December 29, 2006

Cherry Orchard Team readies for Technical Rehearsals

It's been quiet around here for the last week or so, but that's not to say that it hasn't been busy. Our Costume, Props, Lighting, Paints and Sound departments have been making the big push towards tech/dress rehearsals starting on Sunday. While most of our scenery staff is out on break a few crew have been working on many of the finishing touches.

Tomorrow marks the final day of rehearsals in the hall, and we move to the stage tomorrow for a dry tech of the scene changes. Joining us this week is the entire design team who will be with us at least through January 7th. Who are these designers? Read on...

Ralph Funicello (Scenic Designer) previously designed the Huntington’s production of Mary Stuart. His Broadway credits include Julius Caesar, Brooklyn Boy, Henry IV (Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony nominations), King Lear, QED, and Division Street. Off Broadway he designed Ten Unknowns and Pride’s Crossing. Regionally, he is an associate artist of The Old Globe in San Diego, and has designed more than 250 plays at numerous theatres including American Conservatory Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theater, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, A Contemporary Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, New York City Opera, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Stratford Festival of Canada, Guthrie Theater, and The Royal Shakespeare Company. He has received The Merritt Award for Excellence In Design and Collaboration and awards from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, Drama-Logue Magazine, Backstage West, and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. He currently holds the position of Powell Chair in Set Design at San Diego State University.

Robert Morgan (Costume Designer) served as director of the Theatre Division at Boston University’s School For the Arts from 1987 to 1992. His designs for the Huntington include scenic design for The Importance of Being Earnest (1993) and costume design for The Sisters Rosensweig (2005), Don Juan (1988), Heartbreak House (1986), and Saint Joan (1986). Broadway credits include How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Full Monty, Imaginary Friends, I’m Not Rappaport, and Sherlock’s Last Case. Off Broadway he has designed Pride's Crossing (Lincoln Center Theater) and The Loves of Anatol (Circle in the Square). His television credits include “The Skin of Our Teeth” and “A Christmas Carol” for PBS’s “American Playhouse.” For thirty-five years Mr. Morgan has designed scenery and costumes for regional theatres throughout the U.S., most notably The Old Globe in San Diego, where he is a founding associate artist and is currently preparing for upcoming productions of Hamlet and Measure for Measure.

Donald Holder (Lighting Designer) previously designed Radio Golf, Falsettos, Gem of the Ocean, Ten Unknowns, King Hedley II, The Last Hurrah, The Mikado, and Jitney for the Huntington. His Broadway credits include Movin’ Out (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), The Lion King (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards; L.A. Drama Critics and Ovation Awards in Los Angeles), A Streetcar Named Desire (Tony nomination), Gem of the Ocean (Tony and Drama Desk nomination), The Apple Tree, The Little Dog Laughed, The Times They Are A-Changin’, All Shook Up, La Cage aux Folles, The Boy from Oz, Little Shop of Horrors, Thoroughly Modern Millie, King Hedley II, and Juan Darien (Tony nomination). Off Broadway he designed Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Lucille Lortel Award), The Little Dog Laughed, Everett Beekin, Jitney, Saturday Night, Three Days of Rain, All My Sons, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Spunk, and many others. Mr. Holder has designed at resident theatres across the U.S., and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

Drew Levy (Sound Designer) previously designed Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Sisters Rosensweig, Burn This, and the world premiere of Sonia Flew for the Huntington, and served as assistant sound designer for The Rose Tattoo, The Blue Demon, and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. New York credits include the design for Emergence-SEE! (The Public Theater/NYSF), The Voyage of the Carcass (Stage 13 Productions), Sonia Flew and Training Wisteria (Summer Play Festival), and The Mistakes Madeline Made (Naked Angels). Other regional designs include Eurydice, The Chekhov Cycle, Ubu the King, The King Stag, and Greylock Theatre Project (Williamstown Theatre Festival); and The Savior of Fenway (Full Circle Theatre Company). He was the associate sound designer for Rodney’s Wife (Williamstown Theatre Festival), as well as the assistant for The Apple Tree (Roundabout Theatre Company) and Dessa Rose (Lincoln Center Theater). He received his M.F.A. in sound design from Boston University.

Michael Friedman (Composer) previously served as music director for Falsettos and composed music for Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Blue Demon for the Huntington. His New York credits include the music and lyrics for The Civilians’ (I am) Nobody’s Lunch, Gone Missing, and Canard, Canard, Goose?; and productions at The Public Theater/NYSF, New York Theatre Workshop, Roundabout Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Theatre for a New Audience, Playwrights Horizons, Soho Repertory Theatre, and Performance Space 122. His regional credits include productions at the American Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage Company, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Humana Festival of New American Plays, and seven seasons at Williamstown Theatre Festival. His work has been heard at both London’s Gate Theatre and Soho Theatre, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and in the film On Common Ground. He was the dramaturg for the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Mr. Friedman is an artistic associate of the New York Theatre Workshop, a 2003 MacDowell fellow, and a founding associate artist of the OBIE Award-winning Civilians.

December 22, 2006

Cherry Orchard in Motion

Scenery installation video clips

Remember that 16 foot tall by 48 foot long wall I was telling you about? It only weighs about 2200 pounds. Light as a feather and moves like a dream.

and here's another

Coming soon: Director Nicholas Martin chats with Kate Burton.

I should really be out Christmas Shopping

Costume Check In - Part II

Here's some progess photos of Lyuba's (Kate Burton) costumes.

The before (December 5) sketches and muslin pictures are here.
Here's the ACT II Lace Dress in progress.

And here's the Act IV Cashmere Coat

This is the party dress in progress:

Progress Report - Costumes

I stopped in the Costume shop this morning to see how things were coming along.

Click here for the December 4th post (the before sketch and picture).

And here's what Anya's Act III costume looks like today...

Laura Seeley (left) works on the placement of some trim. Draper Penney Pinnette wanted to make sure I told you it's not done yet. The costumes will not be used until our first dress rehearsal on January 2nd.

There's a slew other costumes being worked on at the same time, with a crew of (4) Drapers, (4) First Hands, (3) stitchers, (3) Craftspersons, and the Costume Director, Assistant Costume Director, Costume Designer, Assistant Costume Designer and an intern keeping things moving.

December 21, 2006


Season's Greeting to all

Over 130 Huntington staff and playwrighting fellows, with their significant others and children, gathered at our 25th Anniversary Season Holiday Party this past Monday. It was an elegant affair with spectacular evening views of Boston from the 50th floor of the Prudential Building at the Top of the Hub's Skywalk, complete with great food and drink, music and festivity.

Pictured above (L to R): Christine Sanza, Joey Riddle, Stephanie Gambino, David Newcomb, and Penny Hansen.

Pictured above (more or less L to R): Adam Godbout, Milosz Gassan and Sylvia Tomaszewska, Meg and Tim O'Neil (back row), Pamela Harrod and Larry Dersch (back row), Bianca Deeb and Scott Brown, Jim Farrell, Leslie and Brian Sears, Jesse Caldwell-Washburn, Ben Sigda (front), John Mulligan, Randy Higgins, and Kassiani and Pat Austin.

I'd like to send a great big thank you to the Huntington's Board of Trustees, Chairman, David Wimberly and President, Bill McQuillan, for their support of this generous and exceptional celebration.

December 19, 2006

Cherry Orchard Snapshots

Cherry Orchard costumes line about 60 feet of Hallway outside the costume shop. This doesn't count the 2 or 3 racks in the fitting room and the costumes under construction in the shop. In the middle there is costume designer Bob Morgan trying out some shirt and vest combinations on a suit form.

In the shop today props carpenter Andrew Deshazo did some of the finish work today on this cabinet he's been building. Yep... more mahogony.

Not all of the trees in this production are two dimensional. Here our charge scenic artist, Roberto Gallo, is seen applying a base coat to the three dimensional trees. They have a welded steel structure, covered in carving foam, covered with a fire retardant muslin and flex glue, and then painted. These birches live downstage of the drops for yet another layer. Sorry about the blurry photo... Roberto works so fast that it's impossible to get one of him standing still.

The Ë is Silent

I just had to find out what's with the dots in NOËL COWARD. Wikepedia relates the following:

The story of Coward's meeting with actress Jean Harlow is frequently repeated: Harlow gushed, No-el Coward! I've heard so much about you!" He could have replied. "It's not true," but he didn't.

He replied, rather: "The "e" in "Noel" is silent, as is the "t" in "Harlow." The entire Wikepedia entry can be found here.

In other news:
Our most recent issue of Spotlight has been posted, with lots of interesting info on our upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard and everything that's news at the Huntington.

December 18, 2006


The Huntington announced today that our production of Streamers will move to the Fall of 2007. Details from the press release quoted below.

The Huntington Announces a New Season Finale:


(BOSTON) – Huntington Artistic Director Nicholas Martin announced today that the final show of the company’s 25th Anniversary Season will change to a new production of the classic Noël Coward comedy “Present Laughter,” starring Broadway, film and TV star Victor Garber and directed by Martin. The previously announced revival of “Streamers” moves to the company’s November 2007 slot.

The comic story of self-absorbed aging matinee idol Garry Essendine (Garber), whose agents, managers, house staff, and paramours create a dysfunctional surrogate family, “Laughter” debuted on Broadway in 1946. The original and three popular revivals featured some of the theatre world’s greatest actors such as George C. Scott, Nathan Lane, Frank Langella, Kate Burton, Alison Janney and even Coward himself.

VICTOR GARBER – Best known for his role as Agent Jack Bristow on the smash hit television series “Alias,” Victor Garber is a four-time Tony nominated Broadway veteran who originated roles in many hit shows including “Deathtrap,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Arcadia,” “Art,” and “Noises Off,” and the revivals of “Damn Yankees” and “Little Me.”

This switch was made necessary by the changing schedule of director Scott Ellis, who brought the “Streamers” project to the Huntington and whose production of the Kander and Ebb musical “Curtains” is going to Broadway with an opening date that overlaps with the original schedule of “Streamers.” “Streamers” will move to the Huntington’s November - December 2007 slot with Ellis remaining at the helm.

Dates and times for “Present Laughter” are the same for “Streamers” and tickets will be honored at the door. Huntington subscribers and other ticket holders have several other ticketing options and should contact the box office at 617-266-0800 for more information.

Our website is currently being updated to reflect this change.

Back Drops Part Two

Here's a little more on the drops. Today's highlight is on the backdrop. The steps in creating this drop were much like the work done on the scrim we showed you in the previous post. It is in fact, the same forest, however it is shifted about 5' to one side. So the trees in front will not be mirrored exactly with the trees in back, again with the layers. The other major difference in the construction here was that the template was laid on top of the muslin. The template was traced with an electric version of a pounce wheel which created many small holes outlining the form of the trees, when pounced with charcoal it created the pattern underneath, looking something like the picture here.

Then the main trees were rolled in and the bottom of the drop was blacked out.

One thing that I neglected to mention about the scrim in the last post. You'll notice that the photos of the scrim look fairly solid. This is because we paint the holes in the scrim too, and when we lift it, that paint stays on the floor. Here is a shot of the scrim hanging in the theatre, without the drop behind it. You can see how transparent it really is, with the back wall of the theatre reading clearly behind it.

And in another part of the shop here is assistant Props Master Brandon Ribordy working on a chaise lounge. This piece was constructed per the specifications of designer Ralph Funicello and made with real mahogany.

This piece will remain in stock and no doubt be used for many productions in the future.

December 14, 2006

Blog It

Here's a short ramble as I attempt to clear my brain of the jumble of numbers currently clouding it as a result of this morning's mind numbing work on preliminary budgets for our next season:

It's looking like the reporting of arts news, critism and commentary has made a major shift from the print media to the internet. Newpapers are reducing arts coverage and laying off their staff. We're now seeing a lot of the folks who used to (and some who still do) write for the papers now blogging their work. And the arts consumer is out here too, freely giving opinions on the state of whatever strikes their fancy. Heck, the only reason I open a paper these days is to see where a feature is placed and what pictures they have.

It's a big reason we're out here too, trying to keep our connections with the folks who used to read (and write for) the paper. And frankly we've got better things to spend the money for a full page ad on, like maybe a year's salary or two.

I'm liking this blogging thing, I have to say, and part of the fun of it for me is the informality of it. In a blog you get to see more of someone's personality than an editor might allow in print. You can discover what out there is interesting to like minded people who's work isn't being supported by ad sales. And that review or feature in the paper that didn't quite make sense in it's 350 word version is expounded upon and debated, even critized. And then there's just plain opinion. Plenty of it. Fun!

It might(or might not) suprise you that I don't work in the Marketing department. In the Huntington org chart Temple Gill, our Director of Marketing, is my peer. I've been given free reign (so far) to write about whatever I like. They even don't proof or edit. Explains a lot, eh?

I do like it when people actually come to the theatres and see our work, however, so you'll definitely see me plugging the shows, feature our promotions, and be slightly editorial in the selection of reviews that I point you to.

I'd love to see this blog evolve into something a little more interactive so feel free to respond to a post or write in something completely random about a Huntington experience you've had.

We're still working on getting some other poor sucker to volunteer to give you a peek into some of the other stuff that goes on around the Huntington besides the stagecraft.

Anyway.... the point of all this was to send you off on your own to explore a few more of the blogs and links that I've discovered over the last few weeks of exploration in the weird wild world of internet commentary.

The Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers blogs for the He actually gets paid for it, and he covers a lot of ground too. Still at the top of my list just cause he's the only one that's mentioned us. And he links to tons of other blogs. Joel Brown has been busy getting paid to work lately, but when he actually blogs...

Maverick Arts Magazine by Charles Giuliano; a Boston-based artist, curator and critic.

The Hub Review Thomas Garvey talks about "everything that matters in Boston culture".

The Mirror up to Nature (a quote familiar to those who frequent the BU Theatre, btw) "On Theatre and Being an Artist in Boston". I can't find this blogger's name, but I hear he's a playwright.

Many of these sites have even more links to other interesting places. Have a favorite blog or Arts related site? Send it my way.

I'll get that second post about the Cherry Orchard Drops out by the weekend, and hope to have something special for you on Monday. Meanwhile... artistic just emailed with two more titles for me to budget for Tuesday. Back to work. Thanks Chris. Really.

December 12, 2006

The Backdrops - it's all about layers

Our painters (Lori, Andrew and Pecan) are back in the building afer spending two weeks at another shop painting the translucent back drop and scrim, and I have a camera full of images. These drops are 30' tall and 56' wide and we just did not have the square footage available in our Huntington Ave shops to get them done here.

The big idea with the backdrops here is to create as much three dimensional depth and life as possible out of two dimensional static images, and we do this by layering the paint, layer the drops, and lastly using layers of light.

There will be three layers of light; from the front, in between, and from the back. Each layer has lights from above and below. Each of these sets of lights will have at least three colors so that our lighting designer (Don Holder) can mix an endless variety of color, and by using these lights in different combinations he can highlight different aspects of the painting to make it day, or night, make it feel like we're looking at a different forest, or even imperceptably lighten or darken the mood of the scene you're watching.

There are also three layers of backdrop. The first layer is painted on scrim. Scrim is "100% Cotton. Commonly used for the "bleed-through" effect. When Sharkstooth Scrim is lit from the front at a highly oblique angle, and the stage behind the scrim is totally dark, the scrim appears opaque and renders the scene behind the scrim invisible. When the scene behind the scrim is illuminated and the front lights on the scrim are dimmed, the scrim becomes "invisible," revealing the upstage scene." We get ours from Rosebrand - (I borrowed their description too). The second layer is painted on a translucent cotton back drop. And the third layer is just an opaque plain white drop called a "bounce" that gives you a blank neutral background that you can "bounce" the light off.

Then there are the layers of paint. First we lay down the templates we made a few weeks back by projecting the rendering onto full size paper and tracing the outline of the trees. The white scrim is laid down on top. Lori decided to paint the white birch trees a shade of green on the template so that they would read behind the white scrim.

Next the colors of the sky and clouds are sprayed on. This drop has about sixteen colors between the sky, clouds, trees and other foliage. Lori and her team used two spray techniques to paint the sky. The base colors were laid in with "Hudson" sprayers (which are a lot like garden variety air pump sprayers). The fine work was done on top of that with a compressed air spray gun. The paints used are custom theatrical paints with a lot of pigment in them called Rosco "Super Sats". The paint is mixed very thinly as we don't want the binder to block all the holes and make our transparent fabric opaque. We try to avoid using dyes, even though the color is much more vibrant, because they are toxic and require lots of safety precautions during application.

Then the trees were painted onto the scrim using 3" rollers. The rollers technique was used because it's quick. The white birch trees (left) were rolled and painted with a filler so that they would not let any light through. They will be opaque and when lit from behind read as silhouettes. It took three layers of differently tinted whites. We also used the roller technique and because it's a little splotchy... leaving color from the background layer to bleed through, again providing depth. In this close up (right) you can see the vibrant colors of the sky nicely popping behind and through the trees.

Finally the shrubery in the foreground and the "ghost" trees in the background are rolled and brushed in. These are painted with a very transluce
nt technique so they will fade away adding yet another layer of depth. The bottom of the scrim was painted with a lot of saturation and will be mostly black in order to help hide some lights that will be placed as a "groundrow" behind the scrim.

Here's a shot of a portion of the finished product. This scrim, not including the time it took to make the templates, took one week to paint. I'll talk about the translucent drop in the next post. Stay tuned.

December 7, 2006

Miscellaneous News

The Huntington is having another $25 ticket sale for the preview performances of The Cherry Orchard. All tickets for the January 5-9, 2006 performances will be on sale for $25 each ONE DAY ONLY; Friday, Dec. 15th. Click here for details on this special offer.

You can’t wait until January to see some non-holiday theatre fare, you say? Boston University School of Theatre Arts presents two productions, both opening tonight: Brendan by Ronan Noone, and Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. Tickets and further information for these productions can be found at These are student designed and acted productions built right here at our Huntington Avenue shops where the Technical, Design and Production arm of the BU College of Fine Arts theatre program resides.

On stage now at the BU Theatre is well... not much.

We spent most of the week striking the Rabbit Hole set and are getting ready to bring in The Cherry Orchard starting next week.

The first rehearsal was on Tuesday, and here's a shot of actor Mark Blum (Gaev) and Artistic Director Nicholas Martin catching up on old times.

Speaking of catching up on old times: A little birdie told me that one of our blog's biggest fans is Huntington Alumna Miss Kellie B! So here's a shout out to the loudmouth from Texas. I miss you! Come visit!

December 5, 2006

Lyubov Andreevna Ranevskaya (Lyuba)

Today we have the nearly completed "muslins" for two of the clothing items that will be worn by the lead character Lyuba (to be played by Kate Burton, right) in our upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard. I'm thrilled to be giving you these sneak peeks because, after a few years in this job, I'm finally getting to spend a little time in the costume shop - right next door to my office.

Here are costume designer Robert Morgan's sketches for Lyubov's Act II lace dress (below, left) and Act IV cashmere coat (below, right).

These costumes are being constructed by a three person team; draper Anita Canzian, first hand Becky Hylton, and stitcher Gina Rhodes.

This group will build all of the 5 or so outfits to be worn by Ms. Burton in the next four weeks. They started with the muslins, as described in the previous post, last Tuesday. They will fit these muslins on Kate tomorrow, fix them, and then use them to pattern and construct the real thing.

Here comes a front and rear view of the muslin (sketch above) under construction. The lace shown is the fabric that we'll use to make blouse of the dress out of.

This coat (left, also see sketch above) will ultimately be constructed in a beautiful seal brown cashmere, sure to float right along with Lyubov when she sweeps in the room, after the muslin is fitted.

and a little update from paints: the stove that you saw yesterday in bare pink foam has received, along with all of the walls, it's base coat of gray paint, joint compound, and flexible adhesive to give it depth and texture.

December 4, 2006

Cherry Orchard Sneak Peeks

We are definitely now in high gear getting ready to put our production of The Cherry Orchard onstage. The first preview will be January 5, 2007. Our production departments have been working on the show since Nov. 6th and what's done so far looks great!

Costume Designer Robert Morgan came in and presented his design to the costume shop staff on Tuesday. The costume director(s), design assistants, drapers, first hands, craftsperson, and staff sat down with Bob and reviewed all of the costumes for the show. Each outfit comes with at least one sketch (see example below), sometimes there are a several sketches for each outfit.

There are 68 sketches in Bob's design. Bob explained each outfit in detail, and reviews fabric choices and trim samples. This took most of the day. We will build about 10% of the costumes from scratch and then find (rent and pull from stock) the remainder. The workload is split up and work begins with each draper beginning to lay out the shape of each costume they are building on a dress form.

Pictured below are designer Robert Morgan and Draper Penney Pinnette working on the beginnings of a dress for the character of Anya to wear during Act III. The first step in this process is building a muslin prototype of the costume. This muslin is used in the fitting and patterning process to get the design just right before we use the real (and often expensive) materials.

Bob and Penny (above) are making an adjustment to a line at the back of the dress.

The scene shop also works off designer drawings. Pictured here (right) is an elevation of a stove that will be part of the interior setting as designed by scenic designer Ralph Funicello. This image is one of perhaps five with further detail and constuction notes on the same design drawing for this one item.

Master Carpenter Larry Dersch does the bulk of our finish carpentry work and this stove (left) is definitely a project right up his alley. Larry constructed the frame, skin and molding to this item and applied the foam that the scenic artists then carved and aged. The painters will then add more texture and apply scenic painting techniques to make it look like the real stone slate in the design elevation.

Last week, in the paint shop, the show floor (or deck) was completed. Half of the deck was laid out at a time, consisting of 4' x 8' sheets of 1/4" masonite. A layer of "texture" consisting of joint compound, roofing paint, and a flexible adhesive was applied. Then a series of paint glazes were rolled, brushed and sprayed on, very wet, to that surface. You can see painter Carolyn Sullivan, below, scumbling a glaze in. There are about ten different shades of blue and green mixed in, and then some real leaves will be applied before the final sealant and glazes for added dimension.

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks coming this week!