Going vertical!

posted Jun 28, 2012, 1:02 AM by Robert Schulz   [ updated Jul 2, 2012, 11:22 PM ]

Starting at top left: 1) Moving items to make room for the stage; 2) Placing the first
support beam for the stage; 3) Unloading stage platforms; 4) Even more stage platforms;
5) Under the stage installing bracing and attaching platforms; 6) Stage almost done.
Photos 1-4 & 6 by Tiffany Michael, photo 5 by Timothy Smith.
Master Carpenter Hannah May and her crew have been working for the last week to get us a stage and a set. One of the things that people sometimes over look is just how much work it can take to design and build a set, even one that looks deceptively simple.

At the barn, before we can even begin to build a set, we have to build a stage to put it on.  Nine or ten months of the year, the barn is a real, working barn.  In the remaining time, we clear it out, build a theater from scratch, put on some plays, and then tear it all down again to return the barn to its agricultural roots.  And we do that with the strong standard of not modifying, changing, or damaging any of the barn's historic features.

The photos at the right show a little bit of what it takes to build the stage.

This year, the set probably can't be described as "deceptively simple".  Set designer Genevieve Whitman has created two levels (a living room and an attic) of an English manor house. The action will move back and forth between the two levels.

Wednesday morning the set started to go vertical.  The stairs up to the attic and the landing at the top of the stairs were installed. (You can watch a time lapse video of the process on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=435581156465085 )

Over the next few days, the remainder of the upper level will take shape, along with walls, flooring, several doors and doorways. 

Each night, the actors are presented with a new environment in which to rehearse, one that is closer to the final product.  As the set takes shape, blocking may need to be modified and relearned, as interacting with an imaginary space defined by chalk lines is never quite the same as the space created by solid objects. This is especially true for the scenes that take place in the attic - going from acting in a space marked out with chalk at ground level to a space nine feet up in the air will be a significant change and challenge.

Master Carpenter Hannah May and the day's work. Photo by Robert Schulz.