I'm late getting this word out, but here it is: By popular demand Fun House Theatre and Film has added one last show TONIGHT for A School Bus Named Desire. Get yer ticket HERE. And here's the thing (this question came up while talking up the show yesterday to adult actors), don't be fooled by the kids' theatre thing. This is not a Shirley Temple experience, where the point is the cuteness of the children who act - this is acting, that necessarily is done by children. The translation of the classic play A Streetcar Named Desire into its School Bus alter ego is clever - brilliant even and terrifically funny. Translation makes the material suitable for children... but never cute-ifies it.
Why so late on the blogging? Well, I was schlepping at Kitchen Dog at the Dumb Waiter build, then watching my Circle show, Lovers & Executioners open last night. Another show well worth seeing! Plus, you know, sleeping, eating, car repair and stuff. But here it is children, your last chance to see the remarkable A School Bus Named Desire.
"They told me to take a streetcar named Desire,
and transfer to one called Cemeteries,
and ride six blocks and get off at - Elysian Fields!"
Of course they are! Anyone who invests as much time, effort, money, ego etc. into an endeavor whose result - Smash Hit :) or Turkey :( - is mostly outside your control is going to believe in luck. It's a thing.
The most famous of these superstitions is, of course, not speaking the name of That Play inside a theater. (Or outside of a theater if you can help it.) You know, the McPlay. The Scottish Play. And don't say the name of the principal characters either. Call them "the Thane and his wife" or "the McBs" or something.
This is a superstition I don't particularly share, but some actors get so visibly upset when it's crossed that I go along. When I remember. (I've goofed and had to spin three times and spit and whateverall.) No, I'd be happy to design The Scottish Play again. It's Stephen King's Misery I balk at: I absolutely know that story, set in the aftermath of a car wreck, has nothing whatsoever to do with my totaling my truck driving home from that theater in the rain... but once is enough for me, thanks.
The one little silly theater superstition I do have - one I suspect I share, unadmitted, with a few other set-people - is that all really good shows n' sets get a little blood on 'em. In ancient days a human sacrifice slaked mortar at foundations of great buildings or bodies were buried under stones, as at Stonehenge. This seems barbaric and unnecessary today, of course, because, despite OSHA, nearly all major architectural or engineering projects cost a life or a serious injury anyway, even when trying not to shed blood. Great construction takes its toll.
Anyway. All My Sons took its blood and was a terrific show. I stapled myself to the wisteria-draped set of Enchanted April and that was great. A dancer sprained something for the wonderful Urinetown. Now Lovers & Executioners, which has already claimed a broken toe (kicking the pile of research books counts as play-related, no?) has now collected a bit of blood from me too...
By golly! I demand apparent "broken bottles" on the top of that garden wall for this play about adultery, but I thought the plastic bottles I was breaking would be safer.
This clever reimagining stars the younger members of the kids-troupe. Always interesting to work with these guys; Bren and Jeff are brilliant and the youngsters amazing. Bonus of Dave Tenney as TD. This design, for me, was an interesting mix of kindergarten classroom and the New Orleans of Blanche Dubois. There's crayon work by cast members (Aa is for Alligator, Bb is for Beignet etc.), a playhouse modeled on French Quarter buildings overlooking Jackson Square (plus a slide), and a lotta midnight painting (because summer camp and rehearsals mean carpentry and painting only happen after 9:00 p.m.). Well worth seeing.
There's a definite French theme to my design lately.
Circle Theatre just Teched their production of Lovers & Executioners which is going to be wonderful. Gorgeous costumes by director/designer Robin Armstrong, terrific cast, and a nice (I think) set of an 18th C town outside of Paris. With working fountain.
Half finished carving for the fountain of Lovers & Executioners
Here's the fountain carving before it was painted - or mounted. Homework for me and my snap-blade Olfa knife - that and the serrated bread knife from my kitchen. The foam was leftover from an earlier show (hence the blue paint). It's several hunks held together with wood skewers and white glue.
Fountain under construction, Lovers & Executioners
And here it is, primed and standing where it was intended to go.
Mostly built 17th C French Town set for Lovers & Executioners, Circle Theatre
This is the context photo: the rest of the town set when construction is nearly finished, but before scenic painting has advanced. Great work by TD Rick Morrison and his team!
Actually, as I type, the carving's fate is a bit up in the air. Seeing the Designer Run last night, I realized that action at the fountain means nothing as large (or fragile) as this carving can go in that location... Actors and scenery would obliterate each other.
So I'm proposing the dolphino be raised to the top of the fountain - under the triangular pediment and above the tile - ornamental but out of the way, with only a soft, minimalist spout for water. (Tile decoration will jazz that up.)
But at this moment All is In Flux.
While that suspense (and the rest of the set) builds, here's a sketch of the finished set to hang on to:
Schematic design sketch for Lovers & Executioners, Circle Theatre - by Clare Floyd DeVries
ADDENDUM: Want to see how it turned out? Look HERE.
Public domain image from Queen Mab, a novel - from the British Library
Meanwhile, my board is red hot (and only partly because it's upstairs in August). Lotso designing going on. I'm working out the kinks in placing a set and audience seating in Kitchen Dog Theater's new home, The Green Zone, for the up-coming show The Dumb Waiter. I spent yesterday evening getting a start on the cheerful-kindergarten/decayed-New Orleans set for Fun House Theatre's A Schoolbus Named Desire. The set for Lovers and Executioners at Circle Theatre in Fort Worth is building... I spent a few days carving a foam fountain-dolphino for that. And I'm coming to grips with The Addams Family for Mainstage Irving Los Colinas - first production meeting Friday evening. (Friday evening?) Busy, busy.
I'm rereading E.M. Forster's classic Aspects of the Novel, just now re-finding a wonderful passage on the troubles novelists suffer with characters as they write. He then contrasts the woes of the novelist with those of the playwright:
These trials beset the dramatist also, and he has yet another set of ingredients to cope with - the actors and actresses - and they appear to side sometimes with the characters they represent, sometimes with the play as a whole, and more often as the mortal enemies of both. The weight they throw is incalculable, and how any work of art survives their arrival I do not understand...
...but, in passing, is it not extraordinary that plays on the stage are often better than they are in the study, and that the introduction of a bunch of rather ambitious and nervous men and women should add anything to our understanding of Shakespeare and Chekhov?
The other best source so far (not on-line) is the book, A Practical Guide to Greener Theatre, by Ellen E. Jones
It's about time! is all I can say.
Ackermann's Repository 1816 - public domain
I'm working on a little greener theater guide of my own, a companion to Alice Through the Proscenium, my how-to theater scenic design book. (Which I'm happy to report is selling steadily. I've seen mentioned from Utah to Kuala Lumpur to Arkansas... pretty cool!) My green tome will have a bit of a different spin on it...