The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

How do you deal with a stage that is above eye level?

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by Painterspoon, Jun 17, 2017.

  1. Painterspoon

    Painterspoon Member

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    High School arts/tech head and director
    Location:
    Near Peterborough, Ontario
    I work in your typical high school that has a cafetorium. The stage is above the floor 40" and the audience is in the caf space. Nothing is raked.

    My recent shows have use a lot of risers...if nothing can be raked, at least I can use levels on the stage to add some interest and keep the cast visible and dynamic.

    I can't move things to the floor because my lights are definitely restricted to the stage space itself (no side booms).

    I can't add bleachers to the caf section - it's school cafeteria by day, theatre by night

    Curious to hear how you deal with this!
     
  2. bobgaggle

    bobgaggle Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    545
    Likes Received:
    107
    Occupation:
    Shop Foreman
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    if you're speaking strictly from a scenic standpoint, a rake is the way to go, you're saying you're not allowed to build a rake?
     
  3. Painterspoon

    Painterspoon Member

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    High School arts/tech head and director
    Location:
    Near Peterborough, Ontario
    We have no shops in the school and a limited budget. I think a rake would require materials and money and time beyond what we can afford. The other issue is our pit is on the stage (it's Cabaret we're looking at next).
     
  4. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    781
    Occupation:
    Consultant
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    I would beg borrow steal to play your levels out into the room more than build them up back into the stage space. If that means you have to do something creative with the lighting or lean more heavily on a couple spot ops (assuming you have spots) then that's how you make up for the lack of lighting. Find a way to get your hands on some strip lighting or build some DIY footlights or dress some Home Depot work lights up as foot lights. Stage the general acting down low and block the more theatrical scenes on stage under lighting you have a little more control of.

    FWIW, in my high school days when we did this show we built a thrust out off of our stage and parked some high tops near it. Some parents worked out the details on serving beverages and finger food to these tables and the seats were sold at a higher ticket price. Adds to the ambiance and gives you a little extra revenue to play around with for the show should you go this route.

    Cabaret's a show where you really want the performers to be able to come in and out of the audience and be close to the crowd. Any compromises in the visual elements can easily be made up for by the improved audience experience. Provided you have a cast and a director committed to having some fun with it who know how to break a good 4th wall now and then. If the ambiance is right and the production plays to the strengths of having a more intimate engagement with the audience, an audience will be very forgiving about what the lighting and scenery looks like.

    I call it the Inverse Law of Literalism. As effort to make something look perfect or literally like it would in real life increases, the audience's tendency to forgive any/all imperfections or shortcomings decreases.
     
  5. Painterspoon

    Painterspoon Member

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    High School arts/tech head and director
    Location:
    Near Peterborough, Ontario
    I love it: "The Inverse Law of Literalism"! That takes SO much pressure off everything! I do have two boom stands (have to weigh them down with multiple sandbags) that I could use to bring more lighting out to the thrust (bought some of those risers a few years ago). I've already planned to have the cabaret tables be comprised of alumni willing to be in costume and our local older adult association actors also willing to be in costume. I really want to use footlights. All I have currently are Christmas floodlights I keep buying when they go on sale. I'm glad they actually work with my dimmers...Any tips for making traditional looking footlights? I have some of those ridiculously bright LED strip rolls, but they are crazy bright and might throw off the actors too much.

    Thanks for the insightful reply!
     
  6. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    781
    Occupation:
    Consultant
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    It's like doing improv. If everyone's having a good time nobody stops to think about that there isn't an actual elephant onstage stampeding all over everyone. The moment you show an actual elephant it's clear you've gone to some effort to make it realistic, now everyone latches onto how funky your elephant looks and that it doesn't really resemble an actual elephant in shape or proportion and that it's kind of weird you went to all that trouble for something that wasn't animated enough to do the motions of actually stampeding or even walking and an elephant wheeled out on caster boards is my quite the artistic liberty you've taken.

    I've seen 100W light bulbs in cheapy screw-down bases strung together with 14/2 or 16/2 zip cord. Takes a little bit of work to wire it up so it doesn't scare the facilities guys or expose anyone to a hazard but it's about as inexpensive as it gets. Then you just need the reflectors which are cheaper to fab yourself then they are to buy pre-made.

    If budget and tooling is limited, this design is much easier to work with than the more acclaimed clamshell variety. You have to coat the inside with mylar or other reflective paint/film to make it spray light out effectively.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    If you do want the clamshells, it would probably end up looking something like this:

    [​IMG]


    Don't thank me yet though. The less you put into the visuals, the harder it can be a for a cast to dig their heels into the show. You may have to throw some stuff at them or heckle them or whatever during rehearsals to get them to be more emphatic, gesticulate wildly, project their voices, and flirt with the audience. They don't have a rock to hide under anymore if their acting doesn't rise to that occasion. Getting into costumes/makeup a little earlier in the rehearsal process can help alleviate that though.

    Under limited budget, I would focus on costumes/makeup, footlights, a level 2 steps down off the front of the stage, props, the gags within the show, and bang-for-the-buck scenery that maybe you can spin around to give visual hints to the changing scenes. Pretty much in that order of priority. And most importantly, the acting, choreography, and audio/vocals/music! Nothing else matters if your audience can't hear and understand your performers. Their ability to make a meaningful connection with the audience is handicapped if they aren't loud enough and articulate.

    The less scenery you do, probably the more props you have to do such as furniture, banners, benches, dinnerware, etc. Part of giving the performers a little more impact without heavy scenery is giving them smaller things they can interact with and a lot of that stuff you can probably borrow from someone. You don't need to see a restaurant or a nightclub if you see someone walking around to tables in the front row with a pitcher pouring drinks.

    I would also go on a shopping spree to the local party stores or search online. They usually have decor like glitzy mylar curtains at a pretty low price.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    RonHebbard likes this.
  7. Painterspoon

    Painterspoon Member

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    High School arts/tech head and director
    Location:
    Near Peterborough, Ontario
    Amazing. I've always liked the look of the original clamshell footlights, but they never seem to throw, and who wants to look at naked bulbs all night? The cylinders are super cool, and a lot safer looking. This is my third musical now, but every show for me still feels like the first show. Really looking forward to Cabaret though - I think it's timely again, scarily enough. And that's coming from a Canadian!
     
  8. Painterspoon

    Painterspoon Member

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    High School arts/tech head and director
    Location:
    Near Peterborough, Ontario
    Also - the elephant analogy: pure gold
     
  9. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,597
    Likes Received:
    231
    Location:
    St Pete FL USA
    As it turns out, Mike's law applies to karaoke too:

    As your competence and professionalism go up from 0, the audience's reaction increases relatively linearly... until you get to about 75% of perfect.

    Then they start grading you on the "professional performer" scale, and the response drops to about 25%, and curves up logarithmically back to 100.

    Being an 80-85% singer, it's annoying to me. :)
     
    Painterspoon likes this.
  10. Painterspoon

    Painterspoon Member

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    2
    Occupation:
    High School arts/tech head and director
    Location:
    Near Peterborough, Ontario
    Damn asymptotes.
     
  11. MarshallPope

    MarshallPope Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    984
    Likes Received:
    152
    Occupation:
    Technical Director
    Location:
    Texarkana, Texas, United States
    A good compromise I've used is a PVC or coffee can cylinder with these attached to the fronts.
    Link: [​IMG]
     
    Painterspoon likes this.
  12. venuetech

    venuetech Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,314
    Likes Received:
    217
    Occupation:
    aud man
    Location:
    AK,
    The kitchen in your school likely can supply you with all the #10 cans you need for footlights . these you could take tin snips to and create foot lights. (hope you have lots of free student labor) be sure to fold any sharp edges over.
    the cylinders could be quickly made of large diameter pvc pipe 5 or 6" I would make sure the bottom is vented

    check out Eric Hart's prop agenda
    http://www.props.eric-hart.com/tag/footlight/
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2017
    Painterspoon likes this.

Share This Page