2014 kicks off with Associated Studies…

The new year and the new term brings new faces into the design realisation workshops this week as we welcome students from other technical theatre pathways into the world of construction and prop making.  A selection of first year students from the Theatre Technology Pathway and the Stage and Costume Management Pathway are spending a week working in the department and learning the basics of scenic construction and prop making, including learning all about the health and safety aspects of the workshops and all of the machinery, tools and materials that they can use.  It’s nice to have some new faces in the department who will hopefully get a taste for design realisation and will be back for an allocation in the department next year.

We also have some second and third year students from other technical theatre pathways working in the department this term; third year Will is in scenic construction, third year Katie is in scenic art and second year Marie is in props. 

As well as associated studies, we are also starting work on this term’s opera, The Adventures of Pinocchio which will be presented in our Silk Street Theatre.  The production features a huge set and some very interesting props so there’s no doubt that the design realisation department will be kept very busy over the next few weeks.  Fit-up starts in week five so there’s a lot to do in quite a short space of time!  

As with all productions, the early stage of the process for us is planning how we are going to make and paint all of the elements.  For scenic art, led this term by third year Hannah, that means trying out different paint processes and creating samples for the designer to look at.  These samples, painted from the model piece as a reference, allow the designer to give feedback to the team concerning the colours, textures and overall ‘feel’ of the sample compared to their vision of the overall design.  Sometimes, this sampling process continues for a while, with the scenic artist creating a variety of different version for the designer to consider.  For Pinocchio, there are several paint finishes that need to be created, the main one being a brick effect.  Because of the scale of the brick work, the set is being covered with ‘vacform brick’; plastic sheeting that has been created by heating thin plastic within a vacuum over a 3D shape.  We have our own smaller scale vacformer here in the props department but for a large project such as this it would take a long time to create the amount of bricks we need for this set! 

In a similar way the props department need to create samples to show the designer.  This usually takes the form of quick prototypes of props showing shapes and sizes along with research materials that form the centre of a discussion with the designer.  For Pinocchio, the props team are making (along with many other things!) several masks; such as crickets, owls, foxes and a crow doctor.  The team, led by third year Katie, have been using card and other materials to quickly mock-up shapes for the masks.  Once these have been approved by the designer, they can begin ordering materials and making the real masks.  

For the construction team, led by third year Tara, planning the build concerns drafting technical drawings from the designer’s model, ordering materials and creating cutting lists.  They have to consider how each scenic component will be made as well as it’s relationship to the rest of the set.  They also have to consider other features of the component; will the piece be flying? Does it need wheels? Will someone be standing on it? To name but a few…

Well as usual it doesn’t take the design realisation department very long to get stuck in, here are a few photos to show you what’s been going on. 

Next week it’s the scenic art associated studies and the rest of the department head straight first into building and painting all of the set and props for Pinocchio…it’s going to be one fast paced term so keep your hats on, keep your eyes open for more blog posts and keep your fingers in your ears, because it gets pretty noisy down here…but it’s ok, because sometimes I stop talking!

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