Opera

Autumn Action

So, I have finally found a moment to fill you in on what we’ve been up to so far this term in Design Realisation. We have just finished the sets for our three opening productions of the term and we are now embarking on the fourth and it’s only October!

The first show to go up was our autumn  drama, ‘August.’ The set was designed by Libby Watson and performed in our Milton Court studio theatre. As this was a no build show there were only elements of scenic art and props to make.

The perimeter of the stage was draped in heavy brown curtains with a blackened gradient towards the bottom. The effect was produced by spraying a black wash along the bottom of the curtains and fading it up towards the top.

Below our 2nd year scenic artist Libby creates the gradient on one of the curtains in the paint shop.

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Scenic art also undertook the task of painting the floor cloth, which was designed as an abstract watery mix of earthy colours.

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The process began with a yellow ochre wash and then washes of the other colours were applied to the damp base and blended in to give a smudgy appearance to the painting. More defined lines and details were added in over the top once the bottom layers had dried.

In props our 2nd year student Alex had the task of creating 12 breakable plaster vases which would be shot to pieces during the play. (All very dramatic!)

img_2941Above: Alex and Props Lecturer Pat going through the process of moulding the vases.

The process was a tricky one as the vases had to have fairly thin plaster walls in order for them to break effectively on stage. It was difficult to get the walls of the vase to the correct thickness, many of then turning out to be too thin and in need of filling/ reinforcing.

Once the vases were cast they were cleaned up and painted to give a handmade rustic effect before being glazed.

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Simultaneously our DR students were working on realising Amelia Jane Hankins’ designs for The Crucible. Set in our Milton Court theatre,the design consisted of a woodland, created by twisted ropes partially concealed by a wall of uniformed sawn timber which continued onto the floor.img_2942Above: model box of Crucible design

img_2945 Due to the colour of the wood in Amelia’s design, our scenic artists had to apply pale brown and green washes to the sawn timber planks, this enhanced the grain and helped to create a uniformed hue over all the pieces of timber.

In props our students were also kept busy making bespoke benches for the set which had a very satisfying, chunky quality and aesthetically matched the uniformed and clean design of the set.

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Iolanta/Mavra

To complete the trilogy of productions so far this term, we have just put up the finishing touches on the set for our double opera Iolanta/Mavra designed by Bridget Kimak.

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Our construction team led by our third year student Bryan, had the task of building the set walls from timber frames and tri-wall cladding. The tri-wall was key to the design as it was important for light to be able to shine through the walls.

In scenic art our students led by our third year Lana painted the walls in a translucent green blend of colours. img_2990img_3034

This was effective in giving the walls an almost mouldy feel to them and the light bleeding through the paint also helped to enhance this effect.

The opera double has been a very prop heavy production and our props department led by Constance has done an amazing job at producing some very weird and wonderful prop makes.

The plate stack which was a feature of the room was a great success. It was made up from a selection of plastic plates, cutlery and takeaway boxes which had been drilled through and slotted onto one of three metal poles. These poles had been welded onto steel plates and mounted onto an MDF base to create a freestanding piece.

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The side walls for Iolanta consists of an intricate layering of steel mesh, pipes and cord to create the look of a mechanical sound wall. This was created by attaching sections of steel mesh to a custom, welded frame and layering a collection of painted PVC tubing over the top to create a random crosshatching of pipes and metal. Thick black and red cord was fastened to the mesh and piping to give the appearance of electrical cables.

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Following this Alex made a selection of vacuum form speakers; these were made in sections and in various shapes and sizes and then assembled to create the finished shapes. The forms were then spray painted and attached to the frame using cable ties.

Next came the mound of clothes! As part of Bridgets design the props department had to create a giant mound of clothing. This was created from several sets of treads, made in construction, which were then covered with layers of blue foam to disguise the hard edges and corners and then wrapped in canvas. The canvas was then painted in a patches of random colour before the many items of clothing (I think we emptied all the charity shops in East London) were splayed out and glued over the top of the canvas.

The result was a fantastically messy assortment of colour! (My OCD urge to tidy became very difficult to control at this stage!)

…and Constance was crowned Queen of the mound!

img_3031…spot the students?!..

We are now well in to rehearsals on the opera and the workshops are preparing all they need to begin the build of our Great Expectation set. Which, from the rumours, will give me some great ‘bloggable’ material!

Until then….

 

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Head first into the summer opera double bill.

The workshops are in full swing and beginning to fill with the pieces of our opera double bill. Arianne and Alexandre Bis has our students working on realising the designs of Simon Corder.

Here is a snapshot of the samples produced by scenic art for the set. We have three main finishes that need to be produced for this set. We have a yellow marble finish, a painted number grid and a white-washed concrete finish. Here are the samples that were put together for Simon to look at.

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Construction have been busy building all the necessary flats to make up the walls of the set and treads for the show and with the help of our TT students, who are with us for their associated studies, we seem to be making good progress.

Construction have also had the pleasure of realising one of the more decorative features of the set. Alice, Lana and Oscar under the instruction of Andy were able to have a bit of fun in creating the Baroque style fireplace.

The main frame was made from timber which was clad with ply to give us the basic shape. The edges of the frame were decorated by laying a border of a thick plaster mix and then shaped with a purpose made jig to give the edge shape you see below.

the larger decorative mouldings were made by pouring plaster into vac formed moulds and the attaching these to the timber frame. The The mouldings were strengthened by laying hessian into the plaster.

Andy also sculpted some extensions with clay to finish off sections of pattern too fit and align with the size and shape of the piece. A mould was made of these clay sculpts which was them cast to create a finished plaster section.

The pieces were then screwed onto the main frame using the supports that had been set into them.

The joins were then filled and moulded by hand to give the impression it was one fluid piece.

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The piece was then ready for a paint job. Our second year student Lana and I finished the piece by applying a marble paint effect.

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Our scenic art students began their process by texturing the flats. This was done by covering them with a thin layer of idenden which gave the surface a rough concrete texture. They were then painted white and a raw umber wash applied to the bottom sections.

 

In props our students have been busy constructing miniature models of  the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur which will sit on plinths around the walls of the set.They have been using mainly styrofoam to construct the models and some of the final details will be drawn in CAD and 3D printed.

Emily did a great job at gilding the large picture frame to give a degraded finish. This prop piece will sit above the fireplace.

 

Props have also had the opportunity to work on some polycarving. In front of the fireplace is to be placed a decorative peacock fire gate. Sneha with the help of Anna carved the peacock from blocks of polystyrene. This was then covered with layers of foamcoat to help smooth the surface before being painted in metallics.

 

Alongside preparing the opera set, we have had students from other areas of technical theatre creating work for either a personal project or getting stuck in with assisting on the construction of the Alexandre Bis set.

Here are some example of the work going on amongst our associated studies students.

Fit Up….

 

Fit up for the opera went relatively smoothly. It began by constructing the steel deck truck onto which the set was attached. The walls and treads went in first, followed by the windows and balcony.

 

Once the set was attached to the truck we had to attach some breaks to it. However…we didn’t have any rubber fixed to the breaks we had… so we improvised…

…Worked a treat!

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End of term trio

It has been a steady few weeks with injections of hysteria as we have been working on the three sets over the spring term in Design Realisation.

We have been preparing our Silk Street stage for ‘Go Make you Ready,’ Designed by Mark Simmons.  This was a vast and open set divided into an indoor/outdoor space with a strong contrast of colour and texture.

The Cloth

The main challenge of the set was taken on by our scenic art students Becca and Claudia who were led by our third year Sneha. The task was to paint two cloths at 8m x 4.5m and 8m x 3m with a dense forest scene inspired by the painting, ‘A Stag Hunt in a Forest’ by Jan Hackaert and Nicholaes Berchem, to hang up-stage, left of the set.

A Stag Hunt in  a Forest. Oil on canvas by Jan Hackaert and Nicholaes Berchem. 1660

 

Here you can see the cloth being worked on in it’s various stages. The shapes of the trees were traced onto the cloth by projecting the artists image onto it and tracing round the trees in charcoal. The darker background tones were then blocked in and then the lighter shades were painted on top in stages to give the illusion of a 3D image.

The Floor

The stage itself was on a raised steel deck platform and was covered 2/3 in laminate flooring and 1/3 in painted carpet tiles. The carpet tiles (of which there were about 300) were individually primed with Covent Garden primer to prevent the paint from rubbing off and painted using a stencil. This took a big group effort to finish  but was effective once laid all together onstage.

 

Up-stage right consisted of a large steel frame which was constructed by our 2nd year student Lana and was clad in plywood in order to provide a screen to project on during the show.

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Prospero’s Staff

In props Hellen had the task of creating Prospero’s staff  which she did by drawing the shape in Sketch-up and 3D printing it. Then she created a mould out of Latex and cast the shape in crystal clear resin. The final piece had to be sanded and polished to give it a smooth cut glass look. The staff needed to be made as a break-away prop. This was done by sawing the cue in half and inserting a dowel into one end and drilling a hole to insert the dowel in the other half. This way the staff could be snapped along this seam each performance and reset by inserting a new dowel into the socket.

White LEDs were placed under the end of the crystal to make the staff glow which made for an effective looking practical prop.

 

Once the set was fitted up there were a few tweaks to make before the show went up. We put an extra wash on the forest cloth to bring the bushes into shadow a little more and there was a little dulling down of the yellow crosses on carpet tiles. Overall it was a job well done.

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Alongside this our scenic art students were also preparing a cloth for the set of ‘Guns and Drums’ designed by our own third year student Sunny Smith. This piece was to be the floor cloth and was designed to look like a birds eye view of war trenches.

The organic waving lines were traced onto the cloth using a projected image from the model. The lines were then painted onto the cloth and finally washes were then applied to break up and blend the background colour with the red and blue lines.

Our spring term Opera Scenes set was designed my another of our third year students Alena, who’s design resembled an abandoned industrial space. The main structure consisted of a platform and a ramp which the actors were to slide down and was made by Vincent, Ollie, and Lana. The set was dressed with a selection of found items which our trusty Tom Downing scoured around London in junk yards to find. Superhero!

These items were then given various paint treatments to enhance their rust and to break down the surfaces.

The set had a great grungy industrial feel and was very effective onstage. Well done to everyone!

Categories: Design Realisation Project, Opera, Shakespeare, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Full speed ahead into the New Year

 

As the first blog of 2016, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and welcome you to an exciting peek at what we’ve have been getting our teeth into in Design Realisation.

The start of the new term has given our DR students three shows to work on, which means their hands have been full and the workshops bustling but they have produced some great work.

The first to go up was combination of two drama’s ‘Pinter’ and ‘Dealers Choice.’ The set, designed by Amelia Jane-Hankin, had to adapt to both pieces of drama and is a simple yet effective, uniformed structure made up of wood panelled columns and flooring.

 

In construction our students prepared the frames fro the columns by making each side as a separate flat which were then screwed together to make the cuboid structures. Plywood was then cut to size on the wall saw and used to clad the sides of the columns.

Sam took the ‘assassins’ approach to the task at hand.

 

In scenic art the team painted the ply cladding with a smokey brown woodgrain effect and highlighted areas using a dry brush effect in a lighter grey.

The floorboards were given a woodgrain treatment in two shades of brown, a wash was then applied on top to blend and finally they were glazed over.

 

Alongside work on the Studio Theatre drama, our DR students were also preparing and beginning work on our Milton Court drama, ‘Top Girls.’ The design, by Dora Schweitzer, includes a collection of wonderfully distorted and somewhat frightening drawn and sculpted figures of women and children.

Scenic art have had their hands full with this one; the first task being to attack the large back cloth. The design featured several sketchy figurative drawings of women which were to be drawn in pastels and oil bars onto a black cloth.

Our scenic artists began by producing several samples from the references that had been given by the designer. The drawings were mainly created with a white chalky outline and then had highlighted elements and shading added in a selection of yellow, red and orange hues.

Once the designer was happy with the samples it was time to start work on the cloth.

Once the images were traced out onto the cloth using the projector, the students were able to work on individual figures to build up the collective figurative piece.

In addition to the back cloth the design included several sets of tables and chairs which all requires a heavy paint treatment. They started their life as white ikea dining sets and were transformed to look like dark, heavily rusted metal. This effect was achieved in a variety of stages.

Firstly the table frames and chairs had to be sealed with transparent polish and covent garden primer to allow the paint to stick to the metal and plastic. They were then primed with a mix of black and blue/grey paint. Sections of silver foil wrap were glued to small areas and the excess peeled off, to give metallic highlights and pieces of bogus paper were stuck to the table tops to create some texture. After this all the surfaces were given a rusty orange and blue sponge wash and once this had dried then the painters were able to go over elements of the chairs and tables adding more detailed and saturated rust colours before glazing over them to seal the paint treatment.

The results were pretty impressive…

 

Our students in props also had their hands full making a number of dummies that were to be flown in over the set.

These were made by pasting brown paper with glue around a foam figurine, cutting the dried paper shell away from the figure and filling inside with two part expandable foam to make the figures solid. Armature wire was then inserted into the bodies to create joints to enable the figures to be manipulated into different positions.

erm…

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No comment…  :-/

The props department then added hands and facial features using armature wire and mod-rock and the figures were painted and clothed ready to be placed in the set.

 

The last of the trio of shows is the Opera which this term is, ‘The Rape of Lucretia.’

The design, by Jamie Vartan, resembles that of a war trench which has required scenic art to create a ‘mud’ floor which covers the stage. This was achieved by covering sheets of MDF with a layer of idenden and working into the texture. The texture around the edges of the floor were enhanced by mixing the idenden with foam crumbs and layering that onto the MDF.

Once dried the floor was then painted.

The set is surrounded by a timber border which is made up of the largest lumps of wood I’ve ever seen! Getting these into the building took an act of God!….Or perhaps just an incredible team effort!

These along with the treads made by construction are all in the process of being treated with a paint wash before they are glazed.

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Props is probably the busiest department with regards to work on the opera. As part of the final scene there is a dramatic reveal of a graveyard complete with 1 million white crucifix’s and a blooming meadow. Lana and Jonathan have been working hard to create these pieces using a combination of artificial turf and dried shrubbery which they are painting to resemble wild flowering plants. As the plants have to be harvested as part of the Opera, each plant stem had to have a hole drilled into the plywood base under the turf for it to be planted in and harvested from. This was no quick job!

As opera fit up approaches, our DR students are making the finishing touches to the set. I would usually be saying there’s a frantic rush or final push to get everything finished but there is actually a rather calm and relaxed atmosphere circulating the workshop… I’m expecting there to be a huge panic next week when we realise we forgot to build that life size carousel!

 

Categories: Design Realisation Project, Opera, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bringing the little wooden boy to life…

Week 5 kicks off today and with it, fit-up for this term’s opera ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ designed by Dick Bird. The design realisation workshops at the Guildhall School have been a hive of activity over the past few weeks and we aren’t finished yet as this week is sure to be even busier as we fit the set up in our Silk Street Theatre. The construction workshop and the scenic art paintshop have been changing every day, with new scenic components being made and more layers of paint being applied to make what I’m sure will be a very interesting and impressive set. Here’s just a snippet of what’s been going on in scenic art and construction…(click on the pictures for a closer look!)

The blue fairy’s houses are now completed; vac-formed bricks applied and painted, roofs tiled and chalky slate washes sponged on and trompe l’oeil (literally ‘trick of the eye’) effects added to the perspective windows. There are a lot of interesting processes involved in making and painting each of the houses and I think you’ll agree they look brilliant. One of the elements that I particularly like is the paint effect on the doors that Will made. Kim has been learning the process of creating a crackled paint effect using size, a heated glue that is applied after the base colour. A top layer of paint a different colour is added which is force-dried using a heat gun. This method means that the top layer of paint that dries quickly separates, causing a cracked effect. The process is a fairly organic one meaning that it is quite difficult to predict the result although you can control the cracking to some extent; dictating the direction of the cracks by what way you apply the glue and the top layer, and the general size of the crack by how thickly you apply the paint.

Another interesting component that has been made this week, again by Will is the circus frustum. This piece is made from a timber skeletal structure with MDF wrapped around it. In order to bend the MDF around the shape, the sheets were dampened, clamped in place and left overnight so that when dry they naturally sat in a curved shape. Kim has been working on the paint finish for the frustum, masking off triangles shapes around the curve and adding a dark spray to the edges of each segment to age the piece. It’s a work-in-progress with the yellow still to do but here it is so far…

Another scenic element that has been worked on last week was the Funland sign; a large metal curved sign with decorative elements and letters secured in place. In order to create the piece, lengths of steel were rolled into curved shapes of various radiuses and welded together.  Here is the sign taking shape…

As well as vac-formed bricks, we have used a lot of other vac-formed pieces in the set. The ticket booth and the puppet theatre are both quite complicated pieces, made up from a combination of mouldings, vac form elements and shortwood mouldings to add a highly decorative look to the pieces. Although they take a while to build, and paint, I think you’ll agree they look very impressive when complete. Katie has painted the ticket booth with a variety of scenic processes, including a light crackle effect and antique gold on the mouldings as well as some signwriting. The puppet theatre has a similar effect on it which has been started but will be finished this week.

Well that’s just a small snippet of what we’ve been up to and some of the interesting scenic components that we’ve been working on. Fit-up has started so I’ll be sure to get some photos of the set taking shape in the theatre. Also not forgetting the props team who have been working non-stop on all of the props for the production; including the puppets for the puppet theatre, various masks, Pinocchio’s hair and even a set of whale’s teeth just to name a few! More photos to follow of course, stay tuned…

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Spring week 2…

It’s looking like week two here in the design realisation workshops; scenic art associated studies is taking place in the paintshop with first year students from other pathways getting their first taste of what it’s like to do scenic art here at the Guildhall School.  They are learning all about a variety of scenic art techniques ranging from creating textures, to wood graining…and a whole lot in between! What is interesting in the paintshop at the moment is that in addition to the associated studies bricks, which have been created using a brick template and artex, the paintshop is full of vacformed brick flats for the upcoming opera Pinocchio which the team are painting.  The effect for the opera is slightly different in that the bricks are much darker with a black base coat and layers of earthy colours dry-brushed and sponged on top.  They are going to have a dark wash on them as a final process which always makes such a difference with the bricks- tieing all of the colours together, ageing and adding depth.  I think you’ll agree they are looking really impressive…and huge now that they are put together and on the paintframe (thanks to construction!). 

Speaking of the construction team, they have been hard at work too; working on the rest of the set for Pinocchio.  Here they are making the Blue Fairy’s house flat, which involves working out and cutting quite a few angles.  The set design by Dick Bird is a fascinating one so over the next couple of week we should see some very interesting pieces being made.

The props department are also cracking on, tackling the vast amount of props for the opera.  As usual in props there are a lot of things going on at once and every time I walk through it’s all moved on three or four steps but here’s what I caught when I had my camera; the wig for Pinocchio being sculpted, masks in progress, puppets being sewn and drapes being measured…

Well as usual by the time I’ve written this and uploaded the photos the guys here in design realisation have moved onto something else so I’ll try to get more shots near the end of week.  Don’t go anywhere…

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