Friday, March 8, 2013

Behind the Music(als) :: Hairspray :: Asterisks EVERYWHERE!!!

One of the final touches to the Hairspray set was something that (in retrospect) maybe should have/could have been done first. *shrug* Live and learn, I guess.

If it's not ridiculously obvious already, one of the major graphic themes of the whole design of this production has been the use of the asterisk. When the directors/producers initially sat down with me to discuss everything one of the first things that was mentioned as very important was the fact that they really liked and wanted to include the "star" (which was an asterisk) as a unifying element throughout the show. I obliged them because what difference does it make to me, right? As a matter of fact, the fact that they had something decided upon like this actually makes it easier for me because I don't have to come up with a number of options only to present them all to them and then have them be rejected and me have to just keep starting over and over again.

That being said, the venue where we put on our shows is a bit of an open space type of a performance art center where there is no curtain and so this means that while it's idea for choral and instrumental music performances, for dramatic and performance arts? It's pretty much a major issue. The way we always deal with it though is to use gigantic mobile flats as a way to section off the stage so there is a backstage (of sorts) since a curtain can't be closed for scene/set change purposes. These flats are used over and over and OVER again for just about every performance we do and while they work for what they are supposed to do? They are a pain to deal with because painting 15-18 foot flats - like, 10-12 of them - is a pain. I mean really.

For the set design of this production, they were all painted different colors from the (mostly) open and very bright palette picked out for the show initially. But the way they work for this show is they were supposed to stay stationary almost the whole time and serve as a backdrop for the whole show so it's not like they could be painted like Baltimore row homes - THANK GOODNESS!!! - or otherwise. To keep them as generic as possible we just used their flat painting and then put clusters of asterisks in contrasting colors all over them to keep things looking minimal and clean but at the same time intentional.

This was the last thing we did for the show because after all of the other snafus that happened, I just didn't want to deal with asterisks everywhere that seemingly would take me forever to do since it was only myself and one other person who were left to do it AND each cluster took two coats of paint for them to actual look presentable - the bright color palette required multiple coats for full coverage. By Wednesday of last week I had only just started the process of asterisking everything and it become very clear that I would barely be able to make it by Friday's opening night especially considering the fact that during full dress rehearsals I was told I couldn't be on the stage in order to paint. I basically begged for mercy from my colleagues and a select few students who I KNEW could pull off on-the-fly painting of these asterisks - meaning, there would be no sketching of the designs by me or anyone else and just plain straight paintings and GETTING. IT. DONE. - and that's exactly what was able to happen all day Thursday during the school day.

My department head (who was the set producer) stepped in and covered two classes and then three other coworkers stepped in and either covered my classes OR flat out excused the four students from class who are probably the most dependable students in the whole school. Amazingly, the flats all got asterisked and by the time the bell rang last Thursday, the set dressing was DONE and I was amazed.

 I would show you a panoramic view of the whole stage but I wasn't able to do that before I left last Thursday because I had to skip out as soon as the bell rang to get my daughter some place for an activity of hers! I will be able to get one up here at some point though so you can see the whole view of the stage.

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