Friday, January 29, 2010

Now for Something Completely Different

During the latter part of January, our studio was transformed into a set-making shop. Our daughter Emily is developing a new show with her theater troupe and we were been hired on as prop and set construction workers. This was all a bit new for us, but we learned fast. Emily (American), Nathalie (French) and Jofre (Spanish) comprise Théâtre de la Paupière. They have been performing a show called Decay Unlimited together for several years with quite a lot of success. You can watch an excerpt on YouTube. This year they received a grant to develop a new and more ambitious piece. They are writing a comic adaptation of Verdi's Aïda. The scenery has an Egyptian flavor. As luck would have it, Emily lives right next door to a professional set-designer who was able to give us the instructions needed to produce the set pieces. It's quite an elaborate process. You begin with pieces of thick styrene which are lightweight, yet substantial. The images which will mount on the styrene, are printed on large pieces of flame-retardant thick paper. The styrene is cut to match the images. You must embed pieces of plywood (called contreplaqué) into the front of each flat to provide a surface to attach wooden supports, handles and feet from the back. The flats are then covered both back and front with tarlatan, exactly the same material we use in the studio to wipe etching plates. This provides a matrix for plaster, which is then applied to both sides of the flat. You now have a lovely surface for applying the image, which is put on with glue. For days we were surrounded by attractive pyramids, columns and sphinxes of various sizes. Also required was the sewing of a life-sized dummy. I am not an expert seamstress and was not provided with a pattern, so I went on-line to see what directions I might be able to find. I was very fortunate to discover a fabulous doll pattern. I was able to simplify it and enlarge the pattern for my own uses. The instructions had been translated from the Chinese and were not only amusing, but completely unintelligible. Luckily the photos were plentiful and very helpful. I muddled my way through it. Emily helped with the hand sewing, which was extensive. The finished guy will have his role in the performance. The play, Improbable Aïda is due to open next weekend.

5 comments:

  1. From Adric: "How totally exciting! I'm bummed we won't be there for opening night because based on Emily's expression in that first image I know it would be one great time. The set pieces are AMAZING! They look like they popped out of an old movie or newsreel. And the dummy looks great- far better than I could ever make (and I've tried so this is said with assurance)."
    Seriously, the set pieces look awesome! Wish I could see it.

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  2. Hah! so we can now book in for courses on set design at Maison Conti? Brilliant. Any excuse, I say. Very inspiring.
    W

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  3. thanks for taking us 'backstage' very interesting and I hope they "break a leg" ;-)

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  4. Great ! and amazing ! Because it is difficult for me to tell exactly what I wd in english, I go on with french ... Une fois de plus, je suis très impressionnée par les talents de cette famille. Je crois que rien ne peut les faire renoncer ou même hésiter ! Tellement d'idées, de créativité, de travail, qui plus est semble-t-il dans l'excitation, la joie et la bonne humeur. Mille bravos à vous tous.

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  5. 我從來不認為不同意我的看法就是冒犯..............................

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