My Oprah “Aha!” moment of the week…

This weekend I had the amazing privilege to participate in Elon’s “One Day Play” Festival. As its name portrays, the “One Day Plays” are written, produced, and performed all in a 24-hour period. While partaking, I learned a great deal from my peers, and became more aware of the creative process and about how theater works. This also included the technical aspect of theater. It dawned on me this weekend just how much tech is involved in putting on a show. As actors I think we become complacent. When we arrive for tech week, our costumes are neatly hung behind our names, each one fitting perfectly and matching the vision of the show. The set is made, and lighting cues have been well taught out and are ready to be reviewed by the director. Having such a short time to accomplish our production, many things that are usually considered technical jobs were left to the actors. After learning my blocking and lines I ran to my dorm trying to find a costume from my own wardrobe. I usually wouldn’t describe my clothes are “4th grade southern belle” appropriate. It became a real challenge to find a costume that fit my character and the vision of the director and writer.  I became easily frustrated rummaging through my own collection of clothing, and started to contact all my floor mates for pieces to borrow. I imagined that this process is something that a costume technician would deal with daily: looking through their own collection, trying to make things work, negotiating with other theaters/ costume shops, and finally budgeting to see what new material must be bought. I truly appreciate what these men and women do, as I had troubles with my very little job. Sometimes these costumers must produce over 200 costumes, if not more. After my short stint as a costume designer (haha) I wanted to research some professional costume designer of a larger Broadway scale show to get a glimpse inside their world. I found this video of Tony award-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes, and his work on the show “Legally Blonde”.  Although the video only offers a short preview of Mr. Barnes work, it gave me further insight on just how demanding this job truly is. Throughout the video Barnes talks about meeting the needs and demands of both the director, and the star of the show Laura Bell Bundy, as well as being true to the character and story. He briefly mentions a budget, declaring that mistakes are trying to be made in the sketches so that they very expensive costumes do not go to waste, which I was not aware of. Another video I watched was a preview into the costuming of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats”. In this video, wardrobe master Ron Morrison describes how each costume must be individual made and cared for. Not one piece, not even footwear, was bought from a store. Because of this, he explains, there are 3 costumers during performances, and 7 costume changers. This is a number far greater than I expected!

THE VIDEOS I WATCHED:

 

Another performance I was able to witness this week at Elon was the “Second City” improvisation group. Like the 24-hour play, tech was more limited then for a large show.  Even so, tech was still extremely important. Lights were used for comedic timing. They blacked out at the punch line of the joke. This had a great impact on the audience, making the punch line that much clearer and giving the audience a moment to process and debrief before the next sketch. Music also helped set the tone of the night. Upbeat music blasted through the speakers, keeping the mood uplifting. Just as I stated in my earlier blog, tech really helps create the mood and tone of the piece, and helps portray the meaning of the work. Tech, even on a small scale such as “Second City” or “One Day Plays”, is vital to the theater!

 

^^^A picture I took of  the “Second City” stage right before they performed!

 

 

 

 

“An actor without techies is a naked person standing in the dark…”

I think everyone one remembers seeing his or hers first professional production. Mine was Les Miserables in the West End. As the music began to play and the curtains opened, I was in utter awe. I sat in my seat shaking with excitement and tears strolling down my face. After that performance I knew that all I wanted to perform.  It was an unreal, overwhelming experience. But without hearing the actors belt “One Day More”, without the French flag waving in the background, without the barricade, without the costumes, without the gun sound effects, without the stars that shone behind Javert as he fell to his demise, the production would have been less than magical. It may have not had the lasting impression it did on my 12-year-old self, and perhaps I would not even be at Elon today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g4ekwTd6Ig

^^^Try to imagine this scene without any tech! (that includes the green makeup!! )

The technical and design element of theater, and furthermore all media, is vital. I fear that we too often give all the credit to the actors. But without a set to perform on, or lights to be seen, or a microphone to be heard, an actor really has no job.  A techie once said, “An actor without techies is a naked person standing in the dark trying to emote. A techie without actors is a person with marketable skills.”

One moment where I saw the importance of tech in theater/media that I remember vividly was in my “Introduction to Film” class. We were doing a unit on the work of Alfred Hitchcock. We were asked to watch the iconic shower scene from “Pyscho”.  Even though the movie was over 50 year old, it was still terrifying.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81qweiWqyTU

(Watch for yourself! ^^^)

The suspense sent chills up my spine. We then watched the same clip without the music. This time, the same exact scene almost seemed comical. The message of the scene was lost, thus there is no purpose. We use theater/media to emote emotions, to learn, to feel, to understand the message of the work. Without technical production this is utterly impossible. Tech production is imperative to the art form, and we all could learn to appreciate it even more.

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