June 13, 2012

Producing the Play

Filed under: Theater — Brian Triber @ 1:46 pm

I’ve blogged about and edited a couple of works on theater in the past (see Freytag’s Technique of the Drama and Aristotle’s Poetics), and the theory in those works are useful to the playwright, and to the dramaturge. But for the director, the actor, and the production crew, they provide a means for analysis of the script, to understand character motivations and employ the dramatic structure in bringing the play to life from the page. For the audience member, the concepts laid out are a bit more etheric, and seem not to have any connection to the finished product. This is often because the director, production crew, and actors have done such a fine job of interpreting the script, and taken the burden of understanding the play on their own shoulders so that the audience can understand only as much or as little as they want to take in.

With this blog entry, I hope to begin a series to discuss how to produce a play. I hope it will act as a place to discuss best techniques, secrets learned, what to avoid, and generally how to mount the production of a play in a professional-like manner. By raising the awareness of how much work actually goes into the preparation of a show, who needs to be involved, and what duties are required of each individual, I believe that the viewer will come away with more appreciation of the art of live theatrical performance.

I begin this series in the midst of an actual production. We (myself as director, and Oak Grove Improvement Association as producer) are currently in production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the parks of Malden for performance in July of 2012. Since we are in mid-production, these entries will be a bit out of chronological order. We are currently well into the rehearsal process, and we have just passed the off-book date (the date on which all actors should have their lines memorized so that blocking and other stage business can be worked on). I’ll be discussing the challenges of production on Midsummer, covering topics as varied as costuming, sound design, blocking, scansion, set construction, and others. I’ll also be introducing my readers to cast members, and talk a bit about the parks of Malden, and how to plan a program book. It will be a little of everything — a veritable buffet of theatrical slang, a little heavy on the sauciness, but no ham at this banquet.

I may not be able to cover every detail of production, so I invite you, my readers, to submit questions. If I’m not clear on a point (which happens occasionally) please ask for clarification. I don’t bite, and I’ll answer every topical question, even if you think it’s silly. (Usually the silly questions lead to the oct enlightening answers, so I especially welcome them.)

So, with all this said, it’s time to raise the curtain on the production process for Malden Shakespeare Project’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Lori Sinatra as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon’s Vest

Some costume pieces for the show are designed by Lori, including (and especially) the hand-painted denim vests.
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