Making it rain in the theatre: a masterclass


Hi my name’s Alex Stuart. I run the props
department here at the Sydney Theatre Company A rain system has three components.
You know you need a supply of generally water but you could make it
whatever you want you could you could rain blood if you wanted to but generally it’s water when you’re talking about rain so you need a water supply at some sort of
pressure. Now that could be as simple as a tap. The second component is a delivery system
if you want an analogy the delivery system would be the showerhead
in your shower at home. In this production that we’re building at
the moment in Saint Joan I have essentially built a really big shower head which is this unit here that you see here. The third component is where the water goes.
It can be as simple as you just capture the water in a bucket under the stage
you know if it’s a little bit of rain. If you’re talking about a lot of rain then
you need that water to go somewhere. The best idea is to have a slight rake on
the stage and just as rain hits your roof and falls down the rake and into the
gutter you have a gutter on the front of the stage that collects that
water and sends it wherever to take care of In a system of this size we bring in
the big guns. We bring in a big tank with a big pump that can pump water all the
way up to the grid and then over to where this unit hangs above the stage. In
Saint Joan the actors are going to be in the rain so that tank is heated tank so
we’re pumping heated water up into the grid across and down to this unit which
has rigged 14 meters or 15 meters above the stage. Once the water comes in
through this point it comes out to the edges and it splits and goes around
through all of these points here that you can see. Now all of these units are
electrically controlled solenoids it’s basically a valve for water. When the
whole system is pressurized you’ve got water all the way up to this point in
all of these points around. At a particular cue in the show whenever that is you can actuate all of these solenoids
and you’ll get water entering out of the little nozzles here at all of these
points around. On this one here we’ve got sixteen points on the outside and we’ve
got four points on the inside. When you build for theater often it’s not about
naturalism. Sometimes it’s about something a bit more specific. At the
delivery points we can we can essentially sculpt the shape of the rain
by utilizing different nozzles where the water exits and they could be tiny
little things like this right up to monsters like that. The nice thing about
these nozzles is they come in all different sort of sizes and all
different sort of shapes and all different sort of capacities so you can
sculpt the shape of the rain. You can regulate the amount of water that’s
being thrown out and you’ll have to collect on the stage, and most
importantly you can regulate the drop size the droplet size if you go with
something like these beautiful things here they throw out a hell of a lot of
water and they’re really big droplet size so it looks great when it hits the
ground and all that sort of stuff but really really tricky to light. If you use
very small heads like that you get a nice soft fan pattern you’ve got a lot
smaller particles a lot easier to light and it looks great. Now of course you can
mix that up as well so you get elements of both in.

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