Sunday, April 13, 2014

Project: Set Design for Beauty and the Beast

I had a pretty impressive delay on starting this blog, and you can blame a fair mixture of social anxiety and high school theatre tech for that. My school doesn't have a whole lot of project based classes in it, but I go crazy if I spend all day doing reading assignments, so BAM, theatre crew.

This turned out to be a great choice for my mental health, but not so much for my free time.
I worked two shows (for a later post!) as well as taking the class. The director had decided that for our final show, we were gonna go with Beauty and the Beast. The Disney version. The Full version.

I was picked as one of eleven crew heads out of twenty-something crew, at which point I realized what I had gotten myself into.

Here's a rundown of what's taken over my last three months.

1. The Beast's Chair

For some reason I don't have a picture of it upholstered, but this was my first project for the musical. Me and two of my classmates were given some pictures of armchairs from other productions, and told to design and make our own. The chair itself is about 3ft. wide and 6.5ft tall, pretty fricking heavy, mostly because of the back. It's name is Dylan. See our selfie below.
The theatre director claimed it as her 'throne' in the scene shop. 

2. The Spiral Staircase

My next big project started when the tech director learned that I was in a higher level math class. I walked into the classroom and was immediately told "we need to build a spiral staircase, but it needs to start out being 6 feet wide and taper to 4 feet wide, go from *here* to *here* and curve like *this*." I didn't actually help much with the building of this, but the design was all mine.

3. The Rooftops

By the end, I designed and built three roofs for the show, two for Belle's house, and one for another building that served a number of purposes.  They looked very asymmetrical and cartoony, which was great for the audience, but meant we had to have three people to build each one, and even then they sometimes had to be rebuilt. Not to mention, they were heavy enough that we had to tie them to a batten and fly them to get them on the houses. 

4. Foam proscenium… thing?

I don't know why we had to have this particular flourish, and it was definitely my least favorite project of the show, just because it was so picky as far as measurements go so that it could be symmetrical. I designed and cut the pieces for the two layer frame for the proscenium arch. (At one point I had to recut something because it wasn't 'wavy' enough) The effect is cool, but that was a week of high blood pressure I could have lived without.

5. Maurice's Invention

I enjoy working with projects that have moving parts and electric components, so this was my main project throughout the production. It's named Ada, after Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer. What I'm most proud of in this project is that nothing had to be purchased for it. Everything on the invention came from the scene shop or from set pieces from previous shows. Even the wheel attached to the axe came from our second bicycle (which was apparently in three pieces.)

I designed the invention, presented my design to the tech director, and then I worked with an assistant to build the thing. The box on the back held the 'log' to be chopped, and the top was attached by a hinge so Maurice could get to it. The actually chopping motion was supposed to be controlled by a plain DC motor, but the tech director couldn't get one. I ended up ghetto rigging a drill during hell week to turn the belt of the bike wheel and spin a pole attached to the bike wheel and the axe head, while the axe handle was bolted to the invention, which created a second-class lever and a pretty forceful chopping motion. This worked at every rehearsal, until opening night, of course. The Tech Director and I reworked it, and it worked perfectly every other night. 

The whole thing is long and heavy, and somehow (barely) rideable. It chops cardboard logs with gusto. It makes me prouder every day. Yay Ada!

5. The Castle

The castle was designed by the directors, but all crew helped build it, and it's really awesome to see it painted and everything, in it's entirety. It's all on casters (we had to push it forward during 'be our guest' as a special effect), and the west wing, stage left, is hollow underneath with an access door on the back. This was so that four of the crew could push it forward and spin it right before the beast's first solo song and show the balcony. It was an awesome show to work on, and apparently to see, as by the second night it was SRO. The actors did amazingly well, and I had so much fun working on it. Now just to wait for next year!