Monday, March 3, 2014

Donna Memmer at the Alliance Theatre

When I first arrived at the Alliance, I wanted to find all the ways that our two theatres were different.  Halfway through my exchange, I started seeing the ways we are similar, if not the same.  Since my last blog, I attended the opening of The Geller Girls, a well done production of a new play set in Atlanta 1895.  I hadn't realized how long it had been since I had seen another company’s work on stage. The Alliance brings just as much passion and energy as OSF does to every aspect of the production.  I especially noted how kind and attentive the ushers were. Upon exiting, the house staff handed out cards encouraging the audience to share their theatre experience on social media, which seems to be a big focus.  The card also offered $10 off the price of a return ticket for the same show. I thought these were both inventive marketing ideas. 

During my last weekend in Atlanta, I took a backstage tour of the Fox Theatre.  The tour was only an hour long but showed me so much beauty.  Built in 1929, The Fox was built by the Shriners to resemble a Mosque.  The Shriners began construction before they had raised the $7 million needed for the project and came up short about half way through.  The Shriners negotiated a deal with the movie producer Willam Fox. Fox provided the funds to complete the project and the Shriners shared the building with him, allowing him to use it as a movie palace.  Three years after construction was completed, the stock market crashed and the theatre filed bankruptcy. Through many twists and turns, this beautiful building still survives as a road house for traveling shows and as a space for private events, including weddings and memorial services.  The Fox includes the Egyptian Ballroom, The Spanish Room and many more spaces we didn't have time to see.

Egyptian Ballroom

 The most impressive feat of engineering is a vast balcony cantilevered on two 1" steel plates.  No posts support the very impressive span.  I was obsessed with lighting fixtures, textiles and ceramic tiles. 

Fountain in Lobby

Air return

Inside Front Door

Carpet in the Ladies' Lounge

Tiles in Gentlemen's Lounge

Chair on Landing

Lobby Carpet

Lobby Lamp

During my last week of work "Snowmagedon 2014" gripped Atlanta.  I couldn't believe it when 2" of snow shut down the city for days. Having had the forethought to pack my Yak Trax (chains for shoes), I was prepared to walk the block from my hotel to work.  Others were not so lucky.  


Frozen Fountain

Main Stage performances were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, The Alliance was also in the middle of tech in their black box space. People working that night either stayed on couches at the Woodruff Arts Center, or doubled up with people staying at the hotel on couches or Equity cots.  The next day, I was one of a very small band in the costume shop.  As most people were either not able to make it in at all or had to leave early, I was one of four people representing costumes at the evening tech.  This was the first time that the "Avatars" costumes from In Love & Warcraft appeared onstage. Shop Manager Carol Hammond assigned me to wardrobe for the evening and I had so much fun! Carol, designer Lex Liang designer and puppet maters Scottie all pitched in. I felt right at home helping the actors with these very cumbersome ensembles. We were able to see the "monster", the "princess warrior", the "dwarf", the "shaman" (my personal favorite) and another androgynous "princess warrior" onstage in game mode.  Somehow we completed enough tech rehearsal to make it to the first preview, which I was able to attend on my last night in Atlanta.  The play has huge crossover appeal and brings a brand new audience to The Alliance.   

Monster Costume Rendering

Monster Getting Some Skin

Monster Upper Body

Monster Fitting

Concerning the Costume Shop, The Alliance and OSF struggle with many of the same challenges: 

1. Space   The Alliance has smaller staff and isn’t as crowded with people as OSF, but they are very crowded with stock storage. Like OSF, every nook and cranny is packed and you have to bob and weave to make forward progress. 

Alliance Costume Storage

2. Overlapping shows.  Even though The Alliance doesn't perform in rotating rep, the Costume Shop can have up to four shows in the hopper at once. 3. Fittings.  The nature of the beast is the same.  Frequently, we don't find out about a fitting until the night before.  

My favorite thing about The Alliance Costume Shop is their thread stock, silly to some but important to stitchers. They stock Gutermann. The Alliance doesn't have to keep as many basic supplies on hand since they're in an urban area.  They simply send out a shopper, one of the two design assistants.  And, the Costume Shop has its own car!  On my last day I was able to go shopping with Lea Preston who does the majority of hunting and gathering for shop supplies.  We went to Gail K Fabrics; ahh, a real fabric store! As Carol put it, you can always find something that will work. The OSF Costume Shop is extremely challenged by its remote location.  I hate to imagine how much is spent on overnight shipping. 

While I was in Atlanta, Carol Hammond, Costume Shop Manager for 33 seasons, announced her retirement.  She will be greatly missed but I think she is looking forward to some time for herself.  She is a great leader and I'm glad I was able to meet her before she retired.

Alliance Costume Shop

     Front Row L-R:  Diana, Scottie, Maegan, Donna, Cindy Lou, April

     Back Row L-R:  Mila, Emily, English, Leah, Julie, Carol, Laury

Though I've been home 3 weeks, I miss Atlanta and the camaraderie of the people I met.   Thank you TCG and MetLife for the opportunity to be a part of this generous company.


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