PCS Blog

INSIGHTS Class Recap: A Visit to the Scene Shop

Posted by Sarah Mitchell | 30 August 2013

We're launching a new class series at PCS this season! It's called INSIGHTS, and the idea is to offer a breadth of behind-the-scenes experiences that will deepen your connection to the work on  our stage.
The first INSIGHTS course is being offered around our opening musical Fiddler on the Roof.  We began last Monday with a visit to our off-site scene shop, to hear from Technical Director Fred Schoening.
We spent the first half hour learning how the set design goes from an idea in the designer's head to a fully realized set on the stage.  The build process generally begins four or five months before opening night. Architectural plans, painting samples and a three-dimensional model are shared between the set designer, the director and technical staff. Each scenic design is a result of hours of collaborative conversation between these theater artists over time.
Fiddler set model. Set design by G.W. Mercier.
The second half of the evening was an on-your-feet tour of the shop where we saw some of those plans actually realized.  A few standout features of the Fiddler set include the reclaimed wood being used, the gigantic steel-framed doors at the upstage wall of the set, and the mechanics used to open and close them.  Ironically, the scenic painters spend hundreds of hours meticulously painting the set to make the wood look "natural." 

As Fred put it himself, his job is to "build fake houses for fake people."  For this  particular set, the crew out at the shop "takes big chunks of wood, cuts them up into small chunks of wood, puts them back together into big chunks of wood, and then paints them to look like wood."  Whew!
Major shout-out to Fred for showing the group around!  The next three sessions of INSIGHTS include a dance course, a lecture from a PSU professor, and a backstage tour with our wig and wardrobe department. 

Later this season, we'll be offering INSIGHTS around Chinglish and Othello. If you're interested in participating in a future INSIGHTS course, please email education@pcs.org.
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