My friend Matthew and I were walking along the river front mid week, both of us daunted and elated to be learning at Off the Wall. Birds pass by, as we sauntered forward into our evening, chasing the rumour there would be fireworks later that eve. We were hot and full of information both from Off The Wall and our work there, but also the Stratford Festival Archives tour, where we open mouthed walked the lanes (and lanes) of props, and costumes, while listening to Gary tell us uplifting statistics like For every one actor in the Stratford Festival, there are nine people that you cannot see working behind the scenes. The mechanism of theatre is both small and large, hard to find, and yet everywhere, and Matty and I are hooked. As the red rockets blared, their lights burning brightly on high that night, I wouldn’t help but feel an over joyous gratitude for being there. I also couldn’t help but imagine my welding techniques, but we will get to that later.
Day 1~The design: the tree: the method: the madness(?)
David Court designed this beauteous tree, along with other fun stuff that you’ll see later gators. Matthew Burgess (the recipient of the Desmond Heeley grant) designed the props that we are currently working on. Welding a 10-foot tree is intense, but not as difficult as one may think. Frank Holte, the welding instructor, and teacher extraordinaire took us all through each machine, what it did, and how to use it (properly). By end day the four of us were off into our projects, welding away like we had always been there.
2-3~ Human mobile: good cheer: more art : )
Night life for Off The Wall is always exciting and full of wonderment. How much wonderment can one human take? Ask me in about 5 weeks if this keeps up. By wonderment, I mean a bunch of people playing military drums while hanging hundreds of feet in the air from a crane, while an acrobat danced above them free form. It was beautiful, and something I can’t quite put my finger on, but I know it has a whiff of mischief and quite possibly whimsy. Either way, the lot of us were thoroughly entertained and were able to bring that magic back to the factory to channel it into the set. For me personally, my time was eaten up happily with learning new methods of how to construct something, while staying true to the design, and artistry. The balance, of course, is also the difference between production and art. That which is made to be moulded and produced hundreds of times, versus a piece of steel that you manipulate into a delicate tree branch, or torch, or piece of sea kelp breaking and breaking all the moulds.
4-5~ THE DESIGNER IS COMING! Hide all your bad welds….
When one is learning, one can get stuck in the weeds. The weeds, of course, are symbolic unless we’re talking seaweed, and then we can actually attribute that to a classmate- Margaret to exact. She and her sea kelp were just closing in on an end so to speak, though there was a time on Wednesday when the lovely lady would have sworn she couldn’t possibly finish. This, of course, was inaccurate, she did finish, and with aplomb, Certificate in hand, Margaret walked out the door with her metal counterpart. She’s so metal!
For Matthew and I, time was happily spent in our quest for props, he and his torch making frenzy, and I in my corner weaving between the crooked staff of Hecuba, and Trojan jewelry that looks as though it wasn’t worth saving (as in the Romans sacked the city, and left the crapola behind). David Court, the lead designer came for a visit on Thursday and got to see his drawings come to life.
Not a new thing for him, but that students who worked on his trees were from Windsor, and though students taking the carpentry course were deeply involved in building the left side of the stage set. What they created in five days is awe inspiring. Women grabbing life by the power tools!
After David finished his walk about, we all headed to the Patterson Theatre where we were treated to a change-over from the School For Scoundrels set to the HMS Pinafore set. In thirty-six minutes flat the stage had been completely transformed, only small props and flourishes were to be added. Truly something to behold.
Every night we go home a bit dirtier, and a lot happier, feeling capable and ready for the next piece of the project.This past Saturday I saw our Carpentry instructor play his guitar with 99 other guitar players, audibly creating a swarm of wasps undulating invisible in the air. This is what we get to look forward to here…wonderment, creativity, painting outside the lines, and genius around every corner. Check in next week to see what sort of magic we have conjured up.