Update: The Quiet Man

Over the past week I have continued working on the designs for THE QUIET MAN.  The play unfolds in a variety of locals: Sean’s cottage, the O’Danaher’s kitchen, Paddy Bawn’s Cottage, Joan Hyland’s parlor, outside of the church, a pub, the Dublin horse show, a field, and a few other locations.  This suggested a simple unit setting where  simple scenic elements that can be moved  slightly , with certain specific props or used in a different way can represent the variety of locals without protracted scene shifts between each scene.  The director was also drawn to the Irish landscape and wished to have some suggestion at the back of the stage.  She confessed to me that this was at least in part a desire to see the actors in front of a background that was not black drapes.  While the stage itself is painted black, the apron is blond wood.

After doing my site visit, I learned the dimensions and the peculiarities of the Henry C. Miller auditorium.  the space has a 42′ wide by 16′ high proscenium’.  It has  29′  of space upstage of the plaster line and a 12′ (at its deepest) curved apron.  It does not have a fly system but has 3 dead-hung borders, a main drape and 2 travelers on track and 3 pairs of Rotodrapers on tracks for masking,  3 permanent electrics and a white bounce drop in the back of the stage.

Following are some additional limitations:

  • Load-in is the Sunday  before our Friday May 25 opening
  • The company does not have a scene shop, nor does it have tools
  • A space described as the “Academy” will be available for construction and painting no earlier than 2 weeks before opening.
  • Winterset is a 40-mile one-way commute from my residence
  • I am responsible for building and painting the scenery myself (I presumably have a master-carpenter who is currently as student at a local college, but with whom I have been unable to communicate)
  • Winterset has a local True Value Hardware store, but no lumber yard.  Delivery fees are over $50 per load to Winterset
  • Oh, the budget is $500.

With this in mind, I broke down the show into the individual units and put a price tag on each element, in the same way that the shops do when design scenery for Des Moines Metro Opera.  The unit cost estimates were as follows:

  • 32′ x 18′ Black Scrim- $1000
  • Mountain Ground Row–$248
  • Hills Ground Row — $ 240
  • Floor Cloth for apron — $500
  • Stones on floor — $81
  • Dry Stone Wall Ground Row — $267
  • Small Stone Wall — $46
  • Falling Fence — $15
  • 2 Proscenium Horse Fences — $35
  • Door — $147
  • Cupboard — $76
  • 2 Tables — $68
  • Act II Bookcase — $36
  • Steam Engine –$75
  • Paint, Fasteners & Adhesive — $150
  • 6  Chairs — borrow
  • Stool — borrow
  • US Bench — borrow

If the reader has been tallying this all up, then you know that the butcher’s bill for this runs to almost $3000! Clearly, this exceeds the available financial resources.  The next step is to start cutting.  This is a process with which I am also familiar with on account of my design work for the Des Moines Metro Opera.  As a side note:  I detest the euphemism “value engineering”  and prefer that less obtuse term “cutting”.

  • Cut the Following ( I didn’t have the space or time or labor to construct them anyway) saving almost $2070:
    • 32′ x 18′ Black Scrim- $1000
    • Mountain Ground Row–$248
    • Hills Ground Row — $ 240
    • Floor Cloth for apron — $500
    • Stones on floor — $81
  • Borrow the Following saving almost another $200:
    • 12′ section of Dry Stone Wall from a local theatre company — $89
    • Borrow 1 table — $34
    • Assemble Steam Engine from found and borrowed items — $75

These compromises bring the projected cost of the scenery below the $800 budget.  Visually, the biggest impact will be that rather than having a vista of distant hills and mountains, the setting will be backed with a white bounce drop that the Lighting Designer will need to light in an artistic fashion (probably less of a challenge than doing justice to the series of groundrows) and the ever-present blond apron floor.

Next time:  the trials of building scenery in my 2-car garage.

That’s enough for now! Have fun!  Be safe!



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