Tag Archives: Curtis Mueller
Curtis Mueller knows better than to be fooled by simplicity.
When asked to design lights for Intrepid’s production of Oleanna (which is now currently running at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre in Encinitas), he was careful not to presume that a two-person play set in the round would be an easy show to design.
“The challenge with this play is that it’s so focused on just a conversation really, one wouldn’t think that it would be that challenging,” says Curtis. ”But from a lighting perspective, you are really trying to underscore certain moments of the show, depending on that conversation.”
Having designed for Intrepid’s past productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical (2012) and Hamlet, which just closed in February, Curtis was up to the task of switching gears from these bigger ensemble pieces to Mamet’s intimate office wordplay.
“Scenically, we’re in a professor’s office, so we’re trying to figure out ways to make each scene look different, but still not going too far from reality,” he said, explaining that the lighting will play a big part in portraying both the development of the story as well as the passage of time from one act to the next.
“The opening of the show is just a simple conversation,” he says. ”The audience doesn’t know what it’s going to escalate to yet, so we have more of an isolated look to it.”
Using the idea of the office windows and playing with the amount of sunlight coming through the blinds is one way in which Curtis plans to tell the story, although without an actual window onstage to work with, this gets tricky. Enter special effects created by lighting gobos that douse the stage with dappled sunlight on cue.
“By the end of the play, the scene is fully exposed, wider and open,” says Curtis. This brighter lighting also serves to “expose” the action as the play culminates into its most heated moments.
The specifics of these lighting choices will also serve to distinguish each act. Since the actors never leave the space and the set never alters, the challenge is making sure that the audience understands that each act takes place in a different time.
“We made a point that passage of time would affect the lighting design because we don’t want to have the feeling that nothing changes at all – especially with the way the play progresses, and the characters develop, and argument continues,” he says.
Working in the round also presents its own set of challenges, as the designer has to make sure that the actors and the set are cleanly lit from all angles and from all audience perspectives. Additionally, the blocking – or the movement of the actors – is different from a traditional stage, so there is extra pressure for the lighting to be uniform no matter which direction the actor is facing.
Given these challenges, this piece is a far departure from its surface simplicity, Curtis acknowledges. ”We can really strip everything away and focus on the details,” he says. ”I’m actually excited by the simplicity of it.” – T.T.
Oleanna is a special engagement that runs through April 14 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre in Encinitas, CA. Tickets can be purchased here.
Once a show opens to the public, it is every theatre company’s hope that the performances seem effortless and smooth. However, the road to awesome is paved with…well, technical rehearsals. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical, has been fairy-wing-deep in tech rehearsals all weekend as we prepare for our first preview on August 30. For the non-thespian crowd, tech days are the very last of the rehearsals – the ones right before the first preview and right after the actors have completely finished setting their movement on the stage. During these final days, the lighting cues, sound cues, and any other technical elements of the show are layered in. These rehearsals are typically lengthier than any others, as it takes time to – not only decide what works best for each and every moment of the play – but also to actually make each and every moment happen.
Basically, it looks like this: actors waiting around to take their places on stage for particular scenes, production crew members randomly popping out of lighting grids, sound cues filtering through the speaker system at odd times during the three or four or eight hours in the theatre that day. The stage is always dark, except for the lekos and fresnels blinking through programmed cues. The stage is also quiet, so those who need to convey information to the directors or stage manager from all corners of the theatre can do so efficiently. The actors give way to the production team, who are coloring and creating the world in which they all will be living for the next four weekends.
To give a real behind-the-scenes glimpse into a technical rehearsal, though, there is only one person you need to talk to: the stage manager, aka the boss of the show once it opens. We caught up with Sharon Strich, Intrepid’s resident stage manager, and asked her to give us her moment to moment schedule from one day in her life on this technical rehearsal weekend. She obliged with one caveat: “This post might scare people.” How crazy can one day of rehearsal be? Well, for one thing, we forgot she had other things to do – like a day job.
Hold onto your seats, folks. – T.T.
A Day in the Life, by Sharon Strich – Saturday August 25, 2012
1:30am (yes, you read that right) – Wake up to do pre-rehearsal work on script and other paperwork.
4:00am – Leave for work at Starbucks.
9:20am – Finish work at Starbucks. Head to the theatre with really strong caffeine in hand.
9:45am – Set up the theatre for tech rehearsal, including my tech table, where I will live for the next few days.
10:00am – Tech rehearsal officially starts.
10:38am - Mic fittings, check fairy sound cues, organize company.
11:30am – Begin cue to cue lighting and sound rehearsal starting with Act II, scene i.
12:33pm – Break. Place glow tape on the set so the actors don’t kill themselves in the dark.
12:44pm - Continue cue to cue rehearsal, starting with Act II, scene i.
2:08pm – Break. Safety walk with John (Oberon) through his path to the catwalk during Act II, scene ii. Treacherous.
2:24pm – Continue cue to cue rehearsal, starting with Act II, scene ii.
3:21pm – Break. Check progress of the set in the shop. Coming along nicely!
3:27pm – Continue cue to cue rehearsal of Act II, scene ii.
3:54pm - Costume time!
5:00pm – Dinner break. Run for Starbucks, altoids, and chocolate; eat a sandwich for “dinner”; prep the ropes that will be moved later; talk through lighting cues with Curtis (lighting designer); talk about Puck’s pants with Christy (co-director) and Beth (costumer).
6:20pm – Continue cue to cue rehearsal, starting with Act III, scene i.
7:39pm – Break. Talk through more lighting cues with Curtis.
7:51pm – Continue cue to cue rehearsal, starting with Act III, scene ii.
9:04pm – Break. Work lighting looks for the chase sequence. Very cool.
9:18pm – Continue cue to cue, starting with Act IV, scene i.
9:46pm – Actors released. Scenic work begins with awesome members of the crew.
9:50pm - Work through lighting shifts for the chase. Magical!
10:15pm - Re-hang two upstage ropes, discuss the plan and pick a paint color for Titania’s bower, paint the wood on the ladders and the Puck nest, cover the stairs in fabric and jute, paint the ﬂoor, start to dress the Puck nest, realize we need more jute for Puck nest, hang the front curtain.
2:30am – End of day. Head home.
3:15am – Once home, write rehearsal report and send to production staff, send any necessary production related e-mails, work on paperwork.
4:00am – Find my pillow before I hit the floor, pretty sure I will hit the snooze button when my alarm goes off in two hours.