Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Show T-Shirts

One of the fun parts of theater is that there is often a "show" T-shirt.

Usually this is produced by the management.  Normally a black T so backstage crew can wear it, it'll have the show's and the theater company's names on it, maybe dates, often an image, sometimes a bit of an in-joke.  This can be pretty cool.  (Or sometimes really lame.)  I have a small collection, including a nice Shakespeare Dallas Twelfth Night T (black) with:

"Some are born great,
Some achieve greatness,
And some have greatness
thrust upon them."

But my new fav. is one designed by one of the actors in the recently closed God of Carnage.

This actor's character took a lot of grief throughout the play's run for fictionally setting his daughter's hamster free into the wild... or abandoning it in a gutter...  Pick one.  Anyway.  This fun T is his rebuttal:

Image by permission of Mark Fickert

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Final Performance and Strike

In a funny coincidence, both my shows ended their runs last night.

Today is Strike for The Lucky Chance and I'm due at the Bath House at noon to help.  So I'm wearing my paintin' pants as I draw a little on the show that replaces God of Carnage, which is A Brand New Boise.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cursed Carpentry

Scenic designers who work on low budget productions suffer a curse...  Not the budget, as such, but the Bad Carpentry that often comes with it.

This is not necessarily the carpenter's fault.  For budget reasons a theater company may use existing wall flats or platforms which have simply been used, painted, abused, and repainted too many times.  It's impossible to build clean, straight, smooth walls with damaged, warped, lumpy flats.  Even with newly built flats, a low budget may require using thinner plywood or fewer supports, or leave you scrounging for just one more (bent) screw.  And sometimes, of course, the often-volunteer carpenters just aren't particularly skilled.

However it happens, the set designer has to cope.

Practical advice?

When wall flats are lumpiest, try to find or afford fabric to stretch over as "wallpaper."  It's amazing what flaws this can disguise.  Almost as effective is using tape judiciously at bad seams, then painting walls with texture - either real, like drywall mud, or faux, like painted sponge effects, spatter, scumbling, or faux marble etc.  Texture hides lumps.  Avoid gloss finishes and light colors, as these showcase mistakes; flat and dark colors hide them.

Here's a little detail to show how glaringly obvious sloppy construction can be.  This shows fabric on a flat... badly installed.  That top edge simply isn't pulled tight enough.

I spent a couple hours yesterday helping to stretch painted fabric on un-smooth flats - with a wonky stapler too! - and I can swear to you that it should and can look neater than that.  Turned out great, actually.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Little Stuff

These last few weeks have been mostly about little stuff, meetings and small projects.

I've been resettling my studio into almost pre-visitors-at-Christmas condition.  (Like entropy, mess always increases.)  And creating a series of collaged jewelry for Kitchen Dog Theater's annual fundraiser, which is rapidly approaching.  I've aaaalmooost got my fingers unglued now...

Today I'm meeting a set designer friend - to help paint on his latest set.  Tomorrow it's a meeting with my newest mentee (really? is that the word?)  to visit the Dallas Museum of Art, which has a great furniture collection.  Somewhere in there comes sketching for my next play and a meeting with that director.  And it's nearly tax time - I have to start sorting out last year's business numbers.

Little stuff, but important!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not a Review: Red

The play Red - which hides upstairs in the Dallas Theater Center's rehearsal hall - is probably my favorite there in a long time.  This award-winning two-hander is based on the relationship between abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko and a young painter who takes the job of his assistant.


A red canvas by Rothko - believed fair use, from artintelligence

Good acting and direction, intriguing text with questions on art, sorry, Art!  And the premise of the staging and set - putting the audience IN the studio with these two - is brilliantly effective.  Terrific set!  Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Back at the Board

After a short break at the Beach, I'm back and (soon) blogging.  Watch for the "Adventures in Continuing Education" saga!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Try out this fabo-licious pulp book cover creater at Pulp-o-mizer!


Here's my own theater set design how-to book Alice Through the Proscenium: more scenic set design as a retro-classic pulp sci-fi paperback:

The cool-o creation of Pulp-o-mizer

Or, of course, you could always get the original cover for Alice Through the Proscenium - with its original book attached - from the printer, from Amazon, or, as an ebook from Barnes and Noble.

Original Alice Through the Proscenium cover by that noted cover-artist C F DeVries

You can read more about Alice on its Squidoo page HERE.

News from the Painting Front

Paintin' away here...

At this point - a week after The Lucky Chance build started, the set is about finished.  And about painted.

I'll be back at the theater at noon though to paint the laaaaaast bits - mainly some trim that was added yesterday evening after I had to stop painting for the day so paint could dry for rehearsal.

There seem to be two methods of scenic painting, or perhaps of scheduling scenic painting.  One way is to build scenery, usually in a scene shop, and to base and finish paint each piece on a paint floor with just touch-up in the theater.  The other way is to assemble the set in the theater space and then to paint the scenery "up."

Image from Wikkimedia Commons HERE © Jorge Royan / / CC-BY-SA-3.0

There are advantages to painting scenery down on the floor.  For one thing, more paint methods are possible - like spattering - which needs to be horizontal to work.  You can be messier without worrying about spattering the velvet seats!  All your tools and materials are already there and convenient.  And it's possible to assembly-line the painting and thus speed it.

I love this photo, which shows just how detailed and controlled (yet huge!) scenic painting can be.

I'm having a hard time coming up with advantages to painting "up" and in the theater... except for the obvious one that, if no scene shop or paint floor is available, then painting in the theater is the only choice.

Usually, in order to ensure the set is finished in time, scenic painting at the theater has to start before carpentry is quite finished, building in a certain amount of inevitable delays, confusion, and re-dos.  But for The Lucky Chance - if I'd waited for the carpenters to be done before starting to paint - I'd be starting to paint TODAY.

The Lucky Chance opens in two days, on Friday.  Tickets HERE at Echo Theatre.

Come see!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Glory Days of Film

Now that's a film palace!  Once the Queens Loew's Valencia, now the Tabernacle of Prayer, this is Neo-Spanish Baroque on steroids.

At Scouting New  HERE.
Believed fair use image

Friday, February 1, 2013

Short Builds

When you can only have (read "rent") the theater venue for a limited time, it often happens that the set will still be being built as the painting progresses and the lighting hang and focus happen. Furniture, props and even costumes will cross the (wet, yet saw-dusty) set on their way to the dressing rooms.


Organized chaos.

All you can do is try to stay good-humored and helpful through this time. Try to accommodate your fellow toilers as you finish your own work.

In my case, it's a matter of keeping the messy paints etc. as grouped together out of the way as possible. I try to work where the others don't - that instant - need to be and to warn them of where the paint is wet.

It can be a little discouraging. You feel you're making progress painting across the set... then discover new, unpainted trim behind you. Or you turn to dip your brush in the can of blue-green paint just as the lights dip - and suddenly you can't tell the blue-green from the green-blue paint next to it.  (I advise setting out paints, then memorizing their placement. But I forgot.) Fancy brushwork tends to suffer when lighting changes frequently or when the painter, carpenter, and master electrician all need to work in the same four square feet of floor space!

Keep your sense of humor.