Monday, April 11, 2011

The Blog Is Alive, With The Sound of Music!

Well Readers,
 I'm still here! "The Sound of Music" has literally taken every spare second of my time, as well as everyone else involved for the last two weeks (were talking some 5:15 P.M. -5:30 A.M. work nights!) The planning for the sets however, started in February for me. You see this is not the Wichita Theater's first production of "The Sound of Music", the last time the show was put on was in the spring of 2007 seen here.
 (2007 S.O.M. Production)
When given the opportunity to do the sets for the show, I had one thing that ALWAYS bugs me about Community Theater productions of "The Sound of Music", that being the Von Trapp Villa... in real life the villa is a towering six stories and on stage in most productions we are lucky to see six feet high. I was determined to make this set better than the last productions and bring to life a without a doubt beleivable stage version of the Von Trapp Villa! So I took out my trust pencil & ruler and started drawing up plans.
(Seen here are the bare bones of the Von Trapp Villa, a towering 20 feet 7 inches high! literally a two story house on stage.)
I had a very stylized idea of how I wanted the Von Trapp Villa to look along with the use of color. On a set color choices can make or break the entire feeling of a show, I choose a monochromatic color scheme of blue using a light blue (later nicknamed "I wish my mother were alive blue") for the base coat and and dark blue (nicknamed "Dead Mother Blue) for the detail wainscot.  The paint colors received these nicknames due to the fact that from the time I opened the paint I had to constantly explain the concept of "all blue" to people. My reason for picking blue, I wanted to make the villa as "cold" but elegant as possible by using the varying shades of blue and painting the spindles in the banister metallic silver just makes them gleam like winter ice.  The other reason(s) - Captain Von Trapp was a sea captain and the sea is most times blue. Also with the Children's mother having passed away I wanted to create a mood of sadness, a blue mood if you will... Many times when people would ask "why is the house blue?" I would snap back at them in frustration "BECAUSE THEIR MOTHERS DEAD THAT'S WHY!" haha!
In a later sketch the wainscot was changed to a different style and a center door was added.
(you can see the new entryway to the grand hall in the top right corner of the sketch.)
I must say it was quite a thrilling sight when I came to the theater one night and the set construction crew Larry and his son Bryson had the studs up for the first and second floor.
 (Bryson about 10 feet up in the air)
I will confess, while I can design and paint and fix things up all day long, i'm pretty much worthless when it comes to construction, luckily we have the amazing Larry Petersen to do that! so while he and his son Bryson hammered away I got to work with the staple gun.
Another pet peeve of mine that you are all aware of is "repeats" we used this couch in "It's A Wonderful Life" in George and Marys house.  It was the closest thing we had on hand at the theater that could pass for "mansion furniture" So I went and got four and a half yards of this blue fabric, and after about an hour and numerous staples later...
I reupholstered two other chairs to match in a dark and light blue striped fabric, I wanted to make the grand hall of the villa understated yet elegant and did so with only four pieces of furniture the sofa, two chairs and a standing "study" globe. The finishing touch to the VonTrapp hall (and perhaps most elegant) is the floor. I found this picture of a 16 point nautical star parquet floor.
I showed it to set team member Chris, who sketched it out on a grid.
 Then set team Co-Captain Joe drew the pattern out on the floor using chalk, we then painted in the stair using the same light blue and dark blue from the grand hall walls.
(Joe sketching  and painting!)
The whole time I was putting the Grand Hall pieces together I had several doubtful people coming up to me saying things like "That's an awful lot of blue..."  "Are you going to put any other colors in?"  and each time I just had to tell them to trust me. They might not of been able to see what I did, and I cant tell you how many times I had to explain what a monochromatic color scheme was but as you can see it all came together beautifully.
The costumes departments work compliments the set so well, and the actors have plenty of room to work.

I love everything about this set, the colors, the dynamic, and the fact that it can honestly pass for a hall in a mansion!  My favorite scene in the Grand Hall comes just before intermission when Captain VonTrapp throws a dinner for the Baroness, everyone is in there dressed in tux's and evening gowns...
 When they light the room in blue and the couples begin to waltz, well, its like being in a dream. Its moments like this on stage that I live for.

 It's one thing to draw these pieces of a set out on paper, and picture them in your mind. There's just something so thrilling about seeing these things come to life! I've pictured gran parties in my head such as this one for as long as I can remember,  and im extremely proud of how visually dynamic the all around set is.
I choose a soft yellow and white scheme for Maria's room, although it's rather plain it feels like the more welcome room in the towering Von Trapp Villa (symbolic of the way Maria warms the hearts of the children & Captain). I thought it fitting to use an old pair of  curtains to make the European style canopy over the headboard (you'd be amazed at what you can re-purpose and use in the theater!)
Still on the estate of the Von Trapp Villa a quick scene change later we find Captain Von Trapp and the Baroness out on the terrace of the villa.
(Check the vintage Victorian "Greek" style patio set)
(But before a cozy moment can be shared by the Captain and Baroness, enter down stage left seven nosiy children and their governess. Take a good look at the festive clothes they are wearing, that's right readers, they are the curtains from Maria's bedroom! (Not that you were unaware of the plot line before now) Its moments from now that the captain rediscovers his love for the sound of music.
Last but not least, and quite possibly the most memorable set piece from the movie we have the gazebo...
Before I go on let me tell you what happened, the opening Friday of the show I had to work and could not get off to help do finishing touches. I stopped in a few times at the theater and did what I could, but I couldn't do it all. Before I left there was a discussion about bringing "garden lattice" on set. I expressed my feelings that it would look tacky and they they would not have had American 4x8 panels of lattice in 1938 Austria. None the less they were put up and the gazebo was decorated for opening night, this is the first picture.
A good attempt but not a lot going, another standard I quote to myself all the time while working on sets is "just because its community theater doesn't mean the setting has to reflect that" meaning, just because its all volunteer work doesn't give any excuse to doing things so/so when they could be spectacular.
So before the Saturday show the next day I reworked a few things on the gazebo, I added more hanging vines to the trellis (which I still don't feel 100% about) I also took the pink cherry blossom trees out of there stands and made them into bushes. People are open to their own opinions as art is subjective, but I feel it looks better. The perfect place for Rolf to court young Leisel after dinner...
(Rolf makes deliveries on the 1940's bicycle from the Casablanca.)

That about wraps up the major projects, of course I had scads of vintage props to find, and making sure everything worked whit everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed working with the director Kim H. She stayed as late (if not later) than the set crew to help get things done, and as you can see it was a totally WONDERFUL outcome of  teamwork and dedication to the show. We earned ourselves a shining review that you all can read here from the local paper, The set were mentioned three times and I can smile with satisfaction from this one line-

"This is a well thought-out, well put-together production: Magnificent, wondrous scenic design (the pretty stained-glass window in the abbey, the grandeur of the Von Trapp house, with its grand staircase and towering front door), and the perfect costumes,the details are all there."

The stain glass window was the work of four very talented people kudos to them!, the costuming department as you've seen got everything picture perfect, and I owe a TON of thanks to everyone who helped (Especially Mr. Peterson and his son Bryson on set construction) I dreamed up and drew all this stuff out, but it never would have been possible with out everyone's help! I owe most of the end result to these fine people picture below!

(The Team! Patricia, Sheldon, Me, Bryson, Chris, Joe, & Kim)

*  *  *
I also found an original 1959 cast recording of "The Sound of Music" starring Mary Martin, and this is what I had the cast sign!

Once again as simple as i've made all of this sound, it took a tremendous amount of work on everyone's part and I cannot thank then enough! We on set dressing crew have nicknamed the show "The Sound of Madness"  but it has been loads of fun and I look forward to working with Director Kim Harris later this year on "The Chronicles of Narnia (lion, witch, & wardrobe) The Musical", So until next post-

"So long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen .... well you get the picture...."



Kitty said...

What incredible work you have done Mick, I hope you are very proud of yourself. I wonder if this is future career for you??

Unknown said...

Love this post! I was speechless when the curtain went up...the Von Trap villa was just unbelievably amazing, as are all your sets! I love reading the story of how it all came together; I know it's crazy amounts of work. You get better and better with every set! I am, as you know, SUCH a fan!!

Jim said...

Mick, this always makes me kind of regret not getting involved in community theatre years ago....never too late though I guess.
Good job, as usual, and great to see how it all comes together.
You mentioned that you 'work' as if if isn't! What else do you do Mick?

Amber Von Felts said...

That is by far the most impressive set you have made! The mansion looks so darn mansion-y! I love the tall set. It was a great design and I am glad to see that it was brought to life so perfectly. It really does look like a dream when it is all lit up. I thought the Dead mother blue was hilarious too! I give this set a standing ovation!