Monday, March 7, 2011

Hey, Tom Sawyer!

I apologize for my two week absence, I can already tell you to expect that about every other month when I'm working on a show. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer- the musical has been a blast though, I can honestly say (as I most likely will for every current show I'm A part of) that this shows sets are my favorite. We really got to pull out all the stops, make things historically correct, and yes get a little 'White Wash' on my clothes in the process. The setting for this show is pretty simple "St.Petersburg Missouri, in the mid 1840's" My projects included...
Exterior of a School house,
Interior of a School House,
Exterior of a Church
Interior of a Church
Along with a list of period props and other things to set dress as long as my arm!

Once again, I rushed in and didn't get a before picture. Before the red was painted that entire wall looked like the three rows of stone at the bottom.
For the look of the school how could I not go with the classic "Little Red School House". Using a kitchen sponge and black paint I went back and detailed the stones around the base, what a difference a little black paint and ten minuets can make!
The interior of the School House was one of my favorite things to research and create. In the 1840's there wasn't much to a schoolroom.  Here you see the very last look as the "Salon" in Cinderella's house.
In fact the day after Cinderella closed the cast of Tom Sawyer was up at the theater painting away!
Early on I decided that the inside of the Schoolhouse and court room were going to be very bland colors gray, white, & brown. Reason being is I wanted to convey that these places are boring to Tom verses the vivid colors of the outdoor parts of the set.
A gray wainscot, a little brown chair rail, to achieve the look of clapboard walls we used a 1"x6" and a large sharpie maker to make the lines. After the clapboard was drawn I went back and aged the entire set by lightly dry brushing brown on the walls.
To further send the point that the outside world is much more exciting than a stuffy classroom, we painted the "windows" with a vivid blue, to contrast with the white and gray.
 (The finished Product!)
Highlights include, the 43 star American Flag, and the (new) period pendulum "school" clock.
(The days French Lesson, circa 1843)
(Presidents Taylor & Washington.)
School is now in session! I think im really starting to get the point across to people "just a few really good period props can make all the difference".  However the work goes on, with the school house finished inside and out, next up as the Church, previously  shown here as the exterior of Cinderellas house.
We wasted no time and started painting, if you haven't figured it out by now this set was about 95% paint effects haha!
(Mary, Co-captain of the set dressing team 'paints the town red')
Since all white washed clapboard is period, but boring a row of hedges was added using a paint brush I first made the stems.
Next with a kitchen sponge I first did a dry brush base of light green.
Then after drying when back with a darker green smearing a touch of gray here and there until I got the desired effect.
At this point I felt the church needed a few more windows,
I later found this illustration of the interior of the church in a 1955 copy of Tom Sawyer.
 (Arch windows and clapboard walls, Damn I'm good!)
That paired with coincidental costuming led to the recreating of this picture, what is it they say "Art imitating life?'  I give you our version of...
 "American Gothic"
 Never a dull moment around this joint...

 I also added an "iron fence" to the grave yard adjacent to the church using a 1"x6" board and a sharpie marker.

Here again is the very last picture of Cinderella's Kitchen, I owe more to that 'little corner'  and the people who helped me get there than most  will even know.

The Church interior was painted to match the that of the classroom as both sets will open up to form one large courtroom. For a special effect for the church I wanted to add a stain-glass window that would light up, this was accomplished using white butcher paper, and that trusty kitchen sponge I keep telling you about! I first drew the pattern of the glass out with a pencil.
Then using the sponge I lightly brushed on cream colored paint, then a light yellow then streaked orange until it started looking like stain-glass, it was then laminated to last.
 I made a funeral spray and a casket piece for the almost funeral of Tom, Huck, & Becky. The spray was made from a Christmas wreath and some old silk roses.
 The casket piece that sits on top of the pulpit was done with a Styrofoam circle and silk flowers.
(Casket piece)
Put it all together and your right inside a rural 1840's church.

For the Courtroom we reused the basics of the Cinderella set, but look at what a difference a little paint can make!
In just two weeks time we went from 1697 to 1843!
The Courtroom is made from both the classroom and church sets, we accomplished the look of a similar but different building by using the uniform clapboard and wainscot. There are small props removed from both sets, such as a few books and an apple in the classroom, and the Jesus pictures and stain-glass window from the church. As well as adding a few tables a judges bench and having the two sided black/green chalkboard gives the illusion that it is a different board in a different place.
(Tuckahoe County Court, Case # 53, State Vs. Potter, July 1, 1843)
Quite possibly my FAVORITE and most dramatic part of the Courtroom that I came up with, is the break away window. During the trial when Tom testifies that Injun Joe is the one who murdered the Doctor, Injun Joe yells "YOU"RE DEAD BOY" and breaks through the window.
This was accomplished by using blue fabric lightly staples in the frame of the window and making thin would cross pieces for the window frame, it worked really well and it looks great when Joe smashes through the window!

As part of my set dressing job, I help get things just so so in order to bring the stage to life. I truly love creating the world that the actors get to play in ( fixing all this stuff up is half the fun!). Here's what the fullstage looks like.
The sleepy little town of St. Petersburg Missouri, School, Church, and River dock.
The River Dock was a project that both Director Joe Reed and I worked on. He fixed all the old weathered wood onto the planks, I added rope here and there and built/painted the boat you see on the far side of the dock.
(Hehe, take a good look at the boats name)

I am absolutely thrilled at how this production has turned out, its a shame it only lasts for two weekends.Once again as I sit here typing this post out it makes everything we do seem so easy, it might not look like much but it takes everything we've got! I'm forgetting to show pictures of the "Cave set" that Joe all but single handedly painted and put together.
(the pictures are always to dark to show up, but I assure you with the proper lighting its awe inspiring!)
Yet again we've upped the quality of the show and it's really paid off! I've been told that its "The best Jr. show set they have ever had" and once again its wowing the patrons. I owe a LOT of thanks to the following people.
(The Team! Patricia/Aunt Polly, Bryson/ Huck Finn, Myself/ Set Dresser Extraordinaire, Sheldon/ Injun Joe, & Joe/ Judge Thatcher)

Of course the team, but a special thanks to the director (Joe) for staying with us until 1:00am -2:00am in the morning the last week, I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to work with you. Larry for building the bones of the set, Mary for coming out to paint, Chris for all the other scenery, the cast, and anyone else that may have in some way lent a helping hand, Thank You everyone!
*  *  *
One last thing, and then I will wrap this blog up. Since I could find no record album of "Tom Sawyer the musical" I had the cast sign this 1955 limited addition copy I picked up at a garage sale when I was about ten, soon to be on display at the Casablanca.
I think we can all agree with this message from our sponsors...

("Ain't Life Fine, Here at Mick's!")


1950s Atomic Ranch House said...

Congrats again! Looks like it was a blast!

Keep doing theater, I'll expect to see you out here in Hollywood any time soon, working on large productions and starring in big plays! =D

Amber Von Felts said...

As always, I'm blown away by your ingenuity! Great job good sir!

Jim said...

You are having too much fun at this Mick! And doing an excellent job along the way!
What good experience for you....and I agree with '1950's' you are well on your way.