Parkland Report – Behind the Theatre

Welcome to the Parkland Report my name is
Seamus Riley and we’re here live in the Parkland Theater joining me David
Dillman the Shop Manager and BJ Gailey one of our part-time faculty welcome to
the Parkland Report. Thank you thank you. First David tell me a little bit about
the set we are sitting on this is the set for the current production of
Memphis talk a little bit about what goes into building a set this size.
Building a set this size takes a lot of time and a lot of people but it started
with design and it started with the designers conception of it his ideas he
would talk to the director about it and then the director would talk to the
technical director and then the technical director would say yay or
neigh and give you the finished product of what you want to see how on stage but
it takes a long time my job as a shop manager is to implement all the drawings
that the technical director gives me the designer gives the tech- his drawings
to the technical director technical director gives me the working drawings
of what actually how to actually build it. So for your purposes then you know
you’ve got a lot of drawings a lot of things to work with talk a little bit
about the the crew that you have to work with and and how you go about
instructing them because I know many of the folks involved in building of the
sets here Parkland are actually students. Yes we have two part-time employees and they do most of the work as far as the help
goes we get some students that are required to be here mostly are the ones
on scholarship and I pretty much put them to work as soon as they come in. BJ
how important is it you know you our students come in I mean they’re they’re
captivated by wanting to be on the stage and a lot of them as actors for many of
them sort of the technical sort of side of the stage craft aspect
that is maybe not something there is familiar with but but realistically now
when we look at a play on the page and then we see it transformed and put on
the stage so much of what makes a difference in the production is that is
the technical aspects how important is it for our students to have that
first-hand experience? Well I think it’s extremely important and it’s one of the
things that Parkland provides a number of different ways for students to get
involved in the collaborative process that is theatre you know from being
really good at reading a play understanding what it requires to put it
into production understanding a character what they want how they’re
going about achieving that objective to all the various technical skills that
you see on stage in a production like Memphis to have all those skills ready
at hand and to have first-hand experience participating really makes
them well-rounded and so when they leave Parkland I think they feel like they
have a wide variety of skill sets that they can go into a theatrical job or any
sort of production job and feel at home comfortable and experienced. And I mean
that is important because I mean there are a limited number of like sort of
prime actor roles absolutely if you want to work in the world of theatre for
example that is an advantage to have had some experience. It is indeed in a way I
mean you there’s a couple famous cases of people who made the transition from
sort of technical work to on-screen work or onstage work but mostly it’s just you
know it’s it’s all about creating that sense of discipline and organization
that that’s necessary whether you’re building a character or building a set
so all those skills work hand-in-hand and so just to follow up from that
because I mean you know it’s a very interesting world now in terms of the
kinds of aspects of production which are in almost everything that we do so
students who have this experience can maybe step outside into a different sort
of were like marketing or TV you know very much almost anything that is sort
of staged now involves some level of that. Oh yeah I mean if you think about
every commercial you see whether it’s a print ad or a television ad it involves
a design right a design construction considerations of framing,
performance, how it’s going to appeal and communicate to an audience these are all
theatrical skills these are all things that we work with our students in
classes. So David for our students who are going through I mean obviously not
all of them are gonna be kind of qualified carpenters but they’re
learning a little bit about some of that piece how do you see that they’re
learning the skills sort of improves their overall understanding of how the
theater works or what goes into a production? I think it gives them a
better understanding of what goes into building the show some people come walk
in and say, “Wow where’d you get this? We built it we built everything on stage,” and the
students that come in to help to do that and learn how to do the building it
makes them better on stage. So I was going to go to that because
like when you come in and look at this set right and you know you see you start
off with a basically a blank slate and you bring in this incredible set right
it’s it’s very very large it’s very complex there’s lots of sort of things
going on with it in terms of what it’s representing right
I mean so now you’re you’re trying to represent a city and you’re sort of
measuring out a city scape and you’re transforming a brick and stone it must
sort of have an immediate of impact as the actors begin to interact with the
piece I’ve been working on and when they get on stage then it makes it must
make a huge difference in terms of their interpretation of the piece and and
their ability to sort of reenact what their words are telling them to do. But
to me when I am on stage and I know I put this stuff up as well so when I get
on stage in it after having put up most of the set,
it makes the actor feel more at home and it gives make them more comfortable in
what they’re trying to portray. And that transformation of the space then of
course sort of translates for the audience as well right you’re not you’re
coming in and you know it’s it’s wide open so literally you’re
walking into this theater and you’re seeing a cityscape and then once it’s
lit then sort of it it literally comes to life right? Yes. And what’s
interesting to me about this particular production is the way you’ve utilized
every square inch of the theater talk a little bit about sort of the thought
process behind using the full sort of scope of the available space to you. Well
with this set and with this show we it was a large cast so we didn’t want to
open up the orchestra and hit did that would it cut this stage in half and with
all the people on stage it would have made what they’re doing impossible and
that’s why we put the orchestra over there on the side as well as open that whole
side up so you could actually see the orchestra you know and still hear it and
with that they opened it up because we needed a sound booth basically for the
radio show and that’s a DJ area over there and anywhere on stage it would
have been impossible to do I mean even trying to roll on a platform with
that set on it would have been impossible because of all the stuff we
have here. So BJ for the audience it sort of creates an additional sort of impact
right because you don’t have any barrier now right that means you’re in the space
absolutely and and like like David said like being able to use the full sort of
amount of space available in the presenting them without having the
orchestra pit opened and then wrapping this sort of audience in it you’re sort
of built into the show as you come in. You are and and I think it creates a
really a tangible sense of real space to the audience right there are shows where
you want the stage to be sort of open and free-flowing but this isn’t that
kind of show this is a show that has a historical time in place that it’s based
on right and in order to accurately represent that and give it a sense of
weight and realism like I love the fact that the the radio booth is separate
right because this is kind of a separate space from the cityscape you slide
behind you and the orchestra is a separate consideration so they can
exist we still get that live musical element that’s such an important part of
the musical theater but it leaves the stage wide open so it’s it’s really an
effective design I think and really fun. Well excellent thanks so much for being
here we’ll be right back after this short break. Welcome back to the Parkland Report
joining me now Melissa Goldman and Dominic Rosales students here at
Parkland College thanks for being here on the Parkland Report. Melissa talk to
me a little bit about your involvement in this particular production what did
you do? I’m currently the Assistant Stage Manager for this production and I also
run one of the flies for the show. So what’s an Assistant Stage Manager and
what’s a fly? Assistant Stage Manager we often for a show there’s a Stage Manager
who often makes the schedules, calls everyone, makes sure everyone’s at
rehearsal, organizes everything, like she gives the direction to of the director
to the designers and stuff like that basically controls everything and then
I’m the Assistant Stage Manager to our current Stage Manager Heather Han and I
assist her in whatever she needs help with and like unlocking the theater and
making sure props are in place making sure people are on time call them if
they’re not there and everything like that and a fly is like when we have
signs or bat and song with implements that need to come down during the show
at different times it’s part of the system with the ropes we pull them down
and they come down and pull them back up. This particular show has a lot of stuff
flying in and out so talk to me about like how difficult it is to control and
make sure all of those things come in and out of the right minute right
because it’s important. It is difficult I know the first few times when I did
I messed up a few times we’re just like oh no it’s not like because you have to
have it come down at a certain height and you have to mark that with a spike
line and if it doesn’t then it could be too close to the stage or too high up
where you can’t see it in the audience and so I know I didn’t have a lot of
experience like this is my first time ever doing it
so it helped a lot to like get practice with it with like tech week before we
actually had to do it for shows and performances in front of people. So
you’re actually a first-year student here at Parkland College and you didn’t
have a theater in your in your home high school is that correct? That’s correct.
So you’ve learned all this from scratch since you’ve come to Parkland College?
Yeah basically. Very good an intense learning experience
Dominick talk to me a little bit about what your involvement was and did you
have a theater program or did you in your high school? So I had a bit of I had
a part in every piece in this set just about so everything from the lights, the
sound, to scene and construction, props, because I’m actually a part-time staff
here for the Parkland theater so that’s basically my job so I help out with that
not only with that but I also help out as students for my scholarship hours and
my practicum hours so in terms of my involvement in the show I am the sound aid
too so I’m second to the sound designer so I run a sound console Stage Left
for the band basically through we have a bunch of mics set up for the bands and
that way we can hear them obviously and in terms of having a theater program at
my high school we actually didn’t have one we actually went to the same high
school so I actually wasn’t involved with
theatre whatsoever when I was back in high school and it wasn’t until I came
into college where I started learning everything from scratch and it was it
was it was tough but learn learned a lot in just the two years I’ve been here.
So what was it that got you interested in being part of the theater
program here at Parkland in the first place? So when I was back in high school
I had a- I really wanted to be involved with production particularly
film production so when I got here I wanted to go for something that was a
little bit in that area something for the very next best thing so it was
theatre and it sounded very interesting to me I really wanted to do something
like that and I wanted to learn as much as I could
so I got involved with the theater program got involved with the process
and I remember seeing the the stuff that was here then when I first started and
when I saw that I saw some student workers and I told myself all I really
want to do that I want to be one of those people I really wanted to be able
to learn just as much as they could know the things that they could so I just got
involved and I ended up getting the job here during the summer and I just
started working. So you’ve learned an incredible amount in the last couple of
years and where do you go from here? Well I really want to I really want a major
in sound design and I had the opportunity to tour U of I’s campus and
their facilities there and I ended up getting accepted for to the U of I so
I’m going to be heading to the U of I now and majoring in sound design and
technology excellent very good. Melissa talked to me a little bit about
your involvement and why did you decide that you wanted to come and be part of
the theater program here. Well I’ve always got involved with performing
because I love Preforming Arts and I did community theaters like around my town
not like we have a small little theater in town but I wanted to do something
bigger and I knew that I wanted to go into theater I just didn’t know I wanted
to go into musical theater because I love to sing and stuff but then I
like when Millikin for a bit and then like my financial aid stuff didn’t work
out so I came to Parkland and at first I was like oh Parkland’s a small Community
College I didn’t know what they could offer for theatre but then just being
here just the first semester alone it’s amazing like what you get the hands-on
experience you get working in the theatre with like being in practicum and
being a scholarship student like all the stuff you have to put into creating a
show and you get to you get that hands-on experience which I don’t think
you can get like anywhere else. So we talked about a little bit about this the
hands-on experience and and you know we talk about the the work students are
involved in but but I mean you really are doing it right there it’s not like
you are watching other people do the work you you are learning what has to be
done and you actually do it. Yeah like with most community theatre productions
like as an actor you’re just there and you’ll show up and you’ll do your part
once like sets build you’ll see it come and be pulled in and brought in but you
don’t actually get to like you sometimes get to see the building process but
you’re not a part of that and so I think that’s what helps I think
a lot of actors in Parkland Seeder program is that if they’re scholarship
student or a practicum student they have to like work on shows and they actually
get that hands-on experience and I think it helps them give more of a respect to
what goes into a show and how much work and effort people put into making a show.
Now you’ve had some experience and what you said in the theater and from a
musical point of view how have you seen the impact of the work that you’ve done
in terms of the design and the build and all the stage management piece how does
that sort of impacted your understanding of what goes into a production from the
actor’s point of view in other words do you see the actors kind of like react to
the quality of the set obviously it’s very important that everything is right
but how have you seen the the overall production improved by the work that
goes on behind the scenes. I know I had to be for like a lot of the rehearsal
process and a lot of rehearsal process on the stage like the stage wasn’t
painted yet or like we didn’t have set pieces we didn’t have stairs and stuff
like that so it was hard for the actors to work within the space without those
elements so we had it like taped out on the stage but then once like pieces
started coming and they started getting props they started seeing the set come
alive like that it got the more in character I think and I help them build
a stronger image of what they wanted to do with their character on stage. So
Dominic part of that is the how impressive this set is I mean this is is
you know sets are sets but this this actually has lots of pieces can you talk
a little bit about some of the complexity of the set itself what pieces
move what pieces don’t what pieces fly-in and and the same sort of question
for you then how does that sort of make the overall experience for the actor
different? Sure so in terms of a complex pieces a lot of it it was really complex
and but I think after I know I know it takes a lot of time and I remember when
we were setting up the walls for instance we have we have 16-foot walls
we had to set up so one 8 foot wall and then we had to set up another 8 foot
wall on top of that so that was a little bit when I when I heard that we were
going to be doing something like that I told myself wow how is this going to
happen and when we do do something like that
and when we learn how does the proper and safe way to do something like that
that I’m Way more appreciative of that set piece and we have a lot of fly-in
set pieces too that come in during the show so a lot of neon signs and stuff
like that and when during the process of making those signs I remember when they
were just the stripped-down signs without any of the electrical units
inside of them and when they were just not even painted at all but like when
you go through that process when you get to see everything from the bare-boned a
minimum you really become aware of how much time and effort it takes and I’ve
definitely learned that from the start I remember when I first when I had my
first show here I didn’t really have a hand in a lot of things but seeing how
much time it took to create something from start to finish was a long process
and it was very it opened my eyes to see how much time and effort it takes to do
that. So once when actors are on this set though they’re actually they’re walking
up a real stairs I mean it looks like every cityscape right there it has that
feel the the DJ booth looks like a real DJ booth I mean the front of the whole
stage has like a radio dial on it it must have a for the actors that must
sort of you must have seen the transformation once the set was built
and they began to interact with the space you must have seen a change in
their experience yeah I actually do remember seeing one night when they were
feeling I remember seen like Melissa described
how they just had this set piece just taped out on the stage and when we
actually kept bringing more and more set pieces like the walls the bridge
structure and the stair unit the false proscenium that we have here when those
things came in and almost it almost hindered their movements from what they
were doing before but it helped them in another way because now they could see
it they could visualize it so it really helped with their performance and a
boost of that because they could really feel that tangible item right in front
of them. And for both of you what an incredible learning experience in a very
short space of time you’ve gone from knowing maybe
not an awful lot about the excuse me technical aspect of really understanding
it right and getting to do it has it been influential in terms of what you
might do next? I know I’ve never thought about going into the tech
aspects of theater always like the performance aspects but now that I’ve
gotten hands-on involvement with the tech aspects I feel like I’m comfortable
with going into like work in the theater in any aspect of it and be happy with it.
So you’ve got the whole theater experience now both of you well very
good thanks so much for being here. That’s it for this time on Parkland
Report and we’ll see you back here next time.

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