Posts Tagged With: opera

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

Blog is back for a Cunning Christmas

Hello world! Would you believe it?! Already the jolly season is with us and we are thus far blogless… No excuses I’m afraid other than being ear deep in set making and Design Realising, nonetheless; here comes the blog…

It’s been a very interesting term so far with two productions going out on the main stage at Silk Street: The Cunning Peasant and Her Naked Skin. While two more productions: True Dare Kiss and South Downs/The Browning Version – a double bill, were climbing the treads over at our Milton Court Studio Theatre. This blog is a quick run down of what went on during the build for The Cunning Peasant by Dvořák.

In the workshops it was a polystyrene skills fest bonanza as the team set to realising the darkly imagined Tudor timber framed Burton-esque vision of Thomas Hardy’s Essex as designed by Francis O’Connor.

First port of call on the build was – as it so often is – the construction of mass flattage. On this occasion steel frame flats were the order of the day, clad with 4mm ply to provide a base on to which we can glue polystyrene sheets which could then be carved into the herringbone brick infill. Strips of MDF cladding were fixed on top of the polystyrene to create a timber frame appearance synonymous with Tudor Period buildings.

Once the polystryrene had been marked up with the brick formation it was out with the kitchen knives and flat head screwdrivers to carve out the mortar lines and apply plenty of distressing to the edges of the ‘bricks’ adding to the realism. After this we use heat guns to consolidate the carved surface by slightly melt the surface of the poly before finally applying that ubiquitous flexible coating medium – Idenden; which provides a textured surface ready for painting.

Another element of the design which provided a great opportunity to hone our poly carving skills were the plentiful roof tiles. Each tile was cut from 8’ x 4’ sheets of foil covered insulation board, more often found insulating the walls and ceilings of buildings but as always we’re making use of everyday materials in innovative ways. So, the foil was peeled off and the edges of each tile distressed a little with the kitchen knives to look like slate, and once again the Idenden goes on prior to final paint effects, spatter, dry brushing and washes and voilà, roof tiles!!

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Some elements of the design were sky high and this called for some heavy industrial metal processing; time for our monster Ring Rolling machine to be rolled out so we could curve some huge sections of steel tubing. All of our best remembered geometry and GCSE mathematics knowledge were dragged up from the depths and it was best sohcahtoa’s forward to employ some marvelous numeric wizardry and where that didn’t work we bent it a bit more until it did fit!

Our Ring Rolling machine is able to create large or tight curves in anything from light to heavy gauge steel, in square section, flat bar, rod and tube. This section of the design was to be flown above the stage, yet appear to be a continuation of the curved walls, in order to provide enough strength across the span of this section we used 3mm wall mild steel scaffold tubing – which is a demonstration the power of this Ring Rolling machine. The curves were carefully calculated and welded together before extra sections were added creating a branch like structure, on to which more roof tiles were T-nailed into place to create a kind of deconstructing blown away house morphing in to a tree effect, as I perceived it, for me it was a rich and conceptual design which was both interesting and functional in drawing attention to the whole space.

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Two movable houses were also part of the build, one made from wooden flats and the other house from welded steel, as the 1st storey had to be fully functioning as a 1st floor. Both were mounted on wheeled trucks and both required more poly carving and of course roof tiles! End result; two extremely des-res, well-appointed – if a little compact, mock Tudor properties in a prime location in Central London. Not sure we can afford the rent on those, maybe we could use them as halls of residence for our new first years…

Speaking of whom….

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of our new first years who have thus far been inducted into the beginning of their technical theatre education. After spending the first few weeks sampling various areas of our cross discipline faculty we threw then head first into a major build for their self-led Design Realisation Project! Results were stunning BUT… I’m giving nothing away until January, when a full run down with photographic evidence will take the form of our first blog of 2015, that’s right I said it 2015! Ouch!

See you then blogland

Design Realisation

 

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The revolving door spins no more.

Hello everybody!!

It’s been over two months since our last post and now at last, all the shows are up, the academic year is drawing to its close and we’ve got a massive blog to let you know what we’ve been up to.

Since you last heard from us we have built an amazing cast concrete effect set for the Opera double bill; we’ve curated, installed and hosted our annual 3rd Year Graduate Exhibition; slipped in a couple of paint calls, prop makes and fit ups for Opera scenes and Napoli Milionara in the Milton Court Studio Theatre.  Finally, with a massive push we managed to the fit up the phenomenal build for the end of year musical ‘Grand Hotel’. Just a bit busy then!

It’s been a real who’s who of materials and techniques this term right across our Construction, Painting and Props departments.

Construction have had the volume turned up to 11 this term working on the set for Grand Hotel; we’ve seen welding on an industrial scale to construct fully operational revolving doors and two huge frames to support the mirrored and glazed frontage of the Grand Hotel as viewed from the inside.

First thing out were the two metal frames for the frontage and interior of the hotel; box steel welded and then clad in timber and MDF. Once the frames had been constructed it was through to the Paint Shop for black gloss on the cladding and gold leaf on the fret work and window frame details.

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The Gold leaf we use is in fact brass leaf, it is applied directly from the roll onto surfaces coated with an adhesive called Gilding Size. The size is applied over a layer of yellow paint which hides any small holes in the leaf. Once the leaf is on and the size has dried, we brush off the excess leaf and apply two layers of french enamel varnish to seal it, and to achieve the antiqued effect the designer was looking for.

We’ve also been applying more black gloss effect to all the cladding, flats, panels, treads and handrails; you name it – we glossed it!

Before we could get anything fitted up in the Silk Street Theatre, we had to paint an intricate geometric floor design on the stage.

Our friends in the Technical Theatre department helped us out by rigging a projector on to a flying bar so we could project the design on to the stage and trace out the geometric pattern. The whole ellipse was first marbled in white before we marked on the lines for the masking. Thirty five rolls of masking tape later and we began to paint and marble the black tiles. Off with the masking tape the next day and finish the surface with a lovely glaze to create a beautiful marbled floor on to which the set could be installed.

Here’s the beautiful finished floor with a layer of Bona Mega gloss glaze over the marble painting. Amazing!

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We’ve seen the construction of a rotating concierge reception desk made from bendi-ply, a glorious curved and fanned Grand staircase, and seemingly never ending fret work to create art deco inspired hand rails for the various balconies and decorative elements which adorn the glazing and carefully disguised steel deck.

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All the glazing has also been dirtied down by spraying with a matt glaze with a bit of white paint mix in, adding to the slightly defunct look specified by the designer.

Props made three Belfast sinks on wheels complete with dressing room mirror lights.  We had some decorative brackets for the sinks laser cut by a CADCAM company in south London; CutLaserCut have a selection of industrial size laser cutters so we emailed over our design and they were put to work cutting 9mm MDF to make Art Deco style brackets…Laser Power!

End result is an absolutely epic set, I couldn’t wait to see the actors and musicians apply their magic and it certainly didn’t disappoint, it was a great show and a brilliant demonstration of the collaborative production process here at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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So there you have it, many weeks of hard work was certainly worth it looking at the amazing result. If you want to see a fascinating time lapse video of the set being taken to pieces you’re in luck! It’s quite a cathartic process destructing a set, the thing I find hardest to comprehend is that all those weeks of hard labour can be undone such a short time, about 12 hours. But that’s the way it goes I suppose. See the video courtesy of  the Technical Theatre department either on their blog or by clicking here.

We’re checking out of The Grand Hotel now;

The Props Department have realised a host of interesting and challenging creations this term. We’ve seen the creation of a prosthetic body parts including the frighteningly realistic torso of St. John the Baptist in its unfortunate de-limbed, decapitated and disembolwled state – so goes the brutal end for St. John in the Stradella opera. Our props students have also served an apprenticeship of sorts in coopering, deconstructing Scottish whisky barrels and recreating a fake barrel mid construction which allowed the opera singers to simulate the construction of the barrel during the performance of Arne’s The Cooper. Sound complicated? It is! See Pat’s Blog for a full run down.

Any finally, to round up this academic years activity, our annual first year Puppet Project!

Our first years have just presented their end of year project. The theme for this years project was the Grim tale of Hansel & Gretel set in an urban landscape, conceived as: HSNL + GRTL

The project kicked off with a crash course in puppetry with puppetry guru Steve Tiplady who gave a half day crash course in making and operating puppets.

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The first years then spent a week creating their puppets and taking crash courses in lighting and video editing from our lighting and video lecturers, then it was into the studio, out on location and finally many hours in the editing suite to create their fantastic version of the folk story, great work guys.

That’s it from us until September so enjoy your summer and we’ll see you on the other side.

I’ll leave you with the video of the first years puppet project HSNL + GRTL, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Last night of Pinocchio…

It’s the last night of Pinocchio tonight and as always it seems like it’s over so quickly; before we know it we are taking down the set and finding new places to store all of the props that we just can’t bear to throw away!  The strike for the production is tomorrow and straight away it’s time for this term’s last drama ‘The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other’ by Peter Handke which we start fitting-up on Wednesday.  I’ve got lots of photos from the workshops of the set and props for The Hour which I will post this week, but I thought it would be nice to share some photos of Pinocchio before the production is over forever.  These are just some photos from one of the open dress rehearsals (and of course nothing compares to actually seeing the opera itself), but for those of you who didn’t manage to get a ticket, here are some shots for you to enjoy…

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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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Pinocchio in full swing…

Week three is here and the workshops are buzzing and whirring with activity.  Associated Studies is over for another term so the departments have spread back out, filling the workshops with set and props, samples and ongoing projects…

Work is continuing with this term’s opera, Pinocchio, with lots of pieces being made.  In the props department, Giulia and Marie have been working on the puppets for the show.  These puppets are really interesting as they are secured around the necks of some of the characters so that their own faces animate the faces of the puppets.  Sophie has been continuing her work on the eerie Crow Doctor’s mask which is taking shape and becoming more frightening every time I walk past!  Meanwhile, Katie has been carrying on with her work on Pinocchio’s hair; making a plaster mould of the sculpted clay hair and casting it in latex coloured with black pigment…looking good so far. 

The scenic art team have been continuing their work on the bricks, adding washes to make them more realistic and ageing them; I think you’ll agree that they look fantastic!  They’re also been sample other paint finishes including gold for the last crest and the floor.  Anna has also been working hard on the gravestone, creating a marbled finish and drawing up the lettering which will be painted with a trompe l’oeil effect so that it looks like it’s been carved into the marble. 

The construction team have also been busy working on the two Blue Fairy houses; adding windows, adding MDF tiles to the roof so that it looks like it’s been tiled with slate and making doors for the houses.  Will has also been working on a mechanism for one of the doors which ‘breaks’ when it gets kicked…I’ll try not to say too much in case I ruin the surprise- all in the name of the magic that is theatre!

Anyway as I’m sure you can see, we’ve been quite busy here in the design realisation workshops.  There’s still a lot to do and a full week ahead of us so I am sure there will be more photos…stay tuned!

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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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How do you paint something like that?

People outside of the scenic art department here in design realisation often ask us: ‘how do you paint something like that?’.  Jennie Leach, one of our 3rd year students has just finished painting this portrait for this term’s opera double bill which opens soon in our Silk Street Theatre. 

Jennie's Portrait

Here’s a short film showing you stage by stage how the painting was created.  I can tell you it looks even more impressive in person!

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Time for the Opera…

As well as our two amazing productions currently running in our Milton Court venues, we are also preparing our Silk Street Theatre for this terms Opera, a Debussy and Donizetti double bill designed by Yannis Thavoris: http://www.gsmd.ac.uk/about_the_school/news/view/article/award_winning_opera_department_presents_a_double_bill_of_debussy_and_donizetti/

Hopefully you’ve seen some of the photos of us building and painting the set (if not scroll down to the previous post!) as well as some of the props being made for the production but here are some photos of the set being fitted-up into the theatre…

The main set component is a large platform that stretches across the stage and moves up and down stage.  There are also several pieces of scenery that fly into the space for different scenes including large white walls with doorways and a massive wall that consists of several flats, a large mirror, signs and a large portrait.  The floor also hides a secret but perhaps you’ll have to come and see the show (or wait until I get a picture!) to find out what it is…

Hope this wets your appetite for what is bound to be another fantastic Guildhall School opera!

 

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