Reaping the Rewards of the Collection

By Charles T. Jackson

“Alice in Wonderland” was with out a doubt the most colorful show that I had done to date, and it was a lot of fun.

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But as with many other shows, mostly all of the set pieces used had to be fabricated from new materials. Sadly in this process some set pieces were fabricated on foam core insulation panels that rendered the pieces useless after the run and had to be trashed. The mushrooms, trees, and Rabbit’s house in both sizes however were built in a way that assured that they will be available for many shows to come. My next project however, would involve minimal colors, predominantly white with red accents, and would be the first set that I was able to stage without fabricating any foundation pieces as I had saved and stored everything that I had built to date. The hard part was trying to figure out what to paint over, and what to save for future shows.
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It was not an easy decision, but the very “Beauty and the Beast” specific flats, and the non window flats from “12 Angry Men”  were the flats I chose to paint over. My other choices were block walls that can be used in almost any show that had a castle or dungeon, or the canvas flats from “Annie”. By this time in my development, I had realized how high maintenance painting, using, transporting and storing canvas flats were so the choices were limited.

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The only thing that had to be fabricated new for this fairly large set for our Middle School production of “High School Musical” was the railing on the stairs and edges of the levels. That was a win in the area of the set budget!! The eight foot level was from “Urinetown” as were the stairs and stairs base, and the four foot level was from “Joseph”. The five flats were re-purposed from the shows mentioned above and even the basketball hoop was adopted from a home that had outgrown it’s use. While this design would have been quite a handful, and based on the expression the director had when she asked for it she anticipated problems, but as every piece, stair, and level are modular, it went up in just a couple of hours. When the show was over, this set was struck AND STORED in one hour and 30 minutes. Not a single piece of this set was discarded. I really suspected that I was on to something good with the modular design of these set pieces but it wasn’t until this show that I realized just how much easier this streamlined approach was going to make the process. We were able to put that set, that if built from scratch would have cost the school in the area of $500.00 to $700.00 in materials alone, for absolutely no cost at all. It was the ideal theatrical WIN/WIN and I was very glad to have had anything at all to do with it!! In my next post, I’ll discuss how I handled a request from the directors regarding having almost no movable sets whatsoever on the stage due to a large number of participants. Thanks for stopping by.