Sunday, January 29, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock - set design

Last year: Alice in Wonderland, this year:  Schoolhouse Rock.  Initially, I was excited to be designing the set for this play - I remember the Schoolhouse Rock videos from when I was a kid, and I still have a a few of those songs in my head.  I bought the DVD when I began teaching and I hummed a few bars of a couple of of the songs for my students when they popped into my head (most often, "... a noun is a person place or thing").  I thought I'd be making 9 paper mache planets (thank goodness THAT didn't pan out - TOO time consuming!) for the skit involving Interplanet Janet.

Once the school year started, however, and all sorts of other activities kicked into high gear, set design took a back burner.  Now February is looming, and I have just about one month to pull all this together, so here's my plan:

After creating last year's set, I learned a lot.  First, I must say, I LOVED how the mushrooms came out. They were a HUGE amount of work, however, and I'm not sure they were worth it, considering how far in the background most of them were.  A friend of mine lectured me on this as I was making them, and she was right.  Here's a picture:
Two things disappointed me with this set:  1.  Under the lights, everything looks so FLAT.  And 2. I was just not filling up that verticle space. With that in mind, when the director told me that Schoolhouse Rock is pretty much a one set play, I determined to figure out how to use that verticle space. 

The stage does have "fly space" the space above where you can see - by the lights all the way up to the ceiling.  It also has the necessary bar for hanging scenery the scenery on, however, there's one problem.  the bar is supposed to move up and down, and it doesn't.  The company that installed it, installed it as a stationary bar.  Oh well.

But for a one-set play, this is not a problem.  The set is supposed to be a classroom - the play is about a teacher on the morning of the first day of school, worrying about his first day.  The director thought, a bunch of chalk boards, and I think some chalk boards are cool, but not enough.  I thought a couple of LARGE, flat rectangles hanging from the ceiling could be like posters on the wall of the class.  The construction guy (a different one from last year's guy) agreed that this would not be a problem.  The one on the left is going to be a large map of the United States, and the one on the right (a long rectangle, hanging vertically) is going to be the American flag, with either the Pledge of Allegiance or the Preamble to the Constitution written underneath (there is a skit involving the Preamble - it's one of the songs I still have in my head after 30 or so years). My other, standing pieces will be a drawing of a person's circulatory system, some artfully drawn adjectives, and definitely a few "chalk boards" with things like "Do Now..." and maybe "Describe your Favorite Summer Vacation Memory" written on them. 

There are going to be some desks in the front, painted in crazy colors.  The custodial staff found some old ones in the basement that are not going to be used anymore, so we have permission to paint them. 

Other than those things my only major task is to create 9 planets (Pluto was still a planet back in the 70s) and a sun.  Create them so they are up in the air.  And they light up.  My plan is to make them out of wire, cover the wire shapes with fabric batting, spray paint the batting in appropriate colors...  and mount them on long poles.  Mounted to the pole inside each planet is going to be one or more strings of battery operated Christmas lights. 

I made a test one (although I didn't spray paint my test one) and they look AWESOME.  Now, I am just worrying that someone will accidentally bash a pole into something important.  Like someone else's head.  I bought poles that are long enough so they can sit on the floor - I thought they'd be easier to handle that way.

I have a lot of things to do, to put it bluntly.  I have about 26 kids who want to be on stage crew, though, so I'm trying to work it out so they can do most of the work. I'm splitting them up into 3 teams for construction, and based on the fact that I washed out a LOT of paintbrushes last year that I didn't use, I made a poster of stage crew rules. 

Tomorrow, I bring my supplies to work, and Tuesday, I start working with the kids.  I'll keep you posted.  Wish me luck!

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