Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of OZ has always been one of my favorites, It was wonderful designing the sets for this show, Perhaps because of a childhood listening to Judy Garland sing, and an avid love of technicolor. This production was the Wichita Theatre's "summer spectacular" for 2013.

(Uncle Henry, Dorothy, Toto, Aunty Em, the porch of the farm house circa 1939.)

My projects included-
  • The Kansas farm house and cellar
  • A busted chicken incubator 
  • Professor Marvel's Gypsy Wagon
  • The interior of the Wicked Witches castle
  • All the set dressing and props
The Kansas Farm House-
True to the classic, our stage production started out in a drab world of "sepia tone". I was worried that I would be forced to use a black and white color pallet (which can become boring in a hurry), but after reviewing the film I noticed all of the wonderful warm tones in various shades of sepia. I wanted to take a more "realistic" depression era approach to the farm house than MGM's signature " dusty white, one story Greek revival: home showed in the movie.  I ended up calling this style "rural decay" and I think what made it such a GREAT piece (my favorite) was all of the patinas working together.
(Farm house in early pre-paint stage.)
Originally there was supposed to be a solid roof over hang on the porch, but I like the way the shadows were cast from the supports so we left it at that.  
My inspiration for the weathered paint on the farm house, actually came from a viewing of  The History Channels "Hatfield & McCoy's" I spotted this door on the McCoy homestead and loved its weathered look.  I new I could replicate the same effect with paint, using a dark gray base coat and a bristle brush (off of a broom).
Here the rafters has been painted white, and the weathered paint technique has been completed. To imitate clap board we used a 1"x6" board and a large permanent marker (this is a three person job), to create a 3D look I used real windows and stapled lace onto the "insides" before screwing them to the exterior wall.  Then using brown paint and a sponge I dry brushed the rafters to have the same dirty patina as the screen door.
The weathered "front door" to the farm house and windows all had matching vertical lines (that door is actually going to be the back door to the Casablanca's new addition) I left the door chippy and weathered, the glass in the door and windows were naturally layered in dust and we left it as such, (a nod to the Dust Bowl of the 1930's.)
The floor front porch was then covered in weathered 1"x6" fence wood to give it a real front porch feel. The wooden crate table and two chairs harmonized with the brown tones in white paint. The carefully planed decay of this set piece is what made it my favorite.
The cellar received the same paint effects as the house, and incorporated more of the weathered 1"x6" boards for the door.
(This thing appears as if it could withstand a tornado!)
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 The broken chicken incubator-
For the busted chick incubator we built a rectangular box with a lid that I covered in corrugated tin and barn wood. Pretty simple, I know that at some point some frustrated prop master will be Googl-ing sets for Wizard of Oz and will steal these ideas. (If you do just email me for permission and send me pictures of your production!) One of the HARDEST props to come up with was the score of "baby chicks" that Aunty Em and Uncle Henry are scooping out of the incubator while talking to Dorothy.
I found a terrific answer to this problem by cutting up tiny pieces of yellow foam rubber. An audience member only sees them for a split second and you don't have to keep live chickens! (a win-win for everyone!)
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Professor Marvels Gypsy Wagon-
(Professor Marvel reads the unknown from his crystal ball.)
All of the lettering and decoration was done free handed with either a sponge or a small brush. If you look closely you will notice that the lettering is maroon and white...IN A SEPIA WORLD?! Well yes, I wanted to play a little trick on the audiences mind, have you ever watched an old black and white movie for so long that at points you see things turn blue, or red?  Well by this point in the show the audience has spent 15 minuets in the drab, melodramatic, and dusty world of Dorothy Gale.  It worked too!
(Notice the "Oz" emblem painted in the peak of the eve, 
this is what we call foreshadowing...)
The bottom half of the cart I cannot take credit for, (it is from a past production of "Fiddler on the Roof") the top I built using 2"x4"s and plywood.  I have to say one of my favorite props was in this scene, the Crystal Ball! 
It was a real glass ball I found in an antiques store and even from way out in the audience it was mesmerizing.
*  *  *
The Interior of the Wicked Witches Castle-
This part of the set had lots of favorite pieces of mine, pretty basic paint job of free form stones.
(Witches castle prior to painting)
 The door entering the room was covered in weathered 1"x6" boards, and I used an old towel hangar as the door pull.
One of my two most favorite things on this set is pictured above, the huge hour glass that Dorothy fearfully watches in the Wicked Witches absence. This prop gave me nightmares, because A) Where the heck does on get a GIANT hour glass, and B) The movie prop look a likes cost upwards of $600.00 (just a tiny bit out of my budget) So one day after discovering the ruins of the hour glass the theatre used in the last production (two, three liter plastic bottles taped together with sand in them) I was determined to come up with a longer lasting, less fragile alternative.
Again for all you prop and set stealers that flock to my blog, what you see here in a combination of  two plastic sand buckets, two plunger heads, two wooden stool seats, and three spindles of stair railing. It stands 22" tall and 11" across, it does NOT however actually drop sand...
Because of the no sand factor, when I painted the hour glass I did it in such a way that you cannot tell weather sand is falling or standing still. I am so pleased with how it turned out, (Considering the vague plan I had to put it together) it has been one of the most talked about pieces in the show!
  *  *  *
My second favorite thing in the Witches castle was the fireplace!
I repainted it from what it looked like in the picture below, to have the stone columns and the "Oz" crest on. All done free hand in about five minuets time.
(Fireplace before, bad picture I know.)

I love to paint!

The Props-
For the merry old land of Oz I chose to go with the 1938 crest design pictured above on the mirror.  I put it on everything I could!

 (On the gates of the Emerald City)
The Tin Mans Heart-
I formed the heart using cardboard and masking tape, it took a little time but it was fairly easy to do.

For the munchkin coroners 'certificate of death' scroll I used a piece of muslin, using pencil I outlined the lettering and border.

We also used glitter in a bucket to act as "water" dousing the witch-

It has been a wonderful production and I have enjoyed it thoroughly,  I'm starting to notice this years over all set theme at the theatre is "Decay" Im REALLY looking forward to West Side Story this fall.  Now I am off the yellow brick road and on to my next project, Walt Disneys stage production of "Cinderella".



JessicaLea Texas Kitsch said...

As usual Great Job Mick!! I love everything Wizard of oz, I got to see Wicked at the Dallas Summer Musicals in Fair Park this year. I love all the different takes on such as classic.

Dana@Mid2Mod said...

Mick, you did another fantastic job! I'm so impressed with what you pull together on a budget. You're amazing.

Witchcrafted Life said...

Awesome job, Mick! This instantly makes me think of grade two, because my elementary school put on a production of the Wizard of Oz that year. I sooo wanted to play Dorothy, but the role was only open to auditions from grade seven students, so like the rest of the grade two students who took part, I was relegated to the role of a munchkin. Oh well, it was still a blast and my parents took me out a fancy dinner afterwards (which virtually never happened when I was little) and I got to try my first (virgin, of course!) strawberry margarita that night, so it's all good! :)

Speaking of drinks, I'm thrilled to know that you and your guests enjoyed the recipe for Raspberry Mint Crush so much, that's wonderful!

Have a stellar August!!!
♥ Jessica