Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tech Theatre Camp 2014!

Finally, my summer begins! I've spent the past two weeks at three different camps, so my schedule was a little busy. This last week, I worked with 84 other students (20-something other technicians) for eight days, 9:00 to 6:00, to put on four one-act plays with full sets, sound, and lighting. It was understandably pretty brutal, but a great experience overall, and I got to work with a lot of awesome people making some really awesome things.

The show I was assigned to, although I worked on all the sets and helped out with every show, was a cut version of Urinetown, a silly musical we turned into a 40 minute play. I was specifically assigned to be the lighting technician.

The first thing we did at camp was a tutorial on google sketchup, which we were supposed to use to make a preliminary set design to present to our show's director. I've used sketchup for projects before, so it wasn't a big deal. I don't have the design for Urinetown on my computer, but my theatre teacher, the head technical director at camp, had me start designing sets for next year's shows while I was there. Here's a rough idea for Gossamer's giant door, for our first show, that I made in the class.

Next we started actually designing and building for our show. Urinetown had the most complicated set and lighting out of all the shows, and the director had some very specific ideas about the set, so we didn't do much in the way of "design" so much as "build and hope the director likes it."

The base of the set was some stacked "metal scenic pieces" (we weren't allowed by the district to use scaffolding in the set, but some rules were meant to be bent) 

The tech director wanted to have two 8' by 8' doors hinged to the legs of the inner platform that we could swing to either side to represent different locations in the show, but the director thought it would cover too much of the scaffolding. I suggested hinging two 4' by 8' flats to the outside platforms so they would close and open easily. The idea made it into the set.

This was the Tech director's idea, and I ended up building it. The school we were working at had some jail blocks left over from "Chicago". We stacked them on top of one another, and spray painted plastic sheets to stretch behind them. The whole thing was backlit by a source 4, so that when a character gets pushed off the scaffolding and is harnessed, he falls behind it and you see his silhouette. It looked really cool onstage.

The director wanted the secret hideout sign to be really, really obvious. We cut out the arrows and the sign, painted them, and then strung lightbulbs  across them. For each lightbulb I used a tomato corer (which is a real life kitchen implement??) to poke a hole in the foam, pushed the base of the light through it, and screwed the lightbulb in.
I don't have any pictures of it all lit up yet, or any of the lighting work I did for the show, because by then I was too busy to take the pictures. There was a staff member who was the designated historian, who took a LOT of pictures, but I doubt I'll get them until I get back to school. I promise I'll post them as soon as I get them though.

This is the most 'complete' picture I have of the set. The final version had a wall that flew in underneath the secret hideout sign, and the swinging doors were painted. 

I was excited to try lighting, because it was something I'd never had the chance to try at school. I gave my stage manager a heart attack because I didn't know how to write down cues, and I was pulled away from paper tech to make the 'moon' for another show ( which turned out to be a three hour ordeal in hand sewing that ultimately was cut ) and again to reupholster chairs (the reason I didn't know how to write cues was that this happens A LOT even at school) 

In the end the show went great. The only major hiccups were that a rig that made it rain on the top of the scaffolding broke halfway through the show and started spraying water backstage. I panicked and missed a cue, but once it was fixed, the show ran perfectly. The actors were amazing, my team did really well, the audience loved it, and, at the awards ceremony after the show...

I was one of 8 technicians to win an Exemplary Tech award, and the only student to win both that and the Callback scholarship, awarded to one technician and one actor, which means I get a full ride to next year's camp. (You can see me holding the certificate and gold 'C' onstage, which I thought was a horseshoe throughout most of the ceremony and treated it as such.)

And I definitely want to go back next year! I loved the jobs, loved the people, and as busy as I was, I was having fun the entire time.