Fair Maid marks my seventh set design at Furious and my first set partly designed from abroad. Almost three months ago today I moved home to Kuala Lumpur after having made Los Angeles my home for the past eight years. The first four years were spent on acquiring my theatre degree and the next four putting it into good use. For those of you who are foreigners living and working abroad, you will understand that it can be a challenge at times. Little do you know that being a foreigner working in the theatrical world can be twice as challenging. After having a full time job in theatre operations for three years and designing on the side, it became apparent that I really wanted to get back into the artistic side of things. However, the process of trying to get approval to work freelance in the entertainment industry seems almost unfeasible for one who is not a resident here. There are some complex issues in regards to obtaining the appropriate visas, etc... that proved to be quite overwhelming. Hence, the move home became a necessary step to take.
Designing Fair Maid from 14,000 miles away proved to be a challenge the first couple of weeks. Production meetings via conference calls and scanned sketches going back and forth e-mails were a first for us. The production team had met early this summer to talk about concepts and ideas. Cinematic, realistic, classic were some of the key elements to be integrated into our designs. The first couple of weeks were spent watching pirate movies, researching pirate history and sketching bits and pieces of the set. The Black Pirate, a silent movie, the making of the Pirates of the Caribbean and the indispensable Angus Konstam books played an essential part in stimulating my thoughts on the set.
My first challenge was to figure out the stage setting. Fair Maid consists of ten or more locations and the idea is to unfold the creation of some of these locations in front of the audience in the least amount of time. We wanted the stage to bear some resemblance to a ship and an old movie theatre. Another important component is the projection screen. This is our first production in which multimedia plays a major role in both set and lighting designs. It will be the combined efforts of Christie, our lighting designer, Dámaso and I to put this design together with Nick as our projection consultant. Stage space is limited and with all the complicated swordfights, the set has got to be minimal. In conclusion, the creation of an illusion of a ship and theatre together with the other various locales became the focal point of the design.
I decided to frame the set to look like the tail end of a vessel, with two sets of decks on both sides, and a frame that doubles as the back of a ship and a header for the projection screen. Fake door panels, complete with three dimensional detailing, railings, ladders, etc…will be added to enhance the authenticity of the set. The stage has been extended in a form of a thrust to create a deeper, lengthier space and has been planked with some two hundred precisely cut strips of oak wood.
Construction began before my return to Los Angeles three weeks ago whereby a major part of the stage floor was completed. This production is very time and labor intensive in comparison to most others we’ve done in the past. Though the design appears simple, each section requires precise construction. A lot of set pieces are to be custom made for our space, there are refurbishing of props and set pieces to do, and most importantly the arduous task of figuring out the mechanics of rigging certain functional pieces that Shawn and Brad have taken on. The big push for all technical aspects including the completion of the set began on Friday evening. With the help of Jethro and Brian and the rest of the ensemble, the set is about seventy percent complete to date. There is still much to do, and tech rehearsals, a.k.a. the time when all the magic happens, begins tonight.
I had asked Eric for ideas on what to include in this blog and he replied with a few suggestions including one that read “where you hope to be in the next week or two”. The answer – sitting in the back of the theatre with my favourite Jamba Juice smoothie in hand, watching the audience having a good time at the show. Regardless of how much we still have left to do, it is always comforting to know that we have a group of highly motivated, dedicated and talented peers who constantly strive to encourage and push each other to exceed our limits. It is a fundamental ingredient of an ensemble and in the process of creating a professional production.
I am very much looking forward to the rest of the week in which all the details will slowly be added onstage to create the desirable aesthetics we want in the space. At this point, my inspiration and motivation stems from watching other aspects of the production come together. Watching the actors at rehearsals, listening to bits of the music and Doug’s sound effects, looking at Rachel’s costume sketches and watching the trailer for the video blog put together by the Pargac brothers really generate a sense of excitement and anticipation to see this production take off. I hope that the audience will truly enjoy being a part of our Fair Maid journey!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
(This blog was originally posted on the Furious website; the rather amusing links and picture compilation are compliments from Eric, co-founder, ensemble member and marketing genius of FTC. Since my last post on June 13, I flew home on July 29th, stayed for 2 months and returned to L.A. on August 30th for The Fair Maid of The West.)