Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work
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.
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.
In response to our current production of The Whipping Man, we got this lovely, unsolicited email from a patron. Couldn’t ask for more:
The play, the actors, the direction, the set, lighting were ever so much better than the review led me to expect. …the subplots and subsidiary detail enhanced our experience of the intricacies of relationships under the slave system.
The follow-up discussion engaged all of us in opening up the characters and plot lines as we talked about religion, politics, and race. I was so impressed that [the actor] stayed to hear and interact with the audience - and describe some of the directorial process. …I have to disagree on one point: We do talk about race in America - not frequently, not enough, but at Center Stage on a spring Sunday following a shared experience of artistic genius.
After the general discussion, three of us , a middle-aged black woman, an older white woman, and a Jewish man, continued to talk about our experience of race, shared history and the handing down of tradition. Where else in this wonderfully diverse city do such conversations occur? Thanks to all at Center Stage for a most memorable evening!
Post-Show Discussion, The Head Theater.
Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, celebrated author and historian, will host a discussion focusing on the legacy of slavery in American: What are the historic and modern implications of slavery in our country? How does it continue to influence race relations and public policy?
In what might seem to many as highly unusual, and a strange allegiance, Richmond, Va., is home to the Soldiers’ Section at Hebrew Cemetery, believed to be the only Jewish military cemetery in the world outside the state of Israel.
Jewish presence in Richmond predates its designation as a city and state capital, and, for that matter, Virginia’s designation as a state.
Jews were among the colonists who established Jamestown in 1607, and may well have been in the group of 120 men who left that enclave days later to sail up what is now known as the James River, in the first effort to settle an area that today is part of downtown Richmond.
At the time of Richmond’s founding in 1737, Jews were engaged in trade throughout the Virginia Territory. By 1790, approximately 100 of the 3,700 colonists calling Richmond home were Jews. On Shabbat, they gathered at the Orthodox Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome, a synagogue that followed Sephardic ritual worship.
With the arrival of more Ashkenazi Jews, a second synagogue, Beth Ahabah, was established in 1841. Khal Kadosh Beth Shalome eventually merged with Beth Ahabah, which continues to this day as a Reform house of worship and is the sixth-oldest synagogue in the United States.
from “Hamsa” by Menachem Wecker
The hamsa has been variously interpreted by scholars as a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic amulet, and as a pagan fertility symbol…it is recognized today as a kabbalistic amulet and as an important symbol in Jewish art…As the references to Fatima (Mohammed’s daughter) and to Miriam (Moses’ sister) suggest, the amulet carries significance to both Jews and Muslims. One of the most prominent early appearances of the hamsa is the image of a large open hand which appears on the Puerta Judiciaria (Gate of Judgment) of the Alhambra, a 14th century Islamic fortress in southern Spain.
It would not be unusual for an Islamic symbol to find its way into Sephardic Jewish culture, which flourished alongside Islam. However, amulets are somewhat problematic in Judaism. Still, the Talmud refers on several occasions to amulets, or kamiyot, which might come from the Hebrew meaning “to bind.” One law allows for carrying an approved amulet on the Sabbath, which suggests that amulets were common amongst Jews at some points in history. (Shabbat 53a, 61a)…
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time when hamsas emerged in Jewish culture, though it is clearly a symbol of Sephardic nature. Jews might have used the hamsa to invoke the hand of God, or to counteract the Evil Eye with the eye embedded in the palm of the hand. Some hamsas contain images of fish, in accordance with Rabbi Yose son of Hanina’s statement in the Talmud that the descendents of Joseph, who received Jacob’s blessing of multiplying like fish in Genesis 48:16, are protected from the evil eye like fish. He explains: “the water covers the fish of the sea so the eye has no power over them (Berakhot 55b).”
Other icons besides eyes and fish have also found their way into the hamsa, including the Star of David, prayers for the traveler, the Shema, the blessing over the house, and the colors of red and blue, both of which are said to thwart the Evil Eye.
Hamsas still play a role in some Sephardic rituals today. During the henna ceremony, when brides are decorated in the preparation for their wedding, brides may wear a hamsa around their neck to ward off the evil eye.
Throughout the production of The Whipping Man, CENTERSTAGE will be providing numerous opportunities for audiences to engage in discussion inspired by the themes of the show. Conversations will focus on the notion of inheritance— inherited faiths, political systems, racial struggles, and all of the inherited gifts and issues associated with our multifaceted identities. Prominent leaders of Baltimore’s African American and Jewish communities will participate, to encourage exploration of these two communities’ relationships over time. Theater scholars and artists will also contribute, offering historical and cultural expertise as well as behind-the-scenes insights to enhance audiences’ experiences of The Whipping Man and its rich subject matter. Click here for events, dates, times, locations, and guests.
This project was made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this programming do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Maryland Humanities Council.