the life and times of a twenty year old designer

Goodbye Cachucha, Fandango, Bolero!

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It’s been a while. It’s been an opera. Here’s the conclusion to that particular story:

In my mind, the highest note in Gilbert and Sullivan’s entire opera The Gondoliers, comes with the happy and convenient conclusion. Marco and Guiseppe, the gallant Gondolieri, have discovered that they are absolved of their royal duties and free to return to their lives and wives in Venice.

Once more gondolieri, both skilful and wary,

Free from this quandary, contented are we. Ah!

From Royalty flying, our gondolas plying,

And merrily crying our “premé,” “stali!” Ah!

So good-bye, cachucha, fandango, bolero —

We’ll dance a farewell to that measure —

Old Xeres, adieu — Manzanilla — Montero —

We leave you with feelings of pleasure!

That is much how I feel upon completing this design. Having been thrust from my humble roots into a situation where my qualifications frequently did not match the demands of the task, I now return gladly to the life of a humble but cheerful student. I extend my most sincere thanks to the technical director, the charge artist, and their assorted crews and teams, as well as my design advisor and the opera director for all of their support , and even more so for their incredible patience on this journey.

Here she is! This is the set on the first night of tech rehearsals. I’ll upload the final pictures as soon as I have them

But LOOK at that backdrop…

I learned far more in the design process for this show than I have in any class or on any previous show. Somehow I feel as though I am continually learning by being pushed off of ledges, without having spent months learning how to craft a nifty hang glide or parachute device. The completed set is by no means perfect. But I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done.

Here are some (but by no means all) of the things I’ve learned about design in the process.

  • Backdrops are labor intensive for the designer and even more so for the paint team. Attention to detail is imperative.  They also look pretty snazzy in the concert hall.
  • The designer’s work isn’t over until the show opens. Scenic designers attend technical rehearsals with just as careful an eye as lighting designers and directors, carefully examining the set from all angles to ensure that nothing has been left out.
  • Scenic designers generate a lot of paperwork. A. Lot.  From the basic groundplans of the space to technical draftings of each scenic element to cartoons (line drawings) and renderings of backdrops, floor, and scenery for the paint crew, to research images for every imaginable detail, the information which a scenic designer is expected to supply is vast.
  • Attention to detail is the key to elevating a design beyond the ordinary. My advisor, much to my discomfort at the time, frequently pointed out inconsistencies or weaknesses in architectural motifs, color palette, weight and balance, spatial arrangement, and the general look and feel of Venice. And as I’ve listened to her, and watched the addition of detail shape the set beyond the block shapes I had imagined, I’ve realized just how absolutely right she is. Detail. Research. Detail.
  • Effective communication with the shops is vital. The ingenuity and resourcefulness of the technical director and charge artist are great gifts to a beginning designer, but only if the designer has the sense to ask for help and clearly communicate their vision for the show.
  • And finally, design is incredibly rewarding. To see a finished set which looks oddly similar to the awkward computer model you pieced together two months before, to know that your ideas were the basis for creating a world in which magic can happen, and to know that the incredible people who put the show together is an unbelievable feeling.

At final dress, my advisor asked if I would like to try and design another set at CSU. My gut response? “Ask me in a couple months.” This show pushed me to the brink in a way no other academic experience has. It was hard. Difficult. Challenging. Frustrating. Tear-inducing. And ultimately? Amazing.

Never before have I been so acutely aware of just how much I do not know. It was an incredibly humbling experience. I won’t be able to coast through on what I already know. If I want to continue, I suppose I’m going to have to be willing to learn a bit. I think I’m alright with that.

So yeah. Maybe not starting tomorrow. But next year.

Let’s do it again.

Written by Taylor Webster

March 8, 2011 at 2:00 am

Posted in Design

Tagged with , , , , ,

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