There are moments in the teaching of making theatre where we get it right. One of these was evident this past weekend in the tech rehearsal for Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” going on in the McClintock Theatre. Churchill’s script is complex and layered, and the tech elements are equally multi-faceted. The play’s synopsis published on the Samuel French website is fragmented and purposefully so, as is much of the play:
Someone sneezes. Someone can’t get a signal. Someone won’t answer the door. Someone put an elephant on the stairs.
Two of our BFA senior designers were assigned the bulk of the design areas – BFA Design senior George Austin Allen is tackling the scenic, lighting and projection design, mentored by professional Lighting and Projection Designer, Jason Thompson. BFA Sound Design senior Danielle Kisner, is designing the production’s sound, mentored by professional Sound Designer and Director of the BFA Sound Design Program, Philip G. Allen.
I assigned BFA Stage Management sophomore, Taylor Cullen, this show because I believed that she would work well with SDA Faculty member Paul Backer, the director, but also because she had proven her capabilities in managing a fairly complex workshop production last spring.
Jason Thompson, Austin’s lighting and projection mentor, in addition to bringing his considerable expertise to the table, supplemented the design technology available to Austin by providing the Watchout system on a computer temporarily on loan to SDA for this project. The school purchased a 14K Christie projector about two years ago for use in the Bing Theatre. One of the pre-tech challenges Austin dealt with was how to utilize his scenic and prop budgets, along with his very minimal lighting and non-existent projection budget, to rent the necessary lens to allow this powerful projector to be used in a much shorter throw distance in the MCC Theatre to cover all 5 of his scenic walls. The Christie projector had been purchased for use in the Bing Theatre, with a throw distance about 5 times in play here.
Watchout allows digital mapping of content, including 3-D content with Audio. While the technical capacity of this software is impressive, where I was most impressed during the tech was with the breadth of Austin’s creativity in using the software. In a show that highlights our marination in social media, 24-hour access to often horrifying news images, and a societal fascination with all things game-related, this play invites a mind-blowing array of content, which Austin and his Scenic PA, Sophomore BFA Designer Zach Blumner are curating at a fast, though notably not frenzied pace.
On the sound side, Danielle, after thematic direction from director Paul Backer, created an equally deep well of audio content. She worked this weekend on gathering her cues, editing on the computer dedicated for our sound designers, equipped with both Pro-Tools for editing the cues, and QLab for delivering them into the theatre’s speaker plot. She and Austin needed to work tightly together, to ensure that she had provided space and the appropriate timing for his videos with sound. They had an easy banter going on together. In what would be a tense time-sensitive environment, I was impressed with the respectful, sometimes playful tone they maintained with each other as well as with the stage manager, Taylor. I like to think, as would any stage manager, that this emotional room tone, for lack of a better term, is generated by the stage manager. Taylor has an ease and affable confidence when she jumps on the god mic (which is a must for maintaining a clear audibility to all parties). She addresses the actors and crew members involved in setting the upcoming scenes, as well as those on stage currently with clear instructions, then cues herself up with Austin and Danielle and Dominic, the Sound Op in the booth before launching the sequence, a dazzling array of projected titles, video and audio content.
She is supported by her ASM, Ben, a BA student with interest in stage management. Ben organized the backstage props tables and moved fluidly from backstage to Taylor’s side in the theatre. His quirky note taking system of pencil notation on the sides of his macbook pro was the best way for him to keep tabs on the preset notes people had given him backstage. I chided him that:
Some people use postits. But whatever works for you!
If you get a chance, check out Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” this weekend in the McClintock Theatre! Tickets and Information available Here!