Treading the boards – again….

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Anthony Bailey

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A few years ago, I gave up some of my community activities that I was involved with - I had enough at the time and needed a break. Now apart from working with our local footpath group once a month helping keeping access to the countryside open to the public, I have also been persuaded to rejoin our local amateur dramatic society. We have two productions plus a fundraising "murder mystery" evening every year. Luckily the set construction has got simpler as they have made a conscious decision to tackle less ambitious productions. When I was last helping build the sets they were quite complex with multiple set changes and clever working components that needed a big stage crew to operate them, But people"s working lives are busy and there is less time it seems to spend on these theatrical activities. Stage sets are unnatural and yet still need to be believable. Conventional theatre uses the formal proscenium arch or "pros arch" with curtains known as "tabs" to cover the set between scene and act changes. It"s all well known and understood in the theatre community, along with terms such as "upstage" and "downstage" from the time when the stage was canted towards the audience to give a better view of the actors. Thankfully we now have raked seating instead, which does a far better job. In the case of our village hall stage, which was built as a theatre originally, it is very wide but quite shallow meaning sets have to be "flattened more than normal - no one actually lives in a house with rooms so obtusely angled, but on stage it looks correct. The standard of carpentry is pretty crude - after pre-show preparation of some of the unitised components the actual set is put together in about two-thirds of a day with the set painters hurrying us along from behind. The next day is placing props and the complex video link, audio systems and lighting dimmers that go to make it all work effortlessly unbeknown to the audience. Last night was our first performance of Terrence Rattigan"s "Flarepath" set in World War II and it went down well. Just three more shows and then set breakdown this Sunday, then all packed away for another six months…

Until next time,

Anthony Bailey

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