There are many challenges involved in bringing a theatrical production into being. A lot of elements need to be handled before the story becomes a reality that require a high investment of time and effort. One of those elements is figuring out how to put together a set.
While I don’t feel it’s necessary for it to be a literal representation of the Victorian parlors and gentlemen’s clubs specified in the text, there are least has to be some sort of physical structure for our hero to climb on. Mrs. Hawking’s ninja-spy skills on display is a major part of the spectacle of the story, and I think you’d lose a lot if there was no way to show it.
That means that to put this on at Arisia, I’ll need to have a climbable structure for this set. Not only that, it has to be strong enough to support the weight of the actress, possible to be transported to the performance space, and of course within my budget. That’s a pretty tall order.
But desperation can motivate one to be very creative. I got an idea to secure some kind of found structure that could form the bones, at least, of the set. A little research onto Craigslist led me to find a wooden swing set jungle gym sort of thing that was being given away for free. It has the advantage of being lightweight, modular, and sufficiently well-built that I can trust an actor to it. I’m not sure it would be possible for me to so quickly and cheaply build something that structurally reliable.
So I rented a truck– a lesser expense than buying materials, tools, and shop space –and enlisted the help of some very capable and generous friends, John Brewer, Nat Budin, Michael Hyde, and Eboracum Richter-Dahl. It was so good of them to lend their time and effort to helping me collect this. I definitely could not have done it without them. We got the thing broken down, loaded up, and taken away in just a few hours. It’s even weather-proof, so I don’t need to worry about damaging it!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work left to do to get it in performance-ready shape. We will be dressing it up somehow, to give it the features necessary to properly represent the environments in the play. I still have to consult with my set designers on the best way to do that. But I am pleased that we managed to find a shortcut on building! It certainly cuts down the work, money, and expertise we’ll need to finish.
Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.