Monday, November 7, 2016

One of Our Best Play Productions

Good job, CountryPlace Players!! This was one of our best play productions, definitely in the top 10 for staging, production quality, acting, set design, costumes/makeup/wigs. It's so satisfying to be a part of good volunteer works such as this.

My role, as always, was to work in the sound/light booth, designing the lighting, sourcing and preparing the sound effects, and putting it all together throughout the 6 weeks of rehearsals leading up to opening weekend.

The sheer number of sound effects required for this play put it in the top three all time busiest play productions...up there with our original productions of Black and White TV and The Carol Burnett Show.

I started working on assembling the sound effects as soon as I received my copy of the script. I got to work culling through the accumulated library of sound effects used in past productions and sourced what I didn't already have. Then I had to choose the music I'd used for the transitions, entr'acte, and start of the first and second acts. Finally, I needed to choose the music I'd use for the curtain call.

The play script called for music that was "dark and somber" for the scene openers and transitions. I chose to use Pictures At An Exhibition No. 8 "Catacombs" second part: Cum mortuis in lingua mortua (M. Mussorgsky), and found a particularly good passage that would work really well for the scene transitions in the second act. I used the first 30 seconds of this composition for the opener, and edited a nice 2 minute segment to use during the scene change in the first act.

That done, I got to work assembling all of the various "thunder" and "rain" sound effects from my sound effect library, chose a handgun shot sound effect from that library, and purchased a hand bell sound effect.

Then it was time to get to work on the playbill and the play poster. For years I'd been offering my professional graphic design skills to do these items but my offers were always turned down. Another resident had been doing them for a number of years. Her skills were "basic clip art" and resulted in very homemade efforts: 8x11 sheets of inkjet printer output glued onto a piece of poster board. It always saddened me to see these, knowing that I could produce professional quality posters for only the cost of a print vendor poster output. The same is true for the playbills.

But finally, The elderly woman who had been doing these for so many years had become too frail and infirm to continue and my opportunity came with our previous production, "Tuna Gets CountryPlace-ified." This established my reputation and credentials and now, for this production, I was again in charge of the poster and playbill.

I did a simpler, lower-res version of the poster for a hand bill, so that Publicity could share it around at the various clubs and other events.

Rehearsals got underway, the actors gradually learned their lines enough to go off-book, and I worked out the logistics of working the sound/light booth by myself. Usually there are two of us working the booth, but a series of circumstances led to my having no one to help in the booth. This was going to be a particularly "busy" play, sound/lights booth-wise, with the sheer number of sound effects, lighting changes, microphone cycling. But with practice and a heavily annotated script, I was able to work out the sequences to manage it all by myself.

They started building the set, and I went over there to consult with the team about some of the special effects - moonlight, lightning, "lit" fireplace. The crew were working hard creating a really effective and nicely designed set.

Dress rehearsal went surprisingly well. Usually it's a "clutch" moment, with actors being particularly forgetful of lines, and a number of glitches and mistakes are made, all considered to be good luck for the actual performance opening night. But this dress rehearsal was different, so we were all hoping it was not a bad omen.

I took a quick trip back stage before opening night, to capture some of the actors getting ready.

Jim playing the role of Bensonhurst the butler

Barbara G. playing the role of Culpepper the director..
and also the real life director of our play

Eddie playing the role of Fiona

Jan playing the role of Nancy the maid

Les playing the role of Starkweather

Barbara O. playing the role of Minerva the cook

View from the sound/light booth on opening night:

Really well done production!

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