I had the opportunity to be the Scenic Designer for my wife who was the teacher/director for an after school drama class at Seattle Country Day School. She taught 2nd-3rd grade and 6th-8th grade students. The drama class culminated in a performance at the end of the quarter. The school had a small stage with 12 lighting instruments. The stage had six flats that rotated. I did scenic, sound, and lighting design with a budget of around $100 per quarter.
This was my favorite set design for Seattle Country Day School. It was the 2nd-3rd graders’ performance of Peter Rabbit. The play had three locations: Rabbit’s Den, McGregor’s Garden, and a path between the two. The Rabbit’s Den was inside a hallowed out tree. I put fabric on two of the flats to create the inside of the tree. To add dimension I built brackets that enabled the fabric to form a small 2′ roof over the flats. McGregor’s Garden was surrounded by a hedge. I sponge painted on butcher paper and attached it to three flats to create the length of the garden. I built a gate for the kids to “open” to get into the garden. The vegetable garden became one of my favorite features of this set. I created felt vegetables on pipe cleaners, then drilled holes in a brown fabric covered 2×4 so the vegetables could be planted and then picked during the play. My wife and I have kept the board and vegetables for our kids to play with!
The 2nd and 3rd graders performed an adaptation of four of Aesop’s Fables: The Tortoise and the Hare, Belling the Cat, The Fox Without a Tail, and The Crow and the Pitcher. I found illustrations from classic versions of each fable then projected, traced, and painted characters from each story onto butcher paper. The illustrations were attached to a flat panel. Before each fable, the flat with the illustration(s) was turned to appear to the audience, while the other flats remained black.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream had the challenge of needing to take place both in the city/palace and out in the forest. I covered the back flats with a slightly textured brown fabric that could function as a generic back wall in the city or trees for the forest. When in the palace I had the red main curtain pulled on stage slightly. I rigged a makeshift pulley system to drop some green fabric for the treetops when we were in the forest and pull them back up when we came back to the palace. Additionally, the back flats all had the ability to rotate, so for the forest scenes all the flats were slightly angled to give an appearance of trees and the audience could see the characters coming out of the forest.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Because of the necessity of many locations both outside and inside of Wonka’s factory, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the most complex design I did at Seattle Country Day School. I started off with a cityscape on the flats with Wonka’s factory up on the hill in the distance. For each room inside the factory, one of the flats would rotate to reveal a colored panel with an element of that room traced on it. I added additional set pieces where needed to further define or support the action in the rooms. The space had a scrim type white fabric already rigged up in the space so I was able to drop that down for the scene in the Bucket house. Lastly, I was able to borrow a few PAR cans to add more stylized lighting to the oompa-loompa scenes that happened after every room in the factory. There were quite a few technical elements in this show, and while it was complicated, the students really had fun with it!