you can relax. Take the time off to do things you have been missing. Make time to hang out with friends, sleep in, cultivate your interests outside theatre, enjoy life.
I find myself feeling guilty because I know other people are working. My boyfriend leaves for work at 6:45 every morning. When I am in one of my busy periods I tend to leave with him, or soon after. Today I slept in until 8:15 and I was feeling horribly guilty about it. I should have been doing something with that time, right?
The truth is no. From the beginning of September through the third week of November I worked my butt off. I opened 8 shows in 10 weeks, hardly saw my friends and family, ate most of my meals on the run and worked until 10pm most nights. Sleeping in is exactly what I should have been doing. And if I slept until noon that still would be okay (though I don't think my body would let me do it). This business asks a lot from you and takes a lot out of you during the crunch times. If you don't embrace the down times you will burn out.
I worked with someone in the summer of 2006 who predicted my burn-out. "There's no way you keep going like this," he told me, "you are going to burn-out hardcore. I give you five years tops." There have been times I have worried he was right. There have been times when I kept going just to prove him wrong (which I admit is silly, I doubt he even remembers the conversation), and there are times like this morning when I know he was right. Not that I am planning on quitting, but times when I realize it's not that I can't keep going and have a long and successful life in the theatre; it's that I can't keep going like this. I have to take my downtime. Find ways to relax. Spend time with my family and friends. Embrace the things that are important to me outside of work. Sleep in if I feel like it. The crunch times will come again soon enough.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

100th Post

This is officially the 100th post on my blog and I wanted to take the chance to thank everyone who has been reading. I wasn't sure what exactly this was going to be when it started a little over a year ago, but it has turned into a project that I am very proud of.

The blog has served a detailed record of my work, at times it has even been a motivator to get me excited for certain projects ("I can't wait to get this done, it's going to make a great blog post."). It has also served as a great place for me to think through and solidify some of my opinions on theatre, props and art. One of the most important ideas I have explored on the blog, and one I have become very passionate about in the last year is the need to share ideas, thoughts and knowledge, or, as my mantra has become, "build fewer cages, drop more keys". The theatre is a small community and I aim to make it even smaller by making connections and helping fellow artists.

If you're new to the blog, and want to check out some of the highlights, here are some of my favorites.

First, the basis of everything else, and the posts to read if you are interested in doing this, My Process Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
I've had two posts on the role of women as minorities in the scene shop, and in other leadership positions in the theatre.
And some of my favorite projects Skeletor part 1 and part 2, Zulu warrior sheild and magic spear, magical book of life,  Sleeping Beauty's chaise,  lollipops, Magic wands for the Blue Fairy and Glinda, french fries, hour glass and a smushed plum.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to email me with questions, requests or ideas. I want the blog to keep growing and expanding over the next 100 posts and would love to have you along for the ride.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bottle Rockets

Sometimes the simplest tricks can be the most magical. Making these bottle rockets come to life was a brilliant collaboration between props, lights, sound and some very talented actors.

We started with the bottle rockets (made of a cut up drinking straw and a thin dowel from Michaels wrapped  with red duct tape)

 The actor held the bottle rocket in the bottle and pretended to light it with the lighter.
When he let go, the bottle rocket dropped down into the bottle and disappeared. At the same moment there was a flash of light, the actors followed the invisible bottle rocket into the air and we heard the sound of a bottle rocket shooting. 
The whole moment was incredibly effective and magical, and after all of my crazy brainstorming of a million high tech ways to accomplish the trick, turns out all I needed to do was think simple and trust my collaborators.