Let down your hair

Ready for the show!

Dear internet, last month I spent about a brazillian hours painting one canvas tower, four permanent flats, and four 8 feet by 4 feet double-sided rotating flats for a director friend’s production of Rapunzel. The show was written and performed by adults for children. Dan did most of the design, and a good chunk of that was done remotely and then emailed to me, which I printed out on our crappy out-of-warranty-too-expensive-to-fix printer, and did a whole bunch of math to blow up and be three separate scenes.

Pre-background blackening

Not too shabby, yeah?

The tower was pretty much all my own design (!) and was painted on a large piece of painter’s dropcloth canvas. Let me tell you, that stuff SOAKS up the paint. I played around a little bit trying to figure out a good way to show the perspective of the height, and I think I did pretty well, all things considered. During the show, Rapunzel’s hair was let down from the balcony behind the tower and both the Prince and the Witch used it to swing behind and allow the kids to imagine them climbing it and into the arch window.

Used for both Rapunzel's parents' house and Rapunzel's tower (sans curtain)

Look at that gorgeous stove!

The permanent flats, of which I have no “before” photos, feature three stone walls and one window archway. Dan freehand painted the stove.

The rotating flats were HUGE and HEAVY. Good lord, so heavy. I’m pretty strong, but the weight and size of those things were so ridiculous that I could hardly shove them around by myself, and trying to lift/move them alone was impossible. Plus, a fair amount of the work had to be done while they were laying flat, and I had bruises all over my feet and ankles from accidentally kicking or trying to move them with my feet.

I did this all in one day.

Is it silly to be proud of something so minor?

I think the fountain looks awesome.

One side was the witch’s garden, of which I am particularly proud because I figured out how to do the gate and the placement of everything and the shading all by myself.

Other half of witch's garden

Mmm, gourds

If he only had a brain

The garden, in action

The other side was the interior of Rapunzel’s tower room, with two bookshelves that took about a million years to paint and detail, and a fancy princess bed (that, again, Dan freehand painted. Like you…do?).

Rapunzel's fancy bed, on two flats

Height/age detail marked on the side of the bookcase (a plot point)

These books took SO LONG to paint and detail. Seriously. Hours and hours.

The director’s sister spent HOURS doing the gold lettering detail on the books, and I spent HOURS just figuring out the correct angles at which to draw the bookcases to make sure they’d look right from the audience, according to my crappy printout of Dan’s drawings. But they looked great on the stage!

Wish I could have seen it from the audience

No flash photography = blurry photography

The show opened on Friday morning to a crowd of nearly 300 children, and as a thanks for our work, my friend gave us two tickets so we could go see the show on Saturday. While I was tickled to see all those many many hours of work in action (we were in the program!), the best part was watching the kids get into the show and seeing the adult actors interact with them.

Kids getting their wiggles out before the show began

I love the idea of a theater production that’s specifically designed to be accessible to people of all ages, and I love that Actor’s Theater For Children has been doing it for nearly 40 years!
The only downside is that all those hours of work, not only designing/painting the sets but script development, costumes, rehearsals, and everything else that goes into a production like this will all be done after next weekend. The company will paint over these flats for their next show. At least I’ll know they lent atmosphere to a great production, and someday if someone asks me if I’ve ever painted/designed sets for a play, I can say WHY YES I HAVE.

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10 responses to “Let down your hair

  1. That’s better than the set from CATS.

  2. Holy cow that is A LOT OF WORK. It looks great! (My mom used to do sets for our school plays, so I know how much effort can go into that stuff. Crazy.)

  3. Wow, this blows me away! I remember working backstage during college, but then my duties were limited to stapling cloth to wooden trees (the production was Into the Woods) and turning a giant rock from its below stage turnwheel. You did an amazing job with this (especially the books, cause come on I am a total book nerd!) đŸ™‚

  4. So cute! And so sad that they just paint over it for the next play.

    • Yeah, I have some hope that they’ll keep a little bit of it for the future (the next show is Twelve Dancing Princesses) but not crossing my fingers.

  5. You did AN AMAZING JOB! It looks great! You’re so talented.

    • I wouldn’t say talented so much as determined to make them look better than the last set did, which looked like it was painted by preschoolers with blindfolds on.

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