Wednesday, March 20, 2013

11th Grade Classes and Video Fun

Nick from Atlantic Theater Company, here! Atlantic's Staging Success program has been going well this year, and I can hardly believe that the school year will be coming to an end in the next few months.

Right now, classes are underway for 11th graders at Park Slope Collegiate (PSC) in Brooklyn. This is the most comprehensive year of our Staging Success program. Over the course of ten weeks, students work with five of our teaching artists during regularly scheduled English periods. Here, students participate in ensemble building exercises, acting training, and writing workshops. And as with every level of Staging Success, we work with PSC faculty to integrate as much work from students' other academic curriculum as possible. We're currently finalizing the date for students' final public performance, which will include original student writing alongside dramatic material studied in class (including excerpts from Waiting for Lefty).

We've also been working to finalize a short video covering some of the work that we've done so far in Staging Success. Now, I'm pleased that I can share it with you HERE. This video highlights our Staging Success classes for PSC's 9th graders, which happened this fall. And we've already begun work on a video documenting our 10th grade classes! Hopefully I'll be able to share that with you soon.

Remember, if you have any questions about Staging Success or would like more information, please don't hesitate to contact me at And take care!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chris Perme: Rep in DC

I'm getting into the first house productions of the year here in Harman Hall. Coriolanus and Wallenstein will be playing back to back for the next few months. The interesting thing about the rep here at this theater is that they use the same set for both plays. The only things that change each day are the lines, blocking, costumes and the placement of one chandelier. Even the actors are the same day to day. The permanent set is definitely easier to set up from a stagehand's perspective. The props for both shows are always set up backstage, and the automation moves are always the same.  I can understand the artistic choice to use the same set for two plays that share commonalities. It highlights both the similarities and differences between the shows.  

Right now, we are beginning the tech phase, which will last for the next two weeks. After that, there will be almost a month of previews. The plays open at the end of April. I will be holding down a position backstage and, near the end of my exchange, an overhire stagehand will be brought in to take over my track. I am responsible for handoffs of props and a few fly maneuvers. It is unfortunate that I will not be able to experience the opening of the show, but I have had fun with this experience.

Thayne Abraham: Goodbye Milwaukee!

When it came time to leave Milwaukee Rep, it felt a little like leaving home. During the last week, I painted a weathered sign on the side of a brick building, which reminded me of the cool old buildings around Milwaukee. It was a beer sign which also reminded me of Milwaukee. It was a fun project and it was nice of them to give it to me.  I left as their season was winding down and everything was finishing up. I will always remember the friends I made during this process and I will miss them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kira Nehmer: Rear Projections and Final Reflections

It’s the eve of my last day of work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It’s been a really great week.  I’m sad that I don’t get to finish the work that I’ve started on The Unfortunates, but I’m still learning new products and techniques on my second to last day, so it’s been a fulfilling week. 
At the beginning of the week I was out at the warehouse starching, cartooning and starting the large translucent drop.  It’s going to be a really challenging, fun project, and I’m glad that I got to touch it a little bit.  We spent about an entire day cartooning, which was good for me.  I tend to be a little slow when it comes to cartooning, so I appreciate getting to work on that skill.  I helped lay in some of the initial paint, but they are already well on their way without me after today.  I can’t wait to see photos of it finished!   
I’m ending the week working with Gabriel (the OSF charge artist) on two light boxes that are made out of Rear Projection screen.  I don’t remember ever painting on RP before.  We’ve been spraying them using tinted sealer.  Gabriel masked off our image with liquid frisket, another product that is new to me.  I’ve been extremely happy with the results- I’ve never used a product for masking that looks so organic.  It has a screen printed quality to it that works really well for the piece.  It has been a bit difficult to remove, however, so something to keep in mind for the future.  I probably won’t be able to finish this project by the end of day tomorrow, but I’m happy just to have worked with new products and with Gabriel. 

I had a meeting today to talk about my experience here and they asked me if I would recommend it to other artisans.  At the end of everything, I would.  Like any job (or life, for that matter) this experience has been full of ups and downs.  There were days when I really missed home, both my home shop and my home life.  There were days when I felt frustrated that I had to prove my skills to a new group of people, or that I didn’t know where a tool was, or that I didn’t have an understanding friend in my corner.  At the beginning of this I pointed out that self-examination is difficult.  It’s exhausting, really!  But I’ve learned so much.  I discovered that communication will always be the hardest part of the job in the theatre.  Learning how to work with co-workers is probably just as important as the scenic skills you pick up along the way.  I’ve discovered that simply being reminded of a product or technique can be just as important as learning how to use that product, how to execute that technique.  Simply being around other artists keeps one growing as an artist.  This shop is quite a bit bigger than the Rep, so I felt like I was constantly surrounded by people, constantly talking about scenic art and there were times that I wished I could just put my head down and do work, but I realized that the dialogue in itself was contributing to my growth as an artist.  It makes for long, exhausting days, but it’s been worthwhile conversation.  I’ve especially enjoyed working with OSF intern Erin.  She is so eager to learn and to hear about all of our experiences. Her enthusiasm is contagious and has been a reminder for why I’m a scenic artist and why I work so hard for theatre companies.  I look forward to working with her and so many others in the future.  Turns out that my co-worker’s prediction from week one was right: I am sad to say goodbye.  I’m happy to be going home, but I will think of OSF as my home away from home, if they’ll have me.  I have made some good friends here and I hope to keep in touch, both personally and professionally.  I am really grateful to have had the opportunity! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chris Perme: Greetings from DC

The past two weeks have been as tiring as they have been inspiring. 

For the second week of the DC Ballet's rental of Harman Hall, we had to strike most of the soft goods used for the first performance.  The next performance needed very minimal set pieces.  The one big piece was a GIANT red/white stripe banner that was much bigger than they thought it would be.  It was 72' long and the flyspace in the Harman was only 55' from batten to deck.  We had to fold the bottom up and tie the extra 20ish feet to the batten so that when it was flown out, it was not bunched up on the floor.  For the performance the banner needed to be flown all the way into the deck so that it could fly out slowly to represent a flag being raised during the last thirty seconds of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever".  There was a hanging star drop that represented the stars, and the stripes flew behind it.  The arbor was about 350 lbs out of weight when the piece was brought in, so it took four of us to overhaul it into the deck during intermission.  When the cue was called, I had to hang on to the wrapped purchase line and more or less "hand brake" the line as the arbor slowly came in over the course of thirty seconds.  I only had a couple rehearsals to practice the move, and I only got it right on the last three performances.  It was hard to find a good speed for the fly, and it was so hard to set up that we really only had one shot to get it right.  This made me realize that in the business of road house shows, art is fleeting.

After the final performance of the ballet, a strike crew was called in and took everything off the lines. We stripped the theater down to bare battens and deck so that the space would be ready for the shop and lighting crews to load in the “rep shows” Coriolanus and Wallenstein. I have to laugh a little bit because both shows are using the same set, and only the props and some hanging goods such as a chandelier are changed. It is nothing like the changeovers we do at OSF.  The deck is screwed down to the floor using toenailed 3" screws. They make the floor secure, but I imagine that strike will be very difficult. 

On Tuesday, I worked a screening of a documentary about Joe Papp, the man who started the "Free for All" performances in Central Park and went on to be one of the biggest names in theatre history.  After the screening, another stagehand and I cleaned the facilities and prepped for the shop to come in with their set.  The rest of the week was spent digging in to various stage operations spaces such as the tool room and paint room and cleaning the holy heck out of them.  It was very gratifying to get in there and make the spaces usable again after many years of catching dust and debris.  I was glad to leave my mark, however temporary, on this theatre.  Next week, I will send in some pictures of the set and explain the tech process here at STC.