Designing for “Little Women”

I’m the type of person who prefers dark room photography over digital photography. I enjoy shooting a roll of film, the terrifying process of developing that roll, and the tedious cycle of getting a perfect print. I feel that the work it takes to get that wonderful satisfaction of a single print is so often underrated and taken for granted. The same can be said for technical theatre at times. There isn’t the rush of receiving a standing ovation after a show-stopping performance. Instead, there are hours upon hours of staring at your sketches, trying an idea, throwing that idea out, debating with directors and fellow designers, trying new ideas, and wondering if what you’re doing is truly worth all the effort. But when you get something just right, you feel like you’re on top of the world. When you know that you have constructively contributed to a performance with your design, it makes the countless hours of the process worth it.

It wasn’t until high school that I discovered that I could have a viable career in the technical and design aspects of theatre. I had grown up performing in four to seven shows a year, so I was constantly surrounded by new designs. As I began to research where to go after I finished my associates degree, I initially looked at art schools in the Kansas City area. The problem with this plan was that I was going to lose the theatrical outlet I had become so used to while growing up. During my last few years of high school, I was given the opportunity to experiment in set, lighting, prop, and costume design while also performing in shows at our local community theatre. I loved the collaboration that happened between directors and designers; it was a whole new world to what I had known from just being an actor. A few directors who had seen my studio art over the years suggested that I look into theatrical design more seriously.

It was a wonderful change of plans that I ended up at Missouri Western, where I have been able to not only major in theatre, but also gain a minor in animation. Since transferring, I have had the opportunity to do my first projection design project in which I created all the content during, “Little Women: The Broadway Musical.” The set of animations included eleven digital backdrops that were designed in such a way that drawings would appear to be sketched onto the screen and then filled in with watercolors. There was also an element of typography work that was used during the song, “Fire Within Me.” While the main character, Jo, writes multiple stories throughout the course of the show, it is during this number that she is finally writing from her heart, which is why I wanted the words to be visually written out while she gave her monologue. Along with the text, I provided sketches of every cast member with various symbols that represented the character. I used these as the content to create a set of images that would cycle through during the pre-show and intermission. I spent three months in pre-production, five months in production and spent the two months leading up to the performances polishing my work. I have yet to experience a more gratifying feeling than seeing my art on stage in such a way, and I am itching to go through the process again.

I believe that there is so much to be discovered in the digital media side of theatre. Having the opportunity to grow as an artist throughout this process was character building and stretched me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. It was a happy accident that my original pitch for the backdrops was for them to be from Amy’s sketchbook, since I got to portray her while going through the design process. Creating the art for the show in a way was a chance for me to do character work for Miss March. Getting to dive into the world of projection design with a show that is near and dear to my heart was a fantastic learning experience, and I can’t wait to work on my next project!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Here’s a video that shows everything I created for Little Women; enjoy!

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