Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Salvage Vanguard Theater and Rude Mechanicals...the Austin Scenic Co-Op

This week we have an introduction to Salvage Vanguard Theater's project with partners Rude Mechanicals--the Austin Scenic Co-Op...

The Austin Scenic Co-Op is a project that I started with a fellow TD (Technical Director) named Thomas Graves. I am the resident set designer and TD for Salvage Vanguard Theater, and a company member of the Rude Mechs, the theater group for which Thomas is a Co-Producing Artistic Director. We both saw a problem with the way theater and arts organizations were using resources: buying materials to build platforms and flats, then throwing them out because storage was too expensive, only to have to buy and build them all over again. It made production expensive, time-consuming, and wasteful of materials that could be recycled. So we started collecting generic set elements that could be re-used, storing them at Salvage Vanguard Theater and The Off Center (home of the Rudes), and making them available to TDs, theaters and arts groups. The greater purpose of the program is to reduce waste and to make production less costly and time-consuming for the creative community, especially those members who struggle financially and technically.
We have mostly standard sized flats (lightweight "walls") and platforms (sturdy, used for stages and risers) that are 4 x 8 feet. There are a few odd sized or shaped pieces, as well as a variety of step units of different heights, some doors and windows. We are beginning to build a small collection of props and more detailed set-dressing materials. It's been a fairly casual operation until recently. With the help of the TCG "Think-It" grant we hope to take the project from informal lending done in our spare time to a robust sustainable network of theatrical materials. We are hoping to improve our space and create an online system to keep inventory updated and linked to a calendar, set up regular hours and create a membership structure and fee schedule with the aim of self-sustainability. Our dream is that Austin can share a state-of the art facility for technical production—a shop equipped with the necessary tools for constructing sets, costumes, and props; a storage facility housing stock scenery, props, costumes, lighting, sound and video equipment; and a truck, shared by the theatre companies, to transport things to the various performance spaces. By pooling our resources and strengthening existing networks, we can make Austin theatre more affordable, efficient, earth-friendly, community-engaged, and of higher production value.

--Connor Hopkins, Resident Designer, Salvage Vanguard Theater and Co-Director, Austin Scenic Co-Op


  1. Theatrical enterprise varies enormously in sophistication and purpose. People involved vary from professionals to hobbyists to spontaneous novices. Theatre can be performed with no money at all or on a grand scale with multi-million dollar budgets.