Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shop Visit: or Our Industrial Legacy

Last night I got to check progress on my B&W The Frequency of Death set.

It looks great!  The faux hotel ballroom is built - walls but not details.  The faux control booth is, as yet, only a chalk line on the raised platform.  Stairs are half done.  Everything looks very neatly and substantially built.

Now we just need paint applied...

Pegasus is borrowing another theater's scene shop, so I got to explore a new workshop: a former auto manufacturing plant now used as cheap studio or shop space.  My set shares a lofty room with rows of kitchen cabinets left by a former tenant and with glorious mosaics of angels of gold-tile wings, designed perhaps in the '60s, now being restored.

It's fascinating to find the tucked-away places where Things Get Done, the garages, old warehouses, and other forgotten spaces where wondrous things are created.

One theater had a huge metal barn of a shed as their shop - in a scary part of town.  I always felt I was exploring there...  Fantastic pieces of children's shows hung from metal rafters; mildewy chairs crowded shelves; Narnian lampposts jostled Wonderlandian mushrooms in back corners; and feral cats slunk in and out of a rip in the metal ceiling.  (So did rain.)  Many scene shops hide in old industrial areas.  If the TV production is big enough, it takes over the whole complex, but you'll seldom see a sign.  Why advertise?  It's an invitation to get tools stolen - or expensive cameras.

Believed public domain photo borrowed from Sunday Rearview Mirror

One theater shop hides behind a Bingo parlor.  One hid behind a wedding chapel.  Many theaters are tucked away in garages (including, once, mine), more for the cheap (free) rent than for the anonymity.

One theater group built outdoors on a deck - hellaciously hot in summer -  and had to bucket-brigade water from a paint sink downstairs.  Which was shared as a laundry sink.  (There's a disaster waiting to happen!)  Every shop has a floor stained and spattered with the paint of a thousand shows and a sink painted the weird gray-beige gungey no-color of a hundred thousand splashes.  (Look!  Blue paint on my driveway.)

Besides paint spatter, the other thing scene shops have in common is that tucked-away quality that comes with low rent: a blank or even disreputable exterior, hiding a beehive of creative activity.

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