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Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

“Who Gets the Props?” from Paul Barrois

In Assistantship, Paul Barrois, Props on January 30, 2013 at 6:08 PM

OSF Props

Props are such a mysterious part of theatre. The thing I love most about props is that they are completely undefined. They range from a king’s scepter to road kill. Each show has its own demands for specific props. All the things that the audience sees onstage in a show are either made or found by prop artisans. The time that goes into each one of these props often goes unnoticed by most of the audience.

Most of the audience confuses what is part of the set and what is a prop or part of a costume. One of the first things that happen during a production is a meeting between all the designers and shop managers where they go through the script item by item deciding who is responsible for what item. Most of the time an item falls into a clear category but sometimes they fall into a grey area. For example, whenever a sword is worn by an actor onstage the sword is usually created by props and the holster is made by costumes. Each item is negotiated between the departments.

In the end, props covers anything an actor might touch or manipulate on stage, such as curtains, ceiling fans, food, tables, garden weeds, kitchen cupboards, rugs, restaurant booths and lampposts. The best way I have found to describe to people what props covers is to imagine the process of moving into a house. The scene shop is responsible for the house such as doorknobs, paneling and stair rails while props are responsible for everything else that arrives in the moving van.

Between hand props (which are props that an actor can hold in their hand like a remote control), set dressing (like a 50’s jukebox) and consumables (which are props that are used up each performance like a hamburger eaten on stage) there can be hundreds of props needed for a single production, but since the goal of props is to create something that will blend in with all the other elements on the stage to create a complete picture, many of these props are used without the audience ever being conscious to the work that went into making them.

Paul Barrois

Taming a Shrew from Azalea Micketti

In Internship, Stage Management on January 30, 2013 at 5:28 PM

My favorite moment of this week was seeing everyone on stage for the first time. We stepped on deck and had to find our sea legs. Imagined two-dimensional doors had finally been brought into the real world. Images on paper became 3D, everything was shiny and new, although unfinished. The colors were bright, the space new, the movement slow but steady and filled with potential. Going back the second day was like peeling back the second layer of the onion. The lights went on, the projection went up, and suddenly it felt like we were somewhere else. This world is starting to reveal itself moment by moment, the pieces falling into place, all the rehearsal feeling like it’s actually leading to something real, rather than a mass fantasy we’re all participating in.

One problem I do have with this play, or rather with the modern audience’s opinion of this play, is the double standard represented by Kate and Bianca. When this play is discussed from a feminist perspective, Kate’s treatment is the one shouted out as problematic, as sexist, as misogynistic. Very rarely do we hear about the sexist nature of Bianca’s story. The way she is manipulated by men, and the way she manipulates the men around her. The problem doesn’t come from the story, but the fact that we, as the audience, see no problem with Bianca essentially being bought and sold. The only redeeming factor is the fact that, despite the money thrown at her, she manages to choose the one she wants in the end, through a heavy dose of her own brand of manipulation. When the violence becomes physical, we complain, but if it is folded in and hidden within the double standards of our society, it is invisible. I think it’s time to start seeing both sides of the standard, pointing it out, and speaking up.

“One Brick at a Time” from Jose Rivera

In Internship on January 30, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Jose Rivera Photo Week 1

Beginning my internship was somewhat intimidating to me since I don’t have any background experience in scenic painting. However, after being in the shop the first day and after getting to know the paint crew I was more at ease because of the support they gave me. Overall, my internship experience for the last month has been great. Time seems to just fly when I’m in the shop working on something new. It impresses me and fascinates me the amount of detail and hard work the paint shop invests in each piece for the set.

The first things I began working on were the brick walls for the set of Two Trains Running. The first step I was taught was texturing the brick in order to add more dimension to make them appear more realistic. After that, the bricks were primed with a grey color and then each brick was painted one by one with a red/brown color. The bricks were also given highlights and once they looked like realistic new bricks we then began the aging process. A very translucent wash of dark grey was then brushed and splattered to all the bricks, which gave them a more worn look.

This process will be very useful to me in the future, not only because I will be able to use these skills as a scenic painter, but I will also be able to use this knowledge in my own artwork. I truly enjoy working with everyone in the Scenic Paint Department and I appreciate them taking time to teach me new techniques in scenic painting that I do not know. Being surrounded by humble professionals who don’t mind helping me out motivates me to keep striving to improve and leaves me with deep and meaningful appreciation.

“What’s the Password?” from Danielle Leigh Hicks

In Internship on January 29, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Danielle Leigh Hicks Photo Week 1

This is the unspoken phrase that I anticipated I would hear upon starting my internship with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s lighting department. There is a general understanding that every department, at every company, everywhere has their own language and camaraderie amongst employees. This can be difficult to mesh with upon becoming the “new person”. This is what haunted me as I entered the light shop on my first day at OSF. I expected to see the faces of those much more experienced than I, looking down at me with the expression of “Are you really one of us?”

THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED AT ALL.

While I was already acquainted with Michael Maag, the Head of the Lighting and Video Projection Departments at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I was not familiar with any of the other lighting employees. To my surprise, they welcomed me with open arms and a wrench in hand, guiding me through my first few days in a way that was most helpful and educational. Everyone who I have met thus far in this company has been warm and welcoming, showing me that no matter what, I can go to anyone for help or just to chat about my day. It is a place that I would recommend to any theatre professional – young or old, experienced or not – to come to learn and to teach and to grow. It is a place that I have dreamed of coming to for many years, and I am incredibly excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work helping to create some of the most inspiring and passionate theatre in the country.

“I Want My Ham! A Meditation on Hambone” from Donya K. Washington

In Assistantship on January 29, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Donya Washington Photo Week 2v2

I’m assisting on Two Trains Running and have the privilege of listening to the play every day. One of the characters in the play, Hambone, has essentially two lines. “I want my ham.” “He gonna give me my ham.” After listening to those lines for several days, one day I suddenly heard them. Although he seems simple, Hambone’s story is one of profound persistence in the face of injustice. For nearly a decade, this man has tried to claim what he believes is rightfully his – just payment for his services. Although he is offered a lower fee (a chicken), he refuses. He will take nothing less than a ham, no matter how many times he must ask for it. His request is simple, but his stubborn determination is profound.

Last week, January 21st, was the day set aside to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During his final trip in Memphis, Dr King (along with many others) worked with the Sanitation Workers to help bring their strike to a successful conclusion. They are the ones you see in photos from the period holding signs that say “I AM a man.” This was not the first (nor would it be the last) time they had struck to fight for a living wage. Those men, like Hambone were fighting for their right to be heard, or as Dr King said the night before he died “We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people.” It seems such a simple thing, and something that today most of us are lucky enough to take for granted. But those simple things are often the most difficult to attain.

At a production meeting last week someone, in reference to using food on stage, said “We can’t do leftovers.” The phrase stuck with me. It seemed more profound than the intended meaning of the moment. Hambone wasn’t settling for leftovers. The strikers in Memphis weren’t settling for leftovers. And Dr. King certainly wasn’t settling for leftovers. What does this mean for me? I’m an artist. I’m black. I’m a woman. Many people fought and died for my right to ride on a bus and sit anywhere I please; many people fought and died for my right to so freely declare myself an artist – without my ancestors struggle for self-determination (their “ham”), I would not have been free to follow my heart into theatre. To honor their fight, I believe it’s my duty to give my all to my craft, to learn as much as I can and to speak with integrity through my work.

I need to fight for my own ham. We as a people should not settle for leftovers. It may take the stubborn determination of Hambone, but to get to the Promised Land we can’t settle for leftovers. I want my ham. He gonna give me my ham!

“The First Clear Day” from Greg Taubman

In Assistantship on January 29, 2013 at 7:31 AM

Greg Taubman Photo Week 1

I arrived in Ashland under the cover of darkness, driving into town several hours after sunset. When I awoke the city was bathed in grey, fog-covered. The top floor of the Ashland Springs Hotel was barely visible—to say nothing of the peaks of the surrounding mountains.  The fog continued for the next few days, obscuring the world at any more than a few yards distance.

It felt somehow appropriate. Here I was in a new place, off on a new adventure—it only made sense for the road ahead to be clouded, the future unclear. Knowing no one in town and having no place in particular to be, it felt natural to be cloaked in uncertainty.

And then suddenly one morning: utter clarity. Every brick of OSF’s campus, every tree on Mount Ashland, every blade of grass in Lithia Park shone beneath the clear sky. On days like that, when the world is born anew, it feels in a very literal sense like an epiphany: you can see the bigger picture and grasp where you fit in. These are the kinds of days I live for.

They are some of the most rewarding days in a rehearsal process, when things snap into place and you stop feeling like you’re groping through the fog together. In many ways this was an ideal way to begin my time at OSF: with a sense of mystery and getting lost and then, suddenly, found.

“The Yin and Yang” from Wind Woods

In Literary, Residency, Wind Woods on January 7, 2013 at 3:48 AM

yinYang

The Yin and the Yang, the present and the future, hope and hopelessness, woken life or wrapped in the mystical qualities of a dream – there are always two trains running, with three distinct options: 1) to stay or 2) board train #1 or 3) board train #2. Whether these trains lead to love or loneliness, success or failure, dreams achieved or dreams deferred, with every choice we must tote the heavy baggage of history. The weight of this baggage increases the depth of the footprints we leave in the soil. This weight skews our sight as we strain to decipher the road map that marks our future.

Wilson’s plays are haunted with the spirit of history, encamped in the state of the present, and actively involved in the creation of what is yet to come. Two Trains Running forces us as artists and audience to wrestle with the dimensions of the past, present, and future. Wilson in each scene draws attention to the interconnectivity of the “now”, “back when”, and “someday” and demonstrates how dependent these three temporal settings are to each other and to understanding our position in the world. We, as well as the characters in the play, are a product of this time triad.

In the rehearsal room and in the world of the play, we are forced to go back before we go forward. As Memphis states “Ain’t no need in keeping running, ‘cause if you get to the end zone it ain’t gonna be a touchdown [if you dropped the ball].” We must all go back to our own individual past, retrace our own personal journey. Before there were tracks in the ground there were foot prints and dirt paths to follow, most of them now washed away by wind and rain.

The setting of Two Trains is a location where paths cross, a transfer station on the way to someplace else. There are many places like this in the world, where travelers stop, nourish themselves and ready for more travel, more life. When we arrive at the crossroad, the transfer station, we are met with the questions: Where are we? Where have we come from? And where do we want to go? If we miss a train, we catch the next one, but we cannot stand idle in the present forever. So we board, finding a destination that excites or frightens us, some simply get in the first line they see, some may flip a coin. We hope that the seats are comfortable and the service is good, but once the train jolts into motion we are all transported in different directions. The next stop might vary for us all, but the nature of the journey is always the same. We leave, and sometime in the future we arrive. For no matter what train we take, what direction the train heads, what souvenirs we collect along the way, we are in the end caught in the tragic irony of time and existence. We all, at one time or another must board that final train, an unavoidable final stop on the line. One person’s final destination might be another’s initial point of departure. They board, take their seat, perhaps come across something a fellow traveler has left behind, a partially completed crossword puzzle, a receipt, a hat or a scarf. The item may remind them of how alike everyone’s journey is.

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