The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)

Gavin
CENTERSTAGE
Baltimore
Maryland
USA

thaumaturg
Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2013-2014 Season:
Animal Crackers
Dance of the Holy Ghosts
A Civil War Christmas
Stones in His Pockets
Twelfth Night
Vanya Sonya Masha and Spike
Wild with Happy
Play Labs

The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.

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Rain Effects for the Stage

From fabulous veteran TD Tom Rupp, this account of the technical wizadry behind the stage magic of the onstage rain in The Whipping Man:

There are several ways to create a rain effect on stage. From a small drizzle outside a window to a real downpour. One has to consider how to get the rain on stage, but more importantly how to get rid of it. There are six major areas of consideration, Supply, Storage, Delivery, Recovery, Control, and Noise

We used two different techniques for the rain for “The Whipping Man”. The effect over the windows is quite simple. We attached a sheet of Plexiglas on the back of the window frame.

We then put silicone caulk around the frame to seal it. The Supply and storage is a five gallon bucket. The delivery is a piece of ½” PVC with1/8” holes on 3” centers spraying onto the top of the window. The PVC tube is capped at both ends with a “T” fitting in the middle.  We used a3/8” tubing to the “T” to a submersible pond pump which sits in the five gallon bucket.

Recovery is a standard gutter with a downspout emptying into the five gallon bucket. We controlled the pumps from the light board turning them on and off with cues called by the Stage Manager.  The noise was deadened with open cell foam, the type you would find in a window unit Air Conditioner.

The rain seen behind the circular stair case was a little more involved. The supply was a standard hose hooked up to a sink backstage so the storage was city water. The delivery was three 8’-0” long ½” PVC tubes following the curve of the wall.  We took the ½” PVC and bolt it in the middle of a piece of 4” PVC. The ½” PVC has 1/8” holes on 3” centers drilled into the top of the PVC. The 4” PVC has a ¼” slot on the Bottom of the PVC. We insert a 6”strip of screen wire on the ¼” slot which we fray and fold in a random pattern.  The water shoots up to the top of the 4” PVC and rolls down the sides. The screen helps break it up, so it does not look like a sprinkler.

The recovery was a little tricky. The current stage is 3” higher than the permanent 30” level of the Head stage. We cut out a section of the floor giving us 3” to hold the water. We installed a pond liner in the opening and putt subway grating over the opening so the actors could walk over it. Inside the grating was a pond pump that pumped the water into the same sink that is the feed.

The grating was a little wider than the door, and only collected the water in that area. For the two sides we used 8” PVC that we cut in half. The PVC was on an angle so it ran off into an area over the grating.

The control was the knob on the sink faucet. We played with several amounts of pressure until we came to a level everyone was happy with. The Stage Manager would cue a stagehand back stage to turn the water on and off.

The noise was again controlled by the open cell foam. The noise from this rain effect is very loud. The noise needs to be deadened because there are many quiet moments in the play. We want to see the rain, but we do not want it to upstage the actors. The Sound Designer has built cues for the rain when we want to hear it, so the atmosphere can be controlled with the progression of the play.



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Now that THE WIZ has had its first crowd….

…and since you can see some snaps of what things are looking like on stage, here are a few assorted snippets of where things have been and come since that first day of rehearsal almost exactly a month ago. First up, a few excerpts from an early stage manager’s report, showing the evolution of thinking about some set dressing (including that laundry line pictured elsewhere, not to mention some scantily clad ensemble members dressing Glinda’s palanquin). You also get a sense of some of the thoughts behind some supporting characters who make passing appearances. How close did this come to what eventually ended up on stage? Well, you have to see the show to know that, duh! And if you’ve seen it and find yourself reading this, weigh in with a note. Or if you’ve seen it and wonder about another element, pose the query and we’ll try to get you some background.   

  1. We are thinking that the clothespins in scene 1 should be the type that actually clip.  May we have some to work with in rehearsal?  Thank you.
  2. Please ADD feather fans for the four ensemble women to use to fan Glinda.
  3. Irene is thinking that the items that come from the Wiz’ suitcase may be from Vietnam. Possibly the courage medal is something he earned in the war. 

[…]

  1. The winged monkey that appears first (MaShawn) should be recognizable as the leader of the monkeys.
  2. Irene and Willie would like to use the ensemble women as attendants to Glinda. This is in addition to the four men who carry the litter.


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No, it’s not the scenic artists catching up on laundry during Tech. And it’s not the props artisans airing out some musty-dusties. This is Scenic Designer Christopher Barreca and his team dressing the set before the first preview of The Wiz—a mere few hours ago now. Here, they are getting the look juuuuuuust right for the show’s opening: laundry drying on the line outside the Kansas home of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, and their niece Dorothy. (From the look of that house, you might think it’d be a bit cramped for three; maybe Dorothy shouldn’t be in any hurry to get back home.)


Tags | wiz | tech | preview | design | props

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Some snaps from last week, as the set and lights (and sound, though you can’t tell from the stills of course) were all getting layered in for the production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Nice Chicago sound studio ca. 1927—with the abstract addition of song titles from Madame Rainey’s hits, all over the walls. An interesting, albeit likely unintended, in-house call-back to Romeo and Juliet many seasons ago, and Misalliance somewhat more recently.



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Speaking of the Lookingglass adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, currently (until Dec. 20th, 2009) playing in the Pearlstone Theater (which we were speaking of in a previous post you’ll have to go look at now), here are some phonography snaps from back in tech, about 10 days ago now. Intrepid crew members put together the intricate and exquisite set, based on everything from elaborate Victorian machinery, toys, cabinetry, and camp furniture (which you can read more about in this interview with adaptor/director, Laura Eason—or, watch the trailer with more of her comments, live). The production basically recreates the overall scenic design from the Chicago production, but because the stage configuration is so different, and the scale so much larger, the husband & wife team of set designers had to reconceive what started out as an “el”-shaped and somewhat rudimentary construction into a more presentationally proscenium-oriented set with more elaborate working parts and a more sophisticated feel. The steps in particular, which evoke anything from library ladders to ship’s stairs, were works of ingenious artifice. And the map seen in the latter images, representing Phileas Fogg’s global circumnavigation, now has a lovely lighted track tracing the progress of that journey around the world. Quite an effort.


Tags | 80 Days | tech | design

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NOT a Jumping Cardinal…

No, this is not on par with Kristi’s marvelous tale of Richelieu’s leaping competition with the Comte de Guiche, related in an earlier post (re. the upcoming Cyrano)—but for amusement if not some slight edification, here are some VERY candid shots from tech of Sedaris’ wickedly hystericaly Santaland Diaries—now playing—of Irene directing (there she sits, musing on lighting cues and blocking and a myriad of other concerns), and then wandering over to offer her two cents as TD Tom Rupp and Production Manager Mike Schleifer (not shown in these shots) gravely set about…playing with toy trains. Yes, there is a real live toy (probably the wrong word) train in this production. Kindly donated by a local enthusiast. Which makes for a nifty little overlap with our heavily rail-oriented production down in the Pearlstone: Around the World in 80 Days. See how neatly I tied all that together? Must be a prize for a Trifecta there….



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What goes up…must come down. Sadly, the same holds true for the set for Earnest, including the wonderful letters; so, today, the theater lobby was strewn with the remnants of Jack and Algy’s decor, while on stage the tech crew took the saws to the 10-foot letters. Such is the ephemeral nature of theater. Soon, the space will transform into the mutable world of Phileas Fogg & Passepartout and their daring venture around the globe.



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The last scene of 'Tis Pity is a bloodbath, and almost no one gets away unspattered. Check out this video for a backstage peek at the techniques of stage blood: squirting, frothing, and staining—and how we clean up for the next show!

Spoilers, guys, spoilers. There will be blood.



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Lighting the Whore. Lighting Designer Rui Rita works his magic during tech, as the production elements start to come together. It was looking rather beautiful: almost every time those doors open, there’s a different “look” upstage. The set’s there, lights are there, costumes are coming in, and Friday the composer arrives to start adding the original music. Putting it together…bit by by bit…. -ghw

Lighting the Whore. Lighting Designer Rui Rita works his magic during tech, as the production elements start to come together. It was looking rather beautiful: almost every time those doors open, there’s a different “look” upstage. The set’s there, lights are there, costumes are coming in, and Friday the composer arrives to start adding the original music. Putting it together…bit by by bit…. -ghw



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