Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

• Domonic Sack Covers the Bases

of Sound Design

• How To Finance Higher Learning

• A Backdrop Primer and Directory

MAY 2008

Kevin Spacey Talks

Training and the Future

of the Old Vic

The Career Paths of Two

Regional Theatre A.D.s

Alternate Models of

Artistic Direction

Table Of Contents

May 2008


20 Direction In All Things

Brigham Young University’s theatre program mentors students

toward success. By Logan Molyneux

22 The Skinny On Scholarships

Financial assistance for theatrical training is easier to find

than you think. By Lisa Mulcahy

24 Theatre Space

Centennial Hall looked around and went large when it came

time to upgrade their audio system. By Steve Shull

27 New Voices and Social


Dobama brings contemporary and thought-provoking plays

to the Cleveland theatre scene. By John Bliss

28 The Journey to Site-Specific

Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre has made a practice of making

the unconventional space work, from pools in Pittsburgh to

adult clubs in Madrid. By Kevin M. Mitchell

42 Backdrop Basics

A primer on backdrops and drapery, including a directory

of backdrop and drapery rental companies from the 2007

Theatre Resources Directory. By Erik Viker

Special Section: Artistic Direction

30 New Visions In Artistic Direction

Two bold theatres are trying to reinvent the A.D. wheel.

By Bret Love

32 Kevin Spacey Talks Training

Two-time Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey opens up to SD

about his unique role as artistic director of London’s Old Vic

theatre and his theatre training. By Alex S. Morrison

35 Career Path

SD sits down with some regional theatre artistic directors and

talks about the paths they followed to get into the hot seat.

By Kevin M. Mitchell



9 Letters

We give credit where credit’s due to Denver’s vibrant

theatre scene.

10 In the Greenroom

New York Theatre Workshop lays off its entire production

department, Steinberg Charitable Trust creates

$200,000 award for playwrights, Microphone Interests

Coalition fires back at Google’s white space proposal.

14 Tools of the Trade

New tools corralled from USITT in Houston.

16 Light on the Subject

Part two of our lighting paperwork guide sheds light

on the Private Paperwork Packet. By Steve Shelley

18 Hardwired For Sound

We cross-examine Domonic Sack, a sound designer

who lives, breathes and eats sound.

By Bryan Reesman

52 Answer Box

The heroine has dreadlocks and a swing in Kneehigh

Theatre’s touring production of Rapunzel.

By Thomas H. Freeman



7 Editor’s Note

Conventions as a rite of spring. By Jacob Coakley

38 Show Biz

The NEA New Play Development Fund has a hefty

entrance fee. What can you do without that kind of

bank statement? By Tim Cusack

39 TD Talk

Keeping the faith in ourselves, in our craft and in our

crew is vital to get the job done. By Dave McGinnis

40 Off the Shelf

This month we fill the insatiable desire for monologues.

By Stephen Peithman

41 The Play’s the Thing

Culture and conflict intertwine with plays that

explore how basic differences can tear a world apart.

By Stephen Peithman


ON OUR COVER: Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum in the Old Vic’s production

of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow

PHOTOGRAPHY: Courtesy of the Old Vic

Dan Hernandez

Editor’s Note



This past month, I was privileged

enough to be able to attend two

completely different theatre conventions

in the same week.

First, I trekked down to Houston for

the USITT show. I somehow missed this

while I was a theatre undergrad, and

judging from the large number of students

there, I was the only one. Students

flooded the floor throughout the show, but everyone quickly

learned when the schedule was “Expo Only” — a period

when there were no educational panels scheduled, so as

to allow all the attendees to tour the floor and search for

schwag (not to mention interview for jobs or grad schools,

catch up with colleagues, or meet theatre sound legend Abe

Jacob). The number of panels I attended was dwarfed by

the number of panels I wanted to attend, and I left each one

amazed at the smarts and skills on display.

From Houston, I flew to Louisville, Ky., for the Actors

Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival of New American

Plays. Sure, it’s not technically a convention, and I won’t

review the shows, but I couldn’t give a more glowing recommendation

to the Actors Theatre community, as well as to

all the attendees. I spent most of my time getting to know

the artistic staff at theatres across the country, talking about

the challenges of developing and presenting new plays.

Everyone was keenly aware of the bind that larger institutional

theatres find themselves in when it comes to producing

new, risky work and actively searching for the best way

to get new voices into the mix. No one had a magic bullet,

but everyone was working on a solution, including some

unconventional ideas that may bear fruit down the road.

It’s easy (for me at least) to get burnt out on the intense

schedule and demands of theatre and just focus on the

sausage-making elements of production — It’s just another

show, just put it up, are we making our numbers? How can

we get more press? — It was great to have a long weekend

surrounded by passionate people on every side of theatre

(technical and performing artists, students and established

professionals, insiders and people trying to break in) who all

intensely, unabashedly, to-hell-with-practicality love theatre

and want to make as much of it as possible. It’s a daunting

proposition — the challenges to creating any work of art,

let alone making a career out of it, are legion and fatiguing.

So, I was incredibly grateful to be among so many committed,

vibrant and excited theatre people. It was inspiring and

reinvigorating — a perfect beginning to spring.

Jacob Coakley


Stage Directions

Publisher Terry Lowe

Editor Jacob Coakley

Audio Editor Jason Pritchard

Lighting & Staging Editor Richard Cadena

New York Editor Bryan Reesman

Managing Editor Breanne George

Contributing Writers John Bliss, Tim Cusack, Bret Love,

Dave McGinnis, Kevin M. Mitchell,

Logan Molyneux, Alex S. Morrison,

Lisa Mulcahy, Bryan Reesman,

Steve Shelley, Steve Shull, Erik Viker

Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman


Art Director Garret Petrov

Graphic Designers Crystal Franklin, David Alan


Production Manager Linda Evans


Web Designer Josh Harris


Advertising Director Greg Gallardo

National Sales Manager James Leasing

Audio Advertising Manager Dan Hernandez

Advertising Sales Associate Leslie Rohrscheib


General Manager William Vanyo


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Advisory Board

Joshua Alemany


Julie Angelo

American Association of

Community Theatre

Robert Barber

BMI Supply

Ken Billington

Lighting Designer

Roger claman

Rose Brand

Patrick Finelli, PhD

University of

South Florida

Gene Flaharty

Mehron Inc.

Cathy Hutchison

Acoustic Dimensions

Keith Kankovsky

Apollo Design

Becky Kaufman

Period Corsets

Keith Kevan

KKO Network

Todd Koeppl

Chicago Spotlight Inc.

Kimberly Messer

Lillenas Drama Resources

John Meyer

Meyer Sound

John Muszynski

Theater Director

Maine South High School

Scott Parker

Pace University/USITT-NY

Ron Ranson

Theatre Arts

Video Library

David Rosenberg

I. Weiss & Sons Inc.

Karen Rugerio

Dr. Phillips High School

Ann Sachs

Sachs Morgan Studio

Bill Sapsis

Sapsis Rigging

Richard Silvestro

Franklin Pierce College



Smoking On Stage

— Again?


am weary of this whole debate and angry that it is returning

with such force. Let's suppose a playwright (I teach

playwriting and am married to a playwright) creates a

scene in which someone uses a gun. Let's suppose the playwright

opposes the "prop" gun route. Who is responsible

now if someone is injured? The playwright? Under their

argument of artistic freedom, no. The producers? Under

their argument of artistic freedom, no. The actor? They just

do what the director says. The director? No, they just do

what the playwright insists of them. What if an audience

member is injured by a stray shot?

So, let's turn the discussion back to smoking. Who is at

fault when someone is injured? If a producer requires a

performer to smoke for a role, they can be held liable in the

event of a future smoking-related illness. What if an audience

member has a reaction to, or dies from, the presence

of secondhand smoke? Who is responsible? Freedoms and

responsibilities are not the same. No one has the right to

harm someone else. We, as theatre artists, employ stage

combat. No one is intentionally killed in a sword battle. No

scenery is actually burned to the ground on stage. We do not

slash people open and put them through the meat grinder

during every performance of Sweeney Todd. To allow smoking

in a production endangers performers, crew and audience.

As an asthmatic, I have had to leave many productions,

in the past because of the presence of smoking on stage.

Just when I thought we were making progress, the practice

is returning. Whatever happened to willing suspension of

disbelief? We have laws regulating the use of pyrotechnics

on stage, we have begun holding accreditation courses for

electricians and riggers to insure the safety of all present.

So I would say, in response to your editor's note in the

April issue, "So is there anything you just can't put on

the stage? Besides smoking? (Joking, joking. Maybe)," that

smoking has no place on stage or in public places. The

presence of any smoke denies access to the vast majority of

the public that does not want to be exposed for reasons of

personal preference or personal health.

Shan R. Ayers, MFA

Associate Professor of Theatre

Berea College

Berea, KY

Our articles on smoking continue to generate the most

responses than any other stories — by far. And you’re in good

company, Professor Ayers. The Denver Post, in its reporting

on the ruling that upheld the smoking ban said: "In its ruling,

the Court of Appeals said that theatres were already in

the business of make-believe, and that barring smoking was

essentially no different from barring the use of illegal drugs or

real violence.” — ed.

In the Greenroom

theatre buzz

New York Theatre Workshop Eliminates Production Department

New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) moved to eliminate

the theatre’s six-person production department on April 10,

including the production manager and technical director. The

five year-round staffers and one seasonal employee will be laid

off officially effective May 30, 2008.

Citing an urgent need to whittle a projected $5 million

annual operating budget down to $3.5 million, NYTW gave all

employees the option of taking a week long furlough without

pay beginning in January in order to avoid layoffs. According to

NYTW Production Manager Michael Casselli, the furlough idea

was put to the staff bluntly. “It was either take the furlough, or

there will be possible lay offs,” he says. “It’s not really a choice.”

Upon termination, the six production department staffers

were reimbursed for wages lost during the furlough.

The company-wide payroll reduction reportedly saved the

theatre nearly $50,000, but ultimately did not stave off the

Workshop’s financial situation. The NYTW Board of Trustees

issued a mandate to the theatre, calling for the shaving of $1

million from the operating budget.

Pointing to the imminent restructuring of NYTW when

new Managing Director Billy Russo begins his tenure in June,

Interim Managing Director Fred Walker informed the production

department employees of their termination behind closed

doors. The staff was in the midst of teching the Elevator Repair

Service adaptation of Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury (which

began previews April 15) at the time.

Walker cited the lack of a production schedule for next

season as the primary rationale for cutting the production

department before anything else. “It’s [the production]

department, because it’s the most obvious,” Walker told

Casselli’s staff last Thursday.

Casselli claims the annual salary savings of the firings will

amount to approximately $280,000 plus varying benefits savings.

As of this writing, Casselli was also offered a deal to walk

off the job immediately without losing pay through the official

termination date at the end of May. The employees will be

covered by NYTW health insurance through June 30.

According to NYTW Spokesperson Richard Kornberg the

termination of the production staff is “fiscally responsible, not

reprehensible,” and referred to the goings-on at NYTW as a

“fluid situation.” Kornberg also emphasized that the Workshop

will not be producing any shows during the summer months,

and was unsure of the actual savings of the current cutbacks.

The theatre, known for its stagings of new work (including

the premiere of Rent over a decade ago), will almost certainly

cut back its production schedule next season and plans to either

hire production positions on a show-by-show or seasonal basis.

NYTW still plans on breaking ground for their new LEEDcertified

scene and costume shop facilities on May 20, although

questions have been raised regarding the lack of staff to operate

and maintain the building. Casselli has acted as the “liaison

to the architect” on the project since joining the NYTW staff

nearly two years ago, and has also been the theatre’s strongest

advocate for advancing environmentally friendly practices in

its operations.

“Since NYTW intends to hire people on a per show basis

next season,” Kornberg says, “the [new] costume and scene

shop will not be affected.”

Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Creates $200,000 Award for Playwrights

As part of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright

Award, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust

has created two new awards for established playwrights,

including one with a $200,000 cash prize.

The $200,000 award, whose first recipient will be

announced this fall, is one of the largest cash prizes

specifically targeted toward playwrights.

The second award, the Steinberg Emerging

Playwrights Award, is designed for up-and-coming

playwrights and has a cash prize of $50,000. This

award will honor two playwrights biannually beginning

in 2009.

industry news

City Theatrical Opens London Location

City Theatrical has opened its new

London office serving the UK and

European markets. The opening is timed

to coincide with the European launch of

SHoW DMX, City Theatrical’s new wireless

DMX system.

City Theatrical’s London office is headed

by Martin Chisnall, known for his work

in the UK theatre industry as a production

electrician for West End shows, as well

as national and international tours. Most

recently, his work has included Macbeth

in London’s West End and the international

tour of Mamma Mia!

All City Theatrical products will continue

to be available through existing

dealers. The new office will allow City

Theatrical to work closely with lighting

users to introduce more European orientated

products, along with providing

design and customization services to a

wider audience.

Martin Chisnall

10 May 2008 •

industry news

Microphone Interests Coalition Responds to Google White Space Proposal

A broad coalition of high-profile wireless microphone users,

organized as the Microphone Interests Coalition (MIC), has criticized

the recent proposal submitted by Google to open the socalled

“white spaces” to unlicensed device use.

Google is touting the proposal as a spectrum compromise

that eliminates any remaining interference concerns about using

personal/portable devices in the unassigned TV channels called

white spaces. The Microphone Interests Coalition, however, says

the plan is far from a compromise and should not be viewed as a

solution for wireless microphones.

The proposal, similar to one submitted earlier by Motorola,

would require wireless microphone users to purchase and operate

a so-called “beacon” transmitter — akin to a jamming device

— and would rely on white space devices to “sense” this beacon

in order to prevent the white space device from interfering with

microphone transmissions.

Google’s proposal also identifies a “safe harbor” of three TV

channels in which wireless microphones could operate without

interference from new devices. Additional protections would be

provided by intelligent “spectrum sensing” technology embedded

in the portable devices. This sensing technology is currently

under evaluation in FCC laboratory testing.

“Despite their claims, the Google proposal does virtually nothing

to protect wireless microphones. In short, their ‘enhanced

spectrum protection plan’ doesn’t work,” said Ed Greene, Emmy

Award-winning audio director who works on the Academy Awards,

American Idol and Tony Awards. “Because of the potentially devastating

effect on thousands of wireless microphones in daily use,

the FCC should not consider adopting their proposal.”

“First, the proposed beacon has not been developed, operated

or tested in any fashion or in any forum,” said Scott Harmala, CTO

of ATK Audiotek, a firm that supplies wireless audio equipment

for many of the nation’s major TV award shows. “How can the FCC

possibly approve an interference protection technology without

anyone having seen it work? The Commission’s commitment to

testing before ruling is well known and should be followed here.

This includes field analysis in actual operating environments.”

Harmala continues, “Second, the beacon concept relies on

spectrum sensing — the very technology that is performing so

poorly in the FCC’s ongoing test. Beacons could be just as difficult

to detect as the wireless microphones themselves and could create

additional interference problems. Without thorough testing,

there is no way to know.”

Bill Evans, editor of Front Of House [Full disclosure — FOH

is a sister magazine to Stage Directions, published by Timeless

Communications —ed.] magazine, adds, “Assuming a beacon

were to be developed, the fine print reveals that very few wireless

microphone users would be allowed to own and operate

one. Documents filed by Google, Motorola and others make it

clear that they believe that the great majority of wireless microphone

users, who have developed a sophisticated, tried-and-true

frequency coordination system that has enabled operation in this

spectrum without issue for decades, do not deserve any protection

priority. Any proposal that leaves touring concert and show

productions, hotels and convention centers, Broadway houses

and theatres across the country, houses of worship, civic auditoriums,

educational institutions and large entertainment venues out

in the cold cannot be described as serving the public interest.” • May 2008 11

industry news

Companies Give Back at USITT

The Long Reach Long Riders and The ESTA Foundation

have raised a total of $8,364 for their joint raffle to benefit

the Behind the Scenes program at the USITT conference in

Houston. When added to the Challenge Grants provided

by Bigger Hammer Productions, Sapsis Rigging and Strong

Entertainment Lighting, the total reached $18,364.

The traditional pre-raffle kazoo parade kicked off the

festivities and was emceed by Bill Sapsis, one of the founding

Long Reach Long Riders. Sapsis invited a series of

guests to pull the winning raffle tickets, including USITT

President Sylvia Hillyard-Pannell, Rich Wolpert who had

just completed a 754-mile bicycle ride in support of Behind

the Scenes, and Michelle Kokal, who had just presented a

$1,000 check on behalf of the USITT Student Chapter at

Penn State University.

All proceeds of the raffle go directly to The ESTA

Foundation’s Behind the Scenes program, which provides

entertainment technology industry members with grants for

emergency situations, such as serious illness, injury or death.

Also at USITT, Chris Mount, a student at University of

Texas at Arlington, won the scholarship to Tomcat U.

The scholarship to the Hoist and Truss Workshop from June

4–7 will cover basic and advanced maintenance and troubleshooting

techniques for CM Lodestars and Prostars; advanced

troubleshooting scenarios; an overview of hoist control; basic

and advanced instruction on truss design, usage and theory;

live demonstrations of truss inspection and destruction.

“I’m excited to attend the workshop because it will give me

professional insight on trussing and motors,” Chris explained,

“This is knowledge I’ll need when I enter the workforce.”

Four Draft Standards to Review in Rigging, Power Distribution and Floors

Four draft standards are available for public review on the ESTA

Web site through May 26. The draft standards address specific problems

found in powered rigging, electrical power distribution and

floors used in live performances and special events.

BSR E1.6-2 - 200x, Entertainment Technology - Purpose Designed

Serially Manufactured Electric Chain Hoists for the Entertainment Industry,

is part of the BSR E1.6 powered theatrical rigging systems project.

BSR E1.18-1 - 200x, Standard for the Selection, Installation and Use

of Single-Conductor Portable Power Feeder Cable Systems for Use at

Less than 601 Volts Nominal for the Distribution of Electrical Energy in

the Entertainment and Live-Event Industries, is part of a larger E1.18

project to offer guidance on portable power feeder cable systems.

SR E1.19 - 200x, Recommended Practice for the use of Class A

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) intended for personnel protection

in the Entertainment Industry, recommends practices for the

safe use of 100 amp or lower, 120-240 VAC, single or three-phase, 60

Hz Class A Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).

The fourth draft standard is BSR E1.34 - 200x, Entertainment

Technology - Measuring and Specifying the Slipperiness of Floors

Used in Live Performance Venues.

12 May 2008 •

Maggie Boland Named Managing Director of Signature Theatre

Signature Theatre has

announced the appointment

of Maggie Boland as

the new managing director

beginning May 5.

According to Signature’s

Board Chair Sarah Valente,

Maggie Boland

the nationwide search for

a managing director identified

a strong list of qualified candidates.

“We were surprised and lucky to find the perfect fit for

Signature ‘right in our own backyard,’” said Valente, “Maggie

Boland is contagiously enthusiastic. Her ‘can-do’ attitude will

be a great match for Signature’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer.

The Board predicts great things from their partnership.”

Boland was previously the director of External Affairs

at Arena Stage, a position that she had held since January

2003 when she assumed responsibility for Arena’s Annual

Fund, in addition to her oversight of the theatre’s marketing,

public relations and sales efforts. In late 2006, Boland

added the management of Arena’s $125 million Next Stage

Campaign to her portfolio, of which nearly $108 million has

been raised to date.

Boland succeeds Sam Sweet, who is now serving as

the chief operating officer of the Corcoran Gallery of Art,

Corcoran College of Art + Design.

changing roles

Manhattan Theatre Club

Appoints Director of

Artistic Development

Jerry Patch will be

joining Manhattan

Theatre Club’s artistic

team as the company’s

new director

of artistic development.

Jerry Patch

Patch is currently co-artistic director

of San Diego’s The Old Globe where he

brought to the theatre works by such

renowned playwrights as Amy Freed,

Howard Korder, Richard Greenberg

and Donald Margulies.

Prior to joining The Old Globe in

2005, he was a member of the artistic

team of South Coast Repertory where

he coordinated the development of

150 new plays, including two Pulitzer

Prize winners.

Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and

Executive Producer Barry Grove said,

“We have known and admired Jerry

Patch for many years and have always

had the highest regard for his talent

and his role in working with writers. The

Manhattan Theatre Club has had many

associations with Jerry and South Coast

Rep when Jerry worked there with David

Emmes and Martin Benson. We, along

with Acting Artistic Director Daniel

Sullivan and Associate Artistic Director

Mandy Greenfield, are thrilled that Jerry

is making the move east to join MTC in

its roles on and off Broadway.”

Patch will be working with MTC’s

artistic team including Daniel Sullivan,

Mandy Greenfield, Amy Loe, director of

artistic administration, and Lisa McNulty,

associate director of artistic operations.

Patch will also head up the play development

office, which includes Raphael

Martin, Literary Manager Raphael Martin

and Annie MacRae, play development

associate/sloan project manager. • May 2008 13

Tools of the Trade

USITT stole some thunder from the rodeo in Houston last month.

Here are some of the products that generated buzz on the show floor.

Global Design Solutions ProSM

The GDS ProSM is a flexible and

modular stage manager’s desk

designed to meet the demands of

the modern stage manager at any

size venue. It features seven configurable

panels, including lighting, with

custom work light setting and scene

selections; clock/timer, with battery

backup video monitors, with reverse

function and up to four inputs and

front panel switching; intercom/

paging interface, with up to four channels and four Aux outs;

intercom aux, with 16 switch outs; audio monitor, featuring mic/

line level monitoring, six selectable inputs and local and remote

global mute; finally a cue light panel with up to 12 channels of

control. Distributed exclusively worldwide by TMB.

HME WS200 Wireless Speaker Station

HME’s WS200 Wireless

Speaker Station is designed for

two-way intercom communication

when flexibility is at a

premium or wires can’t be run.

It features a built-in speaker,

built-in microphone, visual and

audible call signaling and a headset jack for added convenience.

It is intended for use with a DX200 or DX100 base station

and takes the place of a beltpac or an all-in-one wireless

headset communicator. The WS200 operates on six 1.5V AA

batteries or 100-240 VAC. It also features a selectable intercom

or isolated channel option, side-tone and mic gain headset

adjustments and an external 8-ohm speaker connecter.

Martin Maxxyz Compact

Martin Professional‘s

Maxxyz lighting console

is now available in

a compact version that

is designed to offer full

Maxxyz functionality

in a modular mid-sized

design. Built of a heavy-duty aluminium, Maxxyz Compact has

been designed with the touring and rental market in mind.

This latest addition to the Maxxyz range features four modules

requiring only USB and power connections. The modules

are: Cerebrum, Programmer, Motorized Playback and Master.

The Cerebrum module is a touch-screen computer and can

control up to 32 DMX Universes (four direct, 28 via Art-Net or

Universal USB/DMX). The Maxxyz Cerebrum can also be used

stand-alone for controlling installations. The Programmer and

Playback Modules are designed to make creating and running

shows easier, quicker and safer. The Master Module has two

faders — Grand Master and Flash Master by default.

Meyer Sound UPQ-1P Loudspeaker

Making its U.S. debut

is the new self-powered

UPQ-1P wide coverage loudspeaker.

The UPQ-1P, part of

the UltraSeries of loudspeaker

products, demonstrates the

same consistent and smooth

sonic signature of other Meyer

Sound products found in a

list of theatrical productions

as well as live performance

venues. UPQ-1P is designed to

deliver a peak power output

of 136 dB SPL with low distortion, while offering flexible rigging

options, wide vertical coverage and gradual off-axis rolloff to

accommodate a range of installation requirements.

Production Intercom IP-900 Connect

Production Intercom’s IP-900 Connect is an Internet/intercom

interface device that uses Voice Over Internet Protocol

(VOIP) technology to allow multiple users to join an intercom

system as if they were there. It connects to the intercom system

with a standard three-pin XLR connection and and to the

Internet via a Cat5 cable. Software allowing remote users to

connect is provided on a USB memory stick and can be run

from the memory stick or installed directly on the device. Shackle and

Keeper Plates

There are five different

designs of Shackle Plates

from TheatricalHardware.

com. Each one is designed

to give you as many options

as possible determining

the rigging requirements

of scenery. The Shackle Plate with a ½” hole is the most commonly

used Shackle Plate. It will accept shackles or jaw type

turnbuckles with a ½” through-bolt and mounts easily to the

bottom rail of any flat or for use as a floor or ceiling plate.

There are four other models that feature a ½” hole, and one

with a 3 /8” hole. The plates can be attached by bolting to the

lowest point of the scenery directly in-line with the keeper

plate bolted to the top of the scenery. The cable line used

to suspend the scenery is attached to the Shackle Plate and

then run though the Keeper Plate’s eye opening and finally

onto the suspending point. The plates are made from heavygauge

steel and pre-drilled for assembly with two ¼” bolts and

two #8 or #10 flat head screws.

14 May 2008 •

Light on the Subject

By Steven L. Shelley

A Brief Practical Guide to

Lighting Paperwork,Part 2

In last month’s article about lighting paperwork, I examined

the categories (graphics, lists and forms) and classes

(public, private and infrastructure) of paperwork, as well

as the function of various pieces of paperwork and best

practices for distribution and storage. The article ended with

a long description of what types of paperwork needed to

be included in the public packet. If that sounds like a lot of

information, it is. Feel free to check out last month’s article to

refresh yourself before we dive into the final part of a lighting

paperwork packet, the Private Packet.

Private Lighting Paperwork Packet

The Private Paperwork Packet is comprised of documents

I create for my own use. I rarely give out copies of these

documents. Their purpose is more for my own personal use,

and they are tailor-made to primarily be comprehensible to

me. If others understand them, that is fine. But their primary

purpose is to act as shorthand memory storage for my needs

and no one else’s.

My Spike Groundplan show the detailed measurements

for each point on the stage as designed for Patti LuPone, who

requested that the relationship between her and the rest of

the stage picture be consistent and relative to the edge of

the stage. These spikes and any adaptation of them were

set only by myself and the stage manager, so there was no

need to send this information in advance or to share it with

anyone else.

Focus Digital Pix (Figure 1) is comprised of miniature

digital photos of fixtures focused into the back of the

translucency. Once the show opened, I photographed

each channel during light check and then imported them

as JPGs into a single VectorWorks document. I found that

the black and white photos provided better contrast and

didn’t require a color printer. These

photos reappear on the Hang Plots.

The tour’s schedule was sporadic;

there might be two or three weeks

between engagements. Reviewing

four pages of these photos, the night

before a load-in, got the focus visually

back in my head much faster than

old-school written focus charts.

Hang Plot Downstage (Figure 2) is

an expansion of the downstage four

overhead electrics in the light plot.

Starting in the lower right hand corner,

(1) the title block (and contact sheet)

indicates cell numbers and email

addresses for the company’s traveling

staff. In the lower right-hand corner

(2) the legend identifies the fixture

type. The scale bars (3) are drawn next

to each electric, in order to expedite Figure 2

measuring during the hang. For system fixtures (such as

backlight PARs), the plot showed channel, color, bulb type

and bulb rotation. For fixtures containing a gobo, I imported

images from the Web sites and listed their name, number

and proper orientation. For special focus fixtures (6), I created

a miniature diagram underneath each fixture. I found

the focus for the template system in channels 10 through 12

difficult to remember, so I created a groundplan detailing just

that system (7).

Hang Plot Upstage (Figure 3) expands the fifth electric

and all of the deck gear in the light plot. While using many of

the drafting techniques from the Downstage document, this

page relied much more on the digital photos to detail the

focus on the white translucency. Figure 4 shows a close-up of

channel 48. While the red circle (1) shows the hanging location,

electrical and gobo information, the digital photo above

(1a) shows the focus photo. I placed white ovals and numbers

on the photo to help visually match the unit number and

approximate beam placement.

Figure 1

16 May 2008 •

This relationship is replicated

throughout this page. Circle 2 in

Figure 3 shows the hang location of

the fixtures plugged into channel 44

(2a) shows their pipe end-style focus.

The fixtures hung on the downstage

right boom are shown in their pseudo-front

elevation view (3) next to

the photo showing their focus on the

white scrim curtain (3a). The cluster

of deck-mounted fixtures, upstage

of the translucency, is plugged into

channels 49 and 50. Their complex

focus is detailed in the pair of adjacent

photos (4a). Even the centerline

fan focus of channel 43 (5a) is

explained for the four deck fixtures

above the picture (5).

Figure 3

I placed these two “Hang Plot

“pages back-to-back inside a legal-sized plastic page

protector. With this document in my back pocket, I could

hang, color, template, troubleshoot and focus the entire

plot without referring to another document.

The Track Sheet (Figure 5) is a close-up of a spreadsheet

document I constructed once the show was open and frozen.

It’s comprised of four basic components. The title information

in the upper left-hand corner states the show’s name, as well

as when and where these light cues were assembled. Under

that are the columns for the memory number, the count

and the placement or action of each memory. The channel

numbers and system identification are listed numerically

to the right of the title information. The channel intensities

make up the cue content, the rest of the document. Channel

intensities that are bold and centered are receiving a “hard

command” to move in that cue. Intensities that are non-bold

and aligned to the right side of the cell aren’t moving; they’re

“tracking through” the cue. The highlighted hard commands

made it easier to horizontally scan across the track sheet and

see what channels were moving in any cue. Scanning a single

channel column allowed me to view the channel’s usage and

its movement to other adjacent channels.

Figure 5

A f t e r p r i n t i n g

and taping together

pages of paper, I constructed

a foldable

document showing

the cue “road map”

for the entire production.

Having this in

my pocket allowed

me to analyze any cue

sequence and instantly

be able to decide if

any change should be

recorded to “track” or

“cue only.”

These packets

a n d d o c u m e n t s

p r o v i d e d m e w i t h Figure 4

the information and tools necessary to quickly

and effectively communicate the needs of the

production and be able to make rapid judgments

and decisions on the fly. While they’re

not the perfect combination

o f d o c u m e n t s t o a p p l y t o

every situation, the structure

I created with this lighting

p a p e r w o r k p a c k a g e a l l o w ed

me to spend less time generating

the same information

for each stop, and more time

to enjoy the great theatres,

institutions and folks in each

tour city.

Steven L. Shelley is a lighting

designer and production manager.

He designs the plastic Field

Templates and the VectorWorks

toolkit SoftSymbols. He’s also

the author of A Practical Guide

to Stage Lighting. • May 2008 17

Sound Design

By Bryan Reesman

Hardwired For Sound

Domonic Sack, a sound man who

covers all the bases.

Nigel Casey as Dean Martin in The Rat Pack

— Live at the Sands. Domonic Sack and Sound

Associates designed the system for its West

End production.

Sound Designer and Installer Domonic Sack lives,

breathes and eats sound. He designs for shows, installs

sound systems into venues and, when he has free

time, performs as a choral singer with the Metropolitan

Opera, with whom he has been singing since 1989. (His first

opera was Parsifal.) As executive vice president of Sound

Associates, the company he has been with for 20 years, he

currently averages three permanent installs per year along

with 12 Broadway or off-Broadway type shows that he personally

works on. Last September alone he worked on the

off-Broadway Frankenstein, a musical about Ray Charles,

A Tale Of Two Cities in Florida (now headed to Broadway),

Three Mo’ Tenors at the Little Shubert and started a tour of

3 Mo’ Divas. When Stage Directions managed to catch him

sitting still for 45 minutes, we cross-examined him about

his life in sound.

Stage Directions: How do you balance working on shows

with your installs?

Domonic Sack: I don’t know. I’ve been doing it so long

that it just keeps going. Right now, I’m working on the

new Durham Performing Arts Center. They’re about halfway

through construction and will be opening in December 2008.

I’m designing a whole performing arts complex out west that

is slated to open a year and a half from now. And we’re bidding

on I don’t know how many things. We work with many

different designers. It’s good because I try to learn from all

of them.

I have to say that as far as the theatre design build thing,

we could probably be doing 10 times the amount of work if

we wanted to. There seems to be such a dramatic need for it.

The consultants do a spectacular job, but I think the process

gets in the way, and because of it, the majority of the money

is spent on a big paper trail. There is a lot of bureaucracy

involved in it, especially when it’s a public works project. The

accountability on these projects is good, and I understand

completely why it has to be done, but I’m just saying there’s

a tremendous amount of money that is spent, and unfortunately

the project is the one that loses.

How do the sensibilities of working on rock shows cross

over to doing Broadway musicals and cross over into

doing operas?

I always try to bring one area into the other. When I’m

doing the classical stuff, I think many times people feel like

they have all of these special needs, that what they’re producing

wants to be different than a rock show. It’s my experience

that they need everything that a rock show has, and

usually then some, only because you need to have the tools.

How you use the tools is really the important thing.

I like the cardioid speaker technology for the classical

shows, for the Philharmonic shows and for the operas

because we try to keep the stage sound as acoustic as possible.

Even then, when you start to think about what’s really

happening on the stage, when you’re outdoors there are

really no side walls, so that whole perspective is changed

anyway. What I don’t want to do is contaminate the microphones.

I like to keep a lot of the sound off the stage, and the

cardioid system is a very big help. You just try to take advantage

of the technology when you can.

18 May 2008 •

Hunter Foster (left) as Victor

Frankenstein and Steve Blanchard as

the Creature in Frankenstein, an off-

Broadway musical that premiered in

Fall 2007, with sound by Domonic Sack

and Sound Associates.

Carol rosegg

Carol rosegg

Carol rosegg

Sack was involved with the Florida premiere

of A Tale of Two Cities at Asolo and

now its planned Broadway transfer.

Another moment from Frankenstein

You have to deal with what people have for rentals. If

you’re mixing the Hartford Symphony and there is no cardioid

gear out or something that you’re used to, you’ve got

to use what they have. That’s the one thing about classical

music, they have these relationships, and they’re usually

good about keeping those relationships alive. A symphony

orchestra will use a sound engineer and contractor for years

on end, and I’ve always liked that. They like to think that they

developed this sound together. I’ve always been very fond

of that because I think it’s true in some respects. The speaker

systems are the same, depending upon how many people

you’re trying to cover and what you’re trying to do.

As a sound designer, how do you bring your aesthetics

into installing sound systems?

I try to put it all together. I try to put a system together.

Here’s the key to it: I think the biggest mistake that people

make when they design a sound system is that they’re always

trying to design the perfect sound system for the theatre.

This is not what the theatre needs. They need the tools.

They don’t need the perfect sound system, because the fact

is when Tony Bennett or Metallica come into your theatre,

they’re going to want to use their sound system for their production.

And for you to say your speaker system is the most

perfect thing in the world and they have to use it is just such a

mistake. I think everyone loses in those particular situations.

Present something to them so they’ll want to use your sound

system. That’s the key to it — don’t fight it. Usually they’ll come

around. Those are the kinds of things you have to do. If you want

them to use your sound system, the best thing you can do as a

theatre owner is to make it available. Saves them time and that’s

saving money, which everyone understands.

Make sure you have a paging system that covers everything.

Make sure you address the problem areas of your theatre

because if they come in for a show, they don’t have time

to put speakers everywhere that they need them. Make it easy

to interface with your system so they can just plug into your

DSP and send the signal. Have proper power and disconnects

in the right spot so they don’t have to run 200 feet of feeder.

These are real tools. They don’t need this other stuff. They need

a loading dock where they can get three trucks up there and

stay parked there for a whole show and take the empties out

during the show and not take up stage space. They need a

broadcast hook-up outside of the loading dock so the broadcast

trucks can come in and tie into the same power system.

It sounds like the secret to being both a good sound

designer and a good sound installer is: As a designer, be

flexible to work with what’s available, and as an installer,

make things flexible for what people bring in.

Exactly, you need to have the tools in place. The sound

system is the main left and right arrays, and the speakers are

secondary to anything else that you’re doing. Because with

the speakers that are out there — whether it’s JBL, EV, EAW,

Meyer, or whoever it is — everyone is producing a good

product. Many times you look on a rider and they’ll say, “We

want a line array.” They don’t say, “We have to have Meyer.”

Sometimes they do — if they’re really, really into what they’re

doing. But the majority of the time, if you lay out a nice program

for them, that takes you a long way. • May 2008 19

School Spotlight

By Logan Molyneux

Center: Hamlet

(Matt Neves ) &

Ophelia (Jane

Doe). Matt

Neves was a

national Irene

Ryan finalist.

Direction In

All Things

BYU’s theatre program guides its

students to success

The costume

designs for

Ophelia and

Hamlet by grad

student Erin

Dinnell Bjorn

frame the picture.

“We have to make sure

we don’t overuse the

students because there

is so much going on.”

— Rory Scanlon

Near the end of the 2007 Fall semester, a couple of

Brigham Young University theatre professors were

speaking with Department Chair Rodger Sorensen

about the success one student had directing a student production

for class credit. “It’s the best work I’ve seen her do

since she has come here,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said he pulled the student aside later to compliment

her, and then suggested she shift her focus from acting

(which had been her focus so far) to directing. Barta Heiner,

who runs the school’s acting major, was one of the professors

Sorensen was speaking with. After she overcame her surprise

that Sorensen could be so bold, she thanked him.

Janet Swenson, an associate chair who teaches costume

and set design, said such conversations

are common in BYU’s

Department of Theatre and Media

Arts because the department focuses

on giving students opportunities and

then mentoring to help them reach

their potential. “So that not only are

they capable of doing what they

do,” Swenson said, “but they have

a love of doing it that will carry on.”

Students work closely with at least

two and sometimes more faculty mentors who help with

everything from choosing classes to suggestions on design

and directing projects.

Rory Scanlon, associate dean and design instructor, said

their work is somewhat like teaching a child to ride a bicycle.

“When we see a student who we think is really ready,

we just kind of let go.” In the end, that means students are

doing well over half the work on the 450 performances the

department’s Design and Production team produces each

season. Students do half or more of the work on makeup

and costumes, scenic design, lighting design and sound

design for live theatre, musical events, dance performances,

film and television. That’s not to mention all the acting and

directing going on in two to three theatre performances a

week in the school’s five theatres.

“We tell our students, ‘The problem is not finding something

for you to do, the problem is getting you to graduate,’”

Scanlon said. “We have to make sure we don’t overuse

the students because there is so much going on.”

Building a Program for the Students

It’s taken more than 100 years for the BYU theatre

department to reach this point of busy activity. In 1901,

Miriam Nelke began teaching theatre courses at BYU, and

now a 223-seat theatre named after her is dedicated solely

to student productions. The program expanded with the

help of T. Earl and Kathryn Pardoe, for whom the department’s

largest theatre is named, and Harold Hansen, who

added many faculty positions and expanded course offerings.

In 1953, BYU became one of the first universities in

the country to have a formal film

production program, and in 1974 the

theatre and film programs merged

to form the Department of Theatre

and Media Arts. Today, the department

has about 450 students (about

240 in the four theatre majors) and

21 full-time and 54 part-time faculty


All BYU’s theatres have a full lighting

stock and are currently being

outfitted with sound and video recording systems so productions

can be taped and aired on BYU’s nationwide and

international cable channels. The Nelke student theatre

has a stage lift in it and the back of the stage can open

up into the black-box Margetts theatre, so there can be

an expanded stage with audience on both sides. Two theatres

have fly-line systems and the Pardoe Theatre has a

built-in electronic revolve.

BYU’s theatre offerings are a BA in theatre education,

a BFA in acting, a BFA in music dance theatre, and a BA in

theatre arts with emphases in directing, playwriting, theatre

design and technology and general theatre studies. The

majors take about 60 hours of required course work.

Sorensen said some students seek employment after

earning a bachelor’s degree, but many choose to pursue

graduate studies, and BYU’s liberal-arts based theatre

majors help them place well in graduate programs.

20 May 2008 •

School Spotlight

“They come with a pretty broad experience because they’ve

worked in the shop, they’ve designed on stage, they’ve

acted in performances,” Scanlon said. “So graduate programs

really like them because they have that experience

and they get put into assistantships very quickly.”

Building Moral Students

But what really sets BYU apart is that it is owned by

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and so

requires high ethical and moral standards of its students.

“There’s an honor code on campus,” Scanlon said, “and

students do agree to live a certain way and dress a certain

way and even do their hair a certain way. A lot of people

find that really restrictive, but most of our students find

that it really frees them up to take what they believe and

what they want to learn and marry those two together

and help build them as an entire human being.” BYU

admits students who are not members of the church,

but they must also sign the honor code and receive an

ecclesiastical endorsement from the leader of their preferred

denomination. All students are required to take a

substantial number of religion courses, almost enough to

minor in religion. Swenson said, “I think that when the students

leave here they are very ethical beings. They have a

good work ethic and they have a good personal ethic and

they’re able to get along with others easily.”

The department works closely with the church to support

the Young Ambassadors, a highly produced, 28-member

show choir that tours internationally. “The church

missionary department uses them as a door opening,” said

Tim Threlfall, chair of the MDT program. “They were the first

church representatives to be in China years ago, in 1979.”

Threlfall said about 500 students try out for the 28 slots.

Similarly, about 250 students audition for the selective MDT

program, but only 16 are accepted each year. At the end

of the semester, Threlfall sets up showcases in New York

and Los Angeles theatres for MDT and acting students to

impress agents and talent scouts.

When the students are ready to graduate, their professors

have high hopes for what they will be and do with their

careers. Swenson said commercial success isn’t their only

measuring stick — they hope students will be true to their

beliefs. “What we want to do is to create people who know

who they are and what they are, so when they go they can

be stars as artists and as people.” Heiner said she wants her

acting students to have versatility so they can play a whole

bunch of different characters.

“We hope,” Threlfall said, “and this sounds clichéd,

that they use their talents well. And that may be teaching

school, that may be doing the church road show or play

in a day, or they may be on Broadway.” Wherever they

work, Sorensen said, theatre is about telling stories. “I

hope they can tell stories that are meaningful to them in

truthful ways and in ways that will engage and entertain

audiences to help them see the world in clearer ways. And

that’s entertainment.”

“Graduate programs really like them

because they have that experience

and they get put into assistantships

very quickly.” — Rory Scanlon

The cast of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, produced in the summer of 2007. It was directed by George

Nelson with Eric Fielding as scenic designer and Jessica Cowden designing costumes.

The BYU fall 2007 Touring Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. Every fall, BYU takes a “mini”

Shakespeare throughout the state, performing for thousands of elementary school students.

The opening scene from BYU’s production of Oklahoma, with scenic design by undergraduate Jennifer Mortensen • May 2008 21

Educational Feature

By Lisa Mulcahy

The Skinny On Scholarships

Financial assistance for your training is

easier to find than you think — if you

research and apply the right way.

Hofstra’s production of Seven Against Thebes.

If you're about to enter a theatre training program, no

doubt you’re worried about paying for it. Here are a few

steps to help you take advantage of all your funding


Start Your Search At Home Base

Your first move in seeking financial aid should be to first

approach what's closest to you. There is readily available funding

from school, work or group affiliations you may have.

First, approach the financial aid office of the school you'll

be going to as early as you can. It doesn't matter whether you

heard through the grapevine that your school is tight-fisted; in

reality, there could be a very generous reservoir of assistance

available to you. Schedule an appointment in person or by

phone with an aid officer, and ask about direct assistance,

work-study programs and opportunities for federal or state

grants and loans. Be upfront about the fact that you're eager

to explore every conceivable funding possibility you could be

right for. Make their job easier by clearly laying out your current

financial situation (your ballpark income or that of your

family's, your employment status, your realistic ability to work

while attending school during the duration of your training).

Take careful notes on the evaluation your aid officer provides

you and make sure to take every information packet, Web site

address and application form you're offered.

Next, make a list of every educational institution you've ever

attended, every job you've ever had that you've done well at

(especially if this employment was through an established company

or corporation) and every local club, organization and religious/community

group you've ever belonged to or currently

belong to. Use the Web or phone book to compile contact info

for each listing. Call or e-mail each possibility. For schools, ask

what kind of financial aid might be available for alumni. For

places of employment, inquire about tuition aid programs via

human resources (you might also ask your parents to check with

their employers — often, children of employees are eligible for

aid as well). For clubs, organizations or religious/community

groups, make a point of speaking to someone you know and ask

about annual scholarship availability — most local entities will

have at least one offer to its membership per year. Follow up on

every positive response by obtaining all pertinent application

materials, instruction forms and essential contact names within

a day of your initial phone call, either through an in-person visit,

or through a letter of request. (Some of the material you need,

of course, may already be available on the Web.)

Once you've gathered all this info, sit down and go through

each option. Read every bit of information thoroughly and,

after you fully understand a funding source's specific requirements,

deadlines, cash limits and overall feasibility, decide

whether it's appropriate for you to pursue. Some sources

will have to be eliminated immediately (you can't apply for a

computer careers scholarship through your dad's company

if you're a playwriting student); others won't be a financial fit

(you may be in an income bracket that would disqualify you

from some need-based capped scholarships, for example);

others will offer so little money they aren't worth the bother,

or wouldn't award you funding by the time you'll need it.

Chances are good, though, that you'll find a number of

resources that fit your needs. Now that you've identified the

right sources to plumb, add up all of the money these sources

could collectively supply you with, assuming you received it.

Contrast this total number with the amount of aid you realistically

need. You'll instantly know if you'll be covered through

these assistance sources, or if you'll need to go after more aid.

Learn About Grants

If you do need to go after additional assistance, grants could

be your answer. Simply defined, a grant (or fellowship) is a

financial reward given to an individual by a foundation or corporate

grantmaker that can be used for educational expenses,

research or toward the completion of a specific work project.

Many foundation grants are given directly to schools, which

then distribute them to deserving students. Other grants are

available directly to an individual and are applied for much in

the same way as traditional scholarships.

The Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation in New

York City is a terrific example of how a grant-making organization

provides maximum benefits to young artists. JLPAF

was created to honor and celebrate the creative spirit of the

phenomenally talented Jonathan Larson, who composed

Rent before his death in 1996. Committed to helping the

individual artist, as well as nonprofit theatres that develop

fresh musical theatre works, JLPAF provides either general or

project support to help them further their work.

"Our winners are compelled to do what they do, and are

passionate about pushing the form of musical theatre in new

and innovative directions," explains Nancy Kassak Diekmann,

the foundation's executive director. "Although many of them

are not writing 'traditional' musical theatre, they are all highly

skilled at their craft."

22 May 2008 •

If you define yourself as a highly motivated artist with very

specific project experience under your belt (a play or solo

performance project, for example), pursuing a grant may be

for you. Start learning about the specific grants that might

work for your situation via the Foundation Center, which provides

a wealth of data about foundations and grant-makers

online (go to The Foundation

Center's incredibly comprehensive Web site offers application

basics, lists of over 6,000 funders, proposal writing tips

and an interactive online librarian service; It's the best place

to immerse yourself in the process, period.

Consider Merit-Based Aid

A growing number of colleges are actually rewarding

their students financially for doing exemplary work. Hofstra

University in Hempstead, N.Y., long regarded as one of the

country's top theatre training institutions, gives deserving

first-year students its Activity Grant award. The Activity Grant is

initially awarded based on a student's audition and interview,

and then can be renewed based on that student's ongoing

display of leadership and theatre department activity.

"The initial grant is given on the basis of potential," says

Jean Giebel, chair of Hofstra's drama and dance department.

"From that point on, the student has to maintain participation

in a range of ways, from performance or crew work on

any production by the university theatre, to honors/thesis

projects, to directing projects. We also ask students to do volunteer

service for the theatre department at various activities

throughout the year, from benefit productions to conferences

to aiding prospective students." Giebel also evaluates students

based on their overall commitment to daily academic discipline.

"We take citizenship into consideration: Does a student

come to class on time? Does a student come to department

symposiums? If a student shows up, and is an active member

of the theatre community, then that student is participating."

Consult your school's drama department administration

head directly about similar merit awards. Even though

you've already been accepted into a specific drama program,

a merit scholarship or grant usually requires you to submit

application paperwork all over again (most often, you'll be

asked for letters of recommendation outside of the school's

jurisdiction, as well as a resume and headshot). You may also

be required to maintain a specific GPA to maintain this type

of aid. Merit-based aid is usually available only to a limited

number of students, so apply as soon as possible.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Go over each line of your application with a fine-toothed

comb. It's surprisingly easy to misinterpret application

requirements, accidentally forget the most vital point (like

your name), or make sloppy spelling or punctuation errors.

Even the tiniest mistake can work against you. "Read and

follow directions carefully, and call for advice if you don't

understand," urges Kassak Diekmann.

A few nuts-and-bolts tips to keep in mind before you

e-mail or snail-mail off any completed application package:

• Make sure you've submitted exactly what was asked for

— forms, essays, samples, recommendations, photos,

etc. Don't overload your package with extra promotional

material (glowing reviews, extra work examples,

etc.) if it isn't desired.

• Double-check over every square inch of the material

for errors. Then put the application aside for the night

and double-check it one last time the next morning.

• Make two copies of every complete application package

you send out for your files.

• Create a master submission log, noting the mail-out

date of each application you submit, the full address

of the person or department you sent it to and the

contents of the application package. Also note the

approximate date by which you are scheduled to

receive a reply, if that info is known.

Follow Up The Smart Way

You may receive a letter from a source you've applied to

asking for additional information or clarifications. Follow

up by sending whatever is requested immediately —

that's within 24 hours of receiving the request, no exceptions.

It's a good idea to call the source to let them know

you received the request and that your response is on its

way, too.

Is it OK to check back on your application if you haven't

heard from a source after a good chunk of time? Yes and

no. In most cases, you will hear back by a specified date;

as a general rule of (polite) thumb, wait an extra week to

two weeks past that time before contacting the source.

Approach your source carefully. Writing is always preferable

to calling; send a short note (either by e-mail or snail

mail) courteously asking if a decision has been made.

Wait a few days for a response before calling, and again,

politely inquire about any potential decision.

Be prepared for anything — good news, or yes, bad

news. Whatever happens, it's never wrong to express

your thanks for the source's consideration, either over

the phone or in a second note. Don't be discouraged if

some of the aid you've applied for doesn't come through;

the financial aid process often boils down to a numbers

game. Increase your odds by applying to as many different

sources as possible and you'll definitely have success

in the long run.


Here are some additional online resources to help you in your funding search.

Fastweb (, a free scholarship search Union Plus Scholarship Database (

engine that’s comprehensive and easy to use.

provides state-by-state scholarship listings and information. ( has a great wealth of

financial aid info, plus a database of over a million available

scholarships, grants and academic awards.

The College Board Scholarship Search ( provides users with the chance to create their

own profiles, seek specific funders and calculate costs. • May 2008 23

Theatre Space

By Steve Shull

Audio for the


Centennial Hall

Exterior of Centennial Hall at the

University of Arizona in Tucson.

Centennial Hall at the University of Arizona

embarked on a large audio upgrade

in order to keep its audience.

Historic Centennial Hall is located on the campus of

the University of Arizona. The university, through its

in-house agency UAPresents, is the largest performing

arts presenter in southern Arizona. A wide range of event

types use the hall to reach diverse audiences: school children

seeing their very first live event, programs that feature local

artists or world-class events that attract the entire Tucson

community. Designed by campus architect Roy Place and

opened in 1937, the hall is a beautiful Italian Romanesque

revival and was intended for band or orchestral concerts,

school convocations and commencements.

Commitment to the Community

The university has maintained a commitment to the

Tucson community to provide the best live entertainment

venue in the region. The type of amplified events presented

in the hall has developed to include pop, jazz and legitimate

theatre performances. However, while these events

are critical in building and maintaining an audience base,

they are not well suited for a hall with the original acoustics

as constructed in Centennial Hall. The architectural

characteristics for a hall without amplification will often

feature hard smooth finishes on many of the walls, floors

and ceiling. Some of these surfaces will be angled to reflect

acoustic energy into the audience seating level. This type

of acoustic space reacts negatively to amplified vocals and

music. Many loudspeaker systems will produce sound that

reflects off these surfaces and causes a substantial loss of

intelligibility (the audience must be able to make out the

words) and clarity to the vocals. In other words, the audio

program might be loud enough, but the audience will have

difficulty in following the words. The bad news is that when

the volume is increased the intelligibility gets even worse.

Patrons very quickly become frustrated, and over repeated

bad experiences will stop attending events. Once that happens

it is very hard to convince them to return.

This is what happened at Centennial Hall and is actually a

common problem in many historic theatres and auditoriums

originally designed for acoustic performance, but which now

need successful amplification to survive. What is noteworthy

about the Centennial Hall situation is that none of the people

in this article renovate sound systems for a living, but all of

them realized that a solution had to be found, financed and

implemented if the hall was to have any chance at keeping

patrons coming to shows.

Putting the Team Together

Natalie Bohnet, the executive director of the UAPresents,

is responsible for all of the activities at the hall and one of

her many contributions to this project was to provide the

background and rational and advocacy for the audio renovation

to the university. She credits George Davis, provost

emeritus, and Joel Valdez, vice president of finance, as two

key administrators that supported the project and lobbied

and guided the project through the university process to get

funded and scheduled.

Gary Lotze is the operations manager for Centennial Hall,

which means he has to know everything about anything that

happens (or doesn’t happen) in the hall. This project was just

one task on his overall “to do” list. Lotze worked with Bohnet

to pull information and budgets together and he also coordinated

the schedule, freed up the staff to do the work and

verified the rigging and hang points.

Mike Reinhard is the Centennial Hall sound engineer,

the audio point of contact for all of the events that play at

Centennial Hall. One part of his job is to try to help the visiting

audio engineer successfully set up and focus the touring

loudspeaker rig and then convince the engineer that turning

the amplified level up will not help the problem. Luckily,

Reinhard has close to 20 years of live audio experience. He

can quickly communicate the acoustic problems and the

best solutions for the room to a highly experienced road

engineer and also help a young engineer get the best sound

possible in the hall.

The company that provided the new system is Arizona

Pro Audio, owned by Mark Cowburn, a respected member

of the audio community who learned the business from the

Godfather of Broadway Sound, Abe Jacob. Cowburn has had

a continuing relationship with Centennial Hall, supplying

them with rental equipment and systems to augment the

24 May 2008 •

“It was clear that this configuration

was the one that would meet the

needs of their clients.”

— Mark Cowburn

The EAW 730s on Matt Marcus’ storage dollies

house gear to support the events.

Setting Goals, Choosing Systems

The end goal of any sound system is

to provide to each patron an excellent

listening experience. That seems like

a terribly simple goal, but in a hall like

Centennial there is a large seat count in

a large single-seating-level room that

was not designed for sound reinforcement.

The audio experience of a patron

in row 15 at the center will be different

from a patron seated in row 35 on the

side of the house. What is most important

though, is that they both have

good listening experiences.

What contributes to a good experience?

In any seat, there has to be

intelligibility, the audio image must

appear to come from the stage and

the audio must be dynamic (able to be

loud or soft, depending on the performance).

The huge qualifier in meeting

all of these requirements is the level

of expectation from the audience. Our

modern audience has the opportunity

to enjoy high quality audio in every

moment of the day and night — the

system would have to provide the highquality

sound patrons have come to

expect and demand. Lotze, Reinhard

and Cowburn chose several industry

favorite systems to review in order

to make sure the new system’s audio

quality would be impressive.

Cowburn arranged a demo of EAW

730 line arrays at the hall. The configuration

presented had 11 of the 730s

on each side of the stage and eight

sub-woofers. The demo also included

the EAW UX8800 digital signal process

with Gunness Focusing processing.

This processor provides tremendous

flexibility for the performer to access

controls like input gain, equalization

and signal gain while also providing

factory preset processing that maintains

maximum sound levels while sus- • May 2008 25

Theater Space

Daniel Snyder

Dionne Warwick was the first artist to perform with the new sound system.

taining sound quality. This combination provides almost

unlimited control access of the loudspeaker system for an

expert, yet safe and simple presets for a less experienced

audio engineer.

When the group listened to the EAW rig in Centennial

Hall with the UX8800 processor, the choice was clear-cut.

“Since we have a similar rig that we have toured with,

I was pretty confident that this was the right choice,” says

Cowburn. “When we brought the EAW UX8800 online, it

was clear that this configuration was the one that would

meet the needs of their clients. The performance of the UX

8800 software is stunning.”

Matt Marcus, the sound designer/technician for the U

of A theatre department, developed specialized speaker

dollies so that the speaker system can be stored on wheels,

enabling it to be reconfigured and hung simply and consistently

with minimum supervision. Since Centennial

Hall will provide their space in any configuration a client

requests, the ability to remove and store the house system

was an important time and labor consideration.

In addition to the loudspeaker system, the renovated

sound system had several other key components upgraded.

The most vital and exciting of these was the provision

of a Yamaha PM5D-RH console for front of house mix.

Because Centennial Hall chose this console, touring road

mixers around the country now know that they’ll have an

opportunity to mix a great show in this venue. All venues

develop reputations in the touring industry. The equipment

selections made by the Centennial Hall team has put

them on many touring engineer’s “Favorite Hall” lists.

Thanks to the trusting relationship between university

administration, staff and the audio supplier, the upgrade

was a success. It’s a reward for both the artists who perform

in the hall and the community that continues to support

a major cultural venue.

Steve Shull is a member of the Theatre Department at SUNY

Oswego and has been an audio mixer and consultant for many

years. His Broadway show credits include: Les Misérables,

Cats, Fences, Grand Hotel, Little Shop of Horrors and The

Rocky Horror Show.

26 May 2008 •

Theatre Spotlight

By John Bliss

New Voices and Social


Dobama doesn’t shy away from raising the issues.

When Dobama was founded, the theatre scene in

Cleveland consisted primarily of the Cleveland

Playhouse and a smattering of community theatres.

Nearly 50 years later, theatre is booming in Cleveland,

but Dobama remains one of the few theatres dedicated

to producing new and challenging work by contemporary

playwrights. Dobama is also committed to developing

young artists, through such programs as the Marilyn

Bianchi Kids’ Playwriting Festival. We talked with Dobama’s

Artistic Director Joyce Casey about their history, mission

and penchant for tackling difficult topics.

Mission: “Producing the work of contemporary playwrights

to provoke discussion about the issues we all face.”

Recent Productions: Highway Ulysses, by Rinde Eckard;

Homebody/Kabul, by Tony Kushner; Take Me Out, by Richard


The name comes from… the first letters of the names of

the founders: DOnald Bianchi, BArry Silverman, and MArk

Silverberg and MArilyn Bianchi.

And it’s pronounced… to rhyme with Alabama, not


Donald Bianchi’s philosophy: “The playwright is the

supreme intellect of the theatre. Without the playwright,

we would all be bowling.”

Anything else? “The poet or painter can wait for the Muse

to descend. In the theatre, the Muse is scheduled for 8:30

on Wednesday night.”

Five words that describe Dobama: impassioned, intuitive,

creative, perceptive, appreciative.

For 40 years, we performed in… a converted bowling

alley with 11-foot ceilings.

Our new home

is… a former YMCA

now owned by the

Cleveland Heights

library. One performance

space was a

swimming pool, the

other a gymnasium.

Joyce Casey

Young artists are

important to Dobama because… we want the theatre to still

to be around in 20 or 30 years. It rejuvenates us to have young

people around — their energy and creativity is life-affirming.

The best thing about the Playwriting Festival is … seeing a

first or second grade student watching their play come to life


Most exciting production: Angels in America. What we didn’t

have in theatricality, we made up for with intimacy.

Most satisfying experience: Our five year collaboration with

Karamu House, one of the first African-American theatres in the


The most rewarding part of my job is… watching the work

grow onstage.

The hardest part of my job is… having dreams and having to

figure out how to pay for them.

Coming up: Migration, the first part of a cycle of plays about

Cleveland, written by local playwrights Eric Coble, Eric Schmiedl,

and Nina Domingue.

This is a busy time because… we’re raising funds to remodel

our new space. The capital campaign is an enormous challenge

— it will take the theatre to next level. It’s a time of great


Todd Krispinsky and Joel Hammer in Dobama’s production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number

Victor Dickerson in Suzan-Lori Park’s In The Blood at Dobama

Scott Miller and Andrea Belser in a scene

from I Have Before Me A Remarkable

Document Given To Me By A Young Lady

from Rwanda • May 2008 27


By Kevin M. Mitchell

Pittsburgh Quantum and the

Art of Found Theatre

The journey is the destination

— all the way to Madrid.

Hugo Armstrong, Mark D. Staley and Robin Walsh in Thérèse Raquin. Scenic design by

Tony Ferrieri and lighting design by Scott Nelson.

Too often there’s lip service given a theatre “challenging”

one’s audience. How about this? Changing the

locale of the show for each production — cemetery,

swimming pool, old movie theatre…

“We’re a homeless theatre,” jokes Production Manager

Scott Nelson, only to quickly take back his words lest he

convey the wrong impression. See, while it’s not uncommon

for theatres to move from one space to another before they

settle into their own brick and mortar home, for Quantum

Theatre of Pittsburgh, the journey is the destination.

“The environments contribute to the plays,” says Karla

Boos, founder and artistic director. “Sometimes what we do

is impossible! But it’s so good aesthetically. Our artists love to

go to unusual places that put them inside the work.”

Boos, who has roots in the Pittsburgh region, was a graduate

student at CalArts in Los Angeles studying acting when

Quantum’s seeds were planted. “I knew I wanted to make my

own work, and it didn’t seem that L.A. was there for me,” she

says. “I came to Pittsburgh, not expecting to so deeply fall in

love with the architecture,

geography and

the can-do spirit of

the people.”

Her first production

in 1990 was a work

based on the short

novel by Mexican Juan

Rulfo Pedro Páramo.

“We made an original

work based on the

novel, and staged it in

an abandoned building.”

Pittsburgh audiences

were startled

by the quality of the

work and the fact that

the first-time production

had an equity contract (Boos had gotten some grant

money for it as well).

It got the ball rolling, she tells, and it fueled the need to

find new spaces for the next production. But here’s where

Quantum’s story becomes unusual: Boos kept it on the proverbial


“Quickly, the idea of doing works in ‘found spaces’ became

exciting to the artists and attracted good designers and directors,”

says Boos. Quantum was “substantial” by 2000, and

today they have 500 subscribers doing four shows a season.

They enjoy audiences from 1,500 to 2,800 people, depending

on the show, the space, and in some cases, the weather.

Boos stresses that it is extremely challenging creating

a new work in a new space, but she seems to relish in the

mountain moving of it all. “I’m sure we spend more resources

on making our environment than if we had bought a building

and made a beautiful theatre,” she says.

Other spaces “found” include the country’s oldest cemetery,

Allegheny Cemetery. “It was beautifully lit, and the

headstone in front of the performance area read, ‘Earnest

Guest, Age 4’ — it was very moving.”

Quantum’s production of Zola’s Thérèse Raquin took place in a swimming pool in the basement of the first library Andrew

Carnegie built.

Just Ask

Boos is not afraid

to wrestle with, wait

out, cajole and get

ankle-deep with anyone.

She finds out who

is on the board of

whatever the organization/building


makes a connection

that will provide support

down the line,

and passionately

makes her case. It’s a

roll of the dice every

single time.

28 May 2008 •

Quantum A.D., Karla Boos

Kristin Slaysman and John Fitzgerald Jay in Quantum’s production of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.

Andrew Hachey in

The Collected Works

of Billy the Kid

“When I got my meeting at the cemetery, I was thinking,

‘I can’t imagine this going well,’” she confesses, still

stunned. “Quickly, he showed me what he had on his computer

— all these found-spaces productions he had looked

up… and he was completely welcoming, excited about

having our audience of 2,000 in his cemetery.”

Sometimes, permission is not merely altruistic. Say a

warehouse is condemned and about to be turned into

lofts. The developer sees the benefit of buzz that comes

from one of these shows and let’s them in. Also, Boos

makes it easy, and comes with an armful of paper with tiny

print: “We have excellent liability insurance!”

Artistically, she’s “fearless in asking some great artist in

working with us.” Frenchman Dan Jemmett, was asked to

work on 2005’s Dogface. She had seen his work in Paris,

and she got him to come to Pittsburgh to work with

Quantum. For the production of Dogface, they found an

old abandoned steel mill, then brought in an abandoned

tractor-trailer to be part of the set.

“It was a gorgeous steel mill, and it had no heat,” Nelson

tells. “We thought it would be fine but, of course, it turned

out to be one of the coldest winters on record. We had to

install a propane heating system and hang industrial-sized

heaters overhead. Everything was formulated completely

from scratch.”

Nelson adds that, in general, he finds himself using

every single skill he’s learned from grade school on. “I

never thought I would use those geometry skills, but I

have!” he laughs.

That production was invited to the Festival de Otono in

Madrid, Spain, an absolute thrill for Quantum. For that version

of Dogface, they actually cut that trailer in half, shipped

it to Madrid, got it in the theatre and performed the work in

it. “It’s the crème de la crème of touring,” says Boos.

More Madrid

Jemmett was called on for this season’s Collected Works

of Billy the Kid. Based on a book of poems written by Michael

Ondaatie (author of The English Patient) in the 1970s, it

resonated with Jemmett. Because Billy the Kid is an icon, so

shaped by the movies about him, Boos quickly decided an old

movie house would be the best found space for the work.

Hunting, she found “ an amazing place” with a catch…

let’s just say it was showing “blue” movies to a certain

adult audience. But the city had been trying to swish the

undesirable business out of the up-and-coming neighborhood

with an eminent domain broom. The absentee

owner, holed up miles away in Washington, D.C., held out

for 10 years waiting for more money from the city. Finally

he relented. And there was Boos.

“It was holding up the development of this one part of

Pittsburgh, and I say ‘let me make this work,’” she says.

Once inside, she and company couldn’t believe how perfect

the space was — many parts of the theatre hadn’t

been touched since it was built as a nickelodeon in 1917.

Also, there was a treasure trove of props from bygone

eras, many of which were used as props in the play. And

the actors performed in front of an ancient movie screen.

Stephanie Mayer-Staley quickly got to work on the set

design, and C. Todd Brown worked magic with the lights.

Still, even Boos has her limits: She had her team build a

deck with their own seats on top of, er, “other” seats “so no

one had to sit on those!” she laughs.

This production, too, was invited to the Madrid festival.

There they staged it in a former “gentlemen’s club,” which has

been defunct since the last turn of the century.

Meanwhile, back in Pittsburgh, Nelson is confident that

they will never run out of spaces to put on productions.

“There’s always a warehouse, always a garden, always a

cemetery.” Not that Quantum always gets what it wants.

For some time, the theatre company has been eyeing the

iconic Pittsburgh Plate Glass building. It features a top floor

that has a 360-degree view of the city — it’s all glass and

empty. But the rest of the building is very much in use.

“I have a board member of Quantum who is a senior vice

president there who is working with us, but they have a

problem with security — they can’t get their mind around

letting 200 people come into the building after hours. I’m

just not going to succeed at that right now.

“But I’ll come back to it!” • May 2008 29

Special Section: Artistic Direction

Andrew Collings

The current Neo-Futurist ensemble

New Visions In Artistic Direction

How two bold theatres are trying to reinvent the A.D. wheel

By Bret Love

The history and evolution of theatre can be traced back

more than 2,500 years, yet the role of artistic director

doesn’t seem to have changed much since the days of


In general, the A.D. has a range of responsibilities that may

include choosing the theatre’s production slate, hiring creative/production

personnel, directing productions, serving as a

resource for the theatre’s other directors, speaking to the media

and, in many cases, raising funds to support the theatre. In short,

the artistic director is more often than not the primary face, voice

and creative conscience with which the theatre is associated.

Shedding Light on the Neo-Futurists

But many theatrical companies have found that the singular

vision A.D. model doesn’t work for them, instead turning

to more democratic systems that share the balance of power

among several artistic directors, or in some cases, a whole

ensemble. One such organization is Chicago’s Neo-Futurists,

the hip creative collective founded by Greg Allen back in

1988 that’s best known for its 30-plays-in-60-minutes show,

Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (and for famous

alumnus Stephen Colbert).

“When I created the company,” recalls Allen, “I based it

on my cooperative living experiences at Oberlin. Rather than

setting up a traditional hierarchy, I established a company

run completely on consensus voting, where no one had any

more power than anyone else. I felt this was by far the most

ethical way to run a company and the best way to buck Uncle

Sam’s capitalist system and create art. Everyone would be

that much more invested as equal partners.”

Even now, 20 years later, neither Allen or Artistic Director

Jay Torrence (both of whom receive a part-time salary) have

any greater power over the rest of the ensemble, with all

decisions regarding the theatre’s productions, tours, gigs and

policy made by consensus.

“We have a nurturing, challenging environment where

each writer/director/performer from the ensemble in that

week’s cast gives and receives critical feedback throughout

rehearsals and after every performance,” says Torrence.

“We spend a lot of time talking as a group about the art

we’re making. We experiment, we tweak, we challenge one

another. It keeps the work alive and ever-changing, and our

approach is full of chaos and personal voice, passion and

individual advocacy.”

Of course, as with all experiments, the Neo-Futurists’

democratic trial-and-error hasn’t been without its fair share

of challenges. Allen and Torrence confess that their collective

has confronted obstacles ranging from the facts that reaching

a consensus decision takes forever and endless meetings

require everyone to be respectful and mature in the midst

of highly emotional discussions (a tall order in any group

dynamic) to the simple realities that sometimes creative artists

don’t think with a business mind, and when everyone

has power it’s difficult to know who can steer the ship when

inevitable storms come along.

“The consensus approach theoretically lets everyone be

equal,” admits Allen, “but the actuality is that often the

people who speak loudest and have the most stamina to

keep discussing are the ones who rule the roost. I admit that

I’m often one of those loud speakers and, since I have been

around for 20 years, it takes great effort for me to give equal

weight to the opinion of someone who has been with us for

six months. But I try.”

Still, both Allen and Torrence insist that the payoff is

worth the effort, resulting in distinctive productions like Too

Much Light that truly set the Neo-Futurists apart. “No one

person can dictate something not going into the show,” says

Torrence, which “allows for a broad range of style, voice and

risk-taking in our art. We are allowed to experiment, and we

embrace noble failures on our stage. We keep a high regard

30 May 2008 •

and respect for the quality of our art. We each feel it is our

name and our theatre, and the individual is closely linked to

the identity of the artistic product we make. This ownership

comes with a high price and commitment, but also reaps a

generous personal reward.”

Collaborating In Out of Hand

That personal reward seems to be equally generous for

the ensemble of Atlanta’s Out of Hand Theatre, which aims

to alter the way people experience live theatre via engaging,

interactive productions such as the self-help movement

parody of HELP! and the drug culture critique of MEDS.

Named “[one of] a dozen young American companies you

need to know” by a prominent theatre magazine, this offbeat

ensemble operates with a three-A.D. structure, with founding

members Maia Knispel, Ariel de Man and Adam Fristoe sharing

responsibilities equally.

“Out of Hand is a collaborative ensemble,” says Knispel,

“and we believe that our best art is created collectively. So

we have three artistic directors that all have equal say in the

artistic decisions of the company. We feed off of and build on

each other’s artistic ideas, and rely on each other to further

our own creativity.”

Fristoe explains their creative approach in a more esoteric

fashion, describing Out of Hand’s collaborative ensemble

as a reflection of what people love about theatre in the first

place. “I believe the primary element of theatre that excites

audiences is the way performers offer an alternative way

for people to interact with each other. Actors function as a

cohesive group working towards a common goal. They really

listen to each other, move together and form a true community.

The three of us bring different perspectives on the art

form and when we marry those perspectives, we challenge

ourselves, our company and our audience to grow in ways

that we as individuals wouldn’t imagine.”

They acknowledge similar challenges to those facing the

Neo-Futurists, but insist that the benefits of their approach

far outweigh the drawbacks. “In many ways the challenges

are also the blessings,” Knispel insists. “The three of us have

many different ideas and opinions, and distilling all of that to

only the finest gems is very hard and time consuming… but

so totally worth it! We disagree, we argue, maybe we fight,

but that’s all part of what makes it so awesome. All those

things create the path that leads us to the best product. We

know that we share the same artistic goals, and the struggles

are just signs of our depth of caring about the work, and an

inherent part of achieving the goal.”

The goal for Out of Hand is to continue to create original

theatrical productions that appeal to everyone from nontheatregoers

to traditionalists and theatre scholars, but also

to attract the coveted 18–35 set. “We want to keep making

the kind of crazy stuff we’re making,” says Knispel. “We want

to find better and wilder ways of making it. We want to share

our shows with as many people as we possibly can, touring

nationally and internationally. We want to introduce multitudes

of people to our methods of training and share our

work and knowledge as widely as we possibly can.”

Taking It Home

Asked what advice they would give other theatre companies

contemplating adopting a more democratic A.D.

structure, Allen, Torrence and Knispel all agreed that their

unique approaches should be handled with caution. Allen

recalls a time in the Neo-Futurists’ history where literally

every decision regarding the theatre was decided via

consensus, from casting issues to what concessions were

offered at the theatre, which ground things to a halt on an

organizational level.

“I think our consensus model works great for the art

if you’re creating an ensemble-driven, ever-changing,

on-going production which is all about self-expression,”

Allen admits, “but it is not the best model for the governance

of an organization.”

“Don’t do it because you’re trying to be democratic,”

Knispel warns. “Do it only if it is the best artistic choice for

your company. Be very careful. The key to successful artistic

‘power sharing’— which is a dangerous way to think of it —

is knowing that you have the same artistic goals. You must

love and respect those with whom you share something this

personal and precious.”

Linnea Frye

A cheery moment from Out of Hand’s MEDS A shot from the Out of Hand production Cartoon Neo-Futurist Dean Evans and audience member • May 2008 31

Special Section: Artistic Direction

Building Opportunities

at the Old Vic

Kevin Spacey relies on training

as he builds for the future.

By Alex S. Morrison

In the massive screening room of the Planet Hollywood

Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, surrounded by journalists,

Sony Pictures employees, celebrities and assorted

hangers-on, the buzz is palpable, built up by the red carpet,

blinding lights and swanky cocktail party leading up to this

world premiere of 21, the latest film from Kevin Spacey’s

Trigger Street Productions. The director and star fill the

stage, but it’s Spacey who commands our attention, goodnaturedly

ribbing his director for talking too much, giving

props to his production partner for finding the author on

whose book the film is based, and basically charming the

pants off everyone in the room.

The setting is a far cry from the confines of London’s Old Vic

Theatre, where Spacey has been found more often than not

since becoming the newly formed company’s artistic director

back in 2003. But the stereotypical Hollywood schmoozing is

a skill that has served him well in the position, where one of

his primary responsibilities seems to be raising money to preserve

a historic theatre that had essentially served as a rental

facility for nearly three decades before his arrival.

“For 30 years, the Old Vic was a booking house,” Spacey

acknowledges in an interview the next morning. “When

the National Theatre left in 1976 under Laurence Olivier’s

artistic direction, it became a booking house. There was

no theatre company, no education program, no outreach

program, so we’ve been trying to build a theatre company

that will survive in a commercial world, even though we

are a charitable organization.”


Becoming artistic director of a new theatre company

is an unusual undertaking for a big-time movie star, but

perhaps not too surprising when one considers Spacey’s

background. Born Kevin Spacey Fowler in South Orange,

N.J., the mischievous youth (who was sent off to a military

academy in an attempt to end his shenanigans) eventually

found a home in the theatre at Chatsworth High School in

the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, where his classmates

included Val Kilmer and Mare Winningham. After a

brief stint at Los Angeles Valley College, he was accepted

into the Drama program at Juilliard, which only served to

stoke the fires of his lifelong love of acting.

“There were probably 5,000 actors and actresses who

applied for the school and only 28 of us who were chosen

for a class,” he recalls, “so you start off feeling like one of the

thoroughbreds. It was life changing because it gives you a

tremendous amount of confidence, but I think what makes

great training great is that it keeps happening. There are a

lot of pieces of information that don’t have any value until

you put them into a personal context. The lesson isn’t necessarily

learned while you’re in school, but when you apply it

later. So in many ways I’m still learning those lessons.”

Though today Spacey credits his Juilliard schooling with

teaching him the technical facility for theatrical performance

— “the ability to get up on stage every single night, eight performances

a week, 12–14 weeks in a row, never lose my voice,

always be alive and ready to take it somewhere else, and be

there for your acting partners” — he left the school after two

years of training, hungry for real world experience.

Signing on with the New York Shakespeare Festival, he

got his first professional credit as a messenger in their 1982

production of Henry VI, and within a year was making his

Broadway debut in a production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. By

1986, he was working with his idol and future mentor, Jack

32 May 2008 •

Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum in the Old Vic’s production of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow

Lemmon, on a production of Eugene

O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night,

and in 1991 he won a Tony Award for

his performance as Uncle Louie in Neil

Simon’s Lost In Yonkers.

Taking On Hollywood

But in Hollywood, where he was considered

more of a character than a leading

man, Spacey’s career took off much

more slowly. Though he established a

knack for playing gleefully sinister characters

such as a beady-eyed villain in the

TV series Wiseguy, a malevolent office

manager in Glengarry Glen Ross and

a sadistic film executive in Swimming

with Sharks, it wasn’t until 1995 that

mainstream audiences began to take

notice of his talents. With back-to-back

turns as the subtly creepy Verbal Kint in

Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects and as

a psychotic serial killer in David Fincher’s

Se7en, Spacey continued to explore his

dark side to riveting effect, earning his

first Academy Award (Best Supporting

Actor for Suspects) in the process.

But by the time he won his second

Oscar for American Beauty in 2000, the

actor had already begun to question

the course of his career, realizing he

wanted to achieve something more fulfilling

than merely remaining atop the

Hollywood heap.

“My priorities changed when I made

the decision that I wanted to start this

theatre company,” he recalls. “Theatre

had always been my primary allegiance,

and while I spent 10 years being driven

by a personal ambition to have a film

career, I got to a point where that was

no longer of interest to me. I love movies

and have been very grateful to them,

because without them I couldn’t be in

the position I’m in. But I’m now doing

exactly what I want to be doing, and

don’t feel like I’m trapped in the cog of

the wheel anymore.”

Funding the Future

Asked how his experience at the Old

Vic has reshaped him as an actor, Spacey

says that shows such as Eugene O’Neill’s

A Moon For The Misbegotten and this

year’s run of David Mamet’s Speed-the-

Plow have taught him how to create a

story arc over the course of two hours. • May 2008 33

Special Section: Artistic Direction

Another moment from Speed-the-Plow

”If you haven't had that theatre experience,” he insists,

“it's much harder in a film to figure out how to create an arc

in a very crazy shooting schedule. The frustration in movies

is you never get to play the part straight through. But in the

theatre you learn in front of an audience, because they're

going to tell you very quickly whether you're holding their

attention or not, and whether they're following the story or

not. I’ve always believed that the work I've done in the theatre

has had a huge effect on the work I've done in film.”

It’s also had a huge effect on the amount of time Spacey

can devote to said work. Since taking the A.D. job at the Old

Vic in 2003, the 49-year-old actor has averaged just one film

per year, most of them either Trigger Street Productions

(such as 2004’s Beyond The Sea, which he also directed) or

reunions with old friends (such as Bryan Singer’s Superman

Returns). In fact, shortly after our interview, Spacey hopped

on a plane back to London for another sold-out performance

of Speed-the-Plow, leaving Las Vegas exactly 24 hours after

his arrival. It’s a punishing schedule, but one about which

Spacey remains passionate.

“I hope to be able to leave the theatre company in a position

where I’ve raised enough money for them that whoever

takes over my role as artistic director won’t have to spend as

much time fundraising as I’ve had to,” he say optimistically.

“When you have a 1,000-seat theatre and no subsidy from

the government, it takes a lot to raise that money. So I hope

to be able to leave an endowment to cover the running

costs of the company, to convince some of the government

agencies that our outreach work deserves to be subsidized,

and to raise the money to renovate the building to 21st century

standards, which is a £30 million campaign. Those are

my broader goals over the next five or so years.”

Sure, it sounds like a Herculean task, but it’s a challenge

Spacey seems to relish. “I’m much happier now,” he says

with a charismatic grin, “and I feel that the work I’m doing

there is the most important work I’ve ever done.”

34 May 2008 •

Special Section: Artistic Direction

Artistic Directors Creating More Than Shows

Two found the

best path to an

artistic director

position was to

start their own


A moment from the production of Brother Wolf by the Triad Stage

By Kevin M. Mitchell

Theatres are the birthplace of dreams. Audience members

dream of acting, stage techs imagine themselves as lighting

designers, actors want to direct. But it seems that most

around the boards have at one time talked, plotted, wished and

fantasized about having his or her own regional theatre.

Two who dared to have forged their own career path to

become artistic director of thriving theatres are Preston Lane

and Michael Hamilton. Their impressive stories are certainly

not common, but it is inspiring to know that running your

own theatre is possible.

Triad Stage

Greensboro, N.C.

“We look back on it and we can’t believe it happened,”

says Preston Lane, who is on his seventh season as artistic

director, cofounder and director of Triad Stage. Not bad for a

kid from the mountains.

“I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina,” Lane tells.

“It was in a small town called Boone, home to the Appalachian

State University. I remember seeing Hedda Gabler when I was

10, and it convinced me I wanted to be in the theatre.”

In a prelude of what would come, in high school he launched

a theatre program of sorts. The school would only occasionally

do musicals, and Lane, who admits he’s not much of a singer,

aspired to something else. “My friends and I conned some teachers

into directing a dramatic production we wanted to do.”

After that, he went to China for a year to “convince myself

I didn’t want to be in theatre. Apparently that didn’t work out

too well because I’m still here.” He received a BFA at North

Carolina School of the Arts, focusing on acting. Then it was off to

New York City. There he did scene presentations to agents, but

wasn’t happy with how they were trying to pigeonhole him.

“All the agents told me all I’d play was nerds, and in fact, I

was the ‘nerd’ in the Super Mario Brothers movie,” he laughs. He

decided he wanted to be a director so he could “be in charge

and control my career.” One

of his big breaks was working

as the assistant of noted director

Gerald Freedman; then it

was onto Yale where he got

his MFA in directing. It was at

Yale when he realized what he

wanted most was to have a

long-term relationship with a

particular audience, he says.

There he also met future

business partner Rich

Whittington. They worked Preston Lane

together in Summer Theatre

and their conversations increasingly turned to the idea of

starting their own theatre. They did a nationwide search of cities

and Greensboro won out. The two just showed up one day

in 1997 and said, “we want to start a theatre.”

Of course, it wasn’t quite that easy — it took a couple of

years for them to develop the ties to the community necessary.

Meanwhile, Lane left for Dallas for a while to be associate

artistic director at the Dallas Theatre Center under Richard

Hamburger (“I was ‘Hamburger Helper,’” he jokes). Fundraising

took hold and they raised $5.5 million, bought an old abandoned

department store building downtown, converted it

into a theatre and opened in 2001.

However, no one could have been prepared for the events

of September 11, 2001. The plays long chosen for their first

season leaned on heavier, darker material. “The stakes were

high because we hadn’t even done a show, and we were

defining ourselves by our selection.” After the attacks, people

weren’t in the mood to go out, let alone be challenged in

the theatre. Fundraising dried up. Yet they made it through

somehow and, interestingly, did not change how or the type

of material they were drawn to. • May 2008 35

Special Section: Artistic Direction

“We had people after that first season

say, ‘this isn’t exactly what we thought

this would be,’ and we spent our first two

or three seasons really finding who our

core audience was going to be.”

Today, they found that audience.

Their often provocative work has

garnered 3,000 subscribers and their

shows average 82% capacity. Most

recently, they were able to complete

work on the building they are

in to include offices and a smaller

cabaret theatre.

“A lot of theatres, when they see

the audience isn’t showing, try to find

the lowest common denominator of

material to bring people in. Does this

mean every one of our shows is dark

and depressing? No.” Also, they appeal

to their community by building their

seasons around material written largely

by southern writers.

“Every city in America deserves great

theatre, and those in regional theatre

shouldn’t pretend they are on Broadway.

This is a theatre that is about community

and region.”

Lane says that to be a successful artistic

director, you have to first be a good

theatre artist. “Whether you’re an actor, a

designer or director, you need to understand

that theatre is not just an art, but

also a business.” Fundraising, budgeting

and making difficult choices, making sure

tickets are sold, are all as much a part of

the job as the ability to pick a play and

put on a show.

Apparently, one of his tasks includes

the proverbial pinching: “No matter what

kind of day I’m having or what problems

have come up, I remind myself that this is

a dream job. I’m very lucky.”


St. Louis

Michael Hamilton grew up in

Kirkwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.

Coincidently, in the exact reverse of

Lane’s upbringing, his drama teacher in

high school was not interested in musicals.

But Hamilton wouldn’t let that

technicality stand in his way. “I got a

bunch of friends together and talked

the principal into letting us do a spring

musical,” he tells. “It was Celebration!”

Hamilton directed, of course.

He attended Southwest Missouri

State School in Springfield on a

scholarship. There he worked alongside

the likes of John Goodman and

Kathleen Turner. Still, he, too, tried to

talk himself out of pursuing theatre as

a career and dropped out of college

and spent a year at the psychiatric

ward of a hospital. (He demurs to say

if that experience helped prepare him

for dealing with “theatre folk,” but

surely it didn’t hurt…)

He then was off to New York where

his focus shifted. “I got a couple of summer

stock jobs as a choreographer, and

one took me to a theatre in upstate

New York where I met Jack Lane [no

relation to Preston — ed.],” he tells. “Like

many young artists, we would have

post-mortems about shows, discussing

what we would have done differently…

it was arrogance, really! We thought we

could do it better!” he laughs.

Their conversations quickly lead to

the idea of starting their own theatre

because “both of us wanted to control

our careers.” Hamilton would be the

36 May 2008 •

Zachary Halley, Keith Tyrone, Nicholas Kohn, Michael Halling, Matthew Skrincosky and Marc Kessler in the Stages St. Louis 2007

production of The Full Monty

artistic director and Lane would be executive

producer. And for Hamilton, the location was

easy: his hometown of St. Louis. With a $50,000

family loan, and two years of gestation, Stages

would have its inaugural season in 1987.

Hamilton says the success of the theatre

would not be possible without Lane, who while

he started his theatre career as an actor, “his

whole life has pointed toward him becoming a

producer. I’m a creature of dreams — Jack is a

creature of reality!” he laughs. In the beginning,

Lane was successful at bringing in the business

community and getting local support; today, he Michael Hamilton

continues to husband the growth of the organization

to the point that they are in the midst of an ambitious $31 million capital

campaign to create a new home for the theatre and their educational programs.

Currently, Stages has 45,000 patrons, 9,400 subscribers and 57 in its acting

company. A budget of $3.2 million annually allows for some of the best talent and

shows possible.

“We talk about providing our ‘E Ticket’ — Entertain, Enlighten and Excite,”

Hamilton says. “When I put together a season, I look to enlighten our audience

and uplift the human spirit.” He adds that it’s important for an artistic director of

a regional theatre to remember that it’s not about him or her. For example, while

he loves Spring Awakening, it’s not the kind of show that would do well at Stages.

“You can’t produce things in a vacuum. The great objective is to create theatre that

someone else is going to love. You need to pay attention to your audience — not

pander, but foster their interest so you can get them to buy in.”

His years of experience enable him to be good at picking shows. He’s careful to

steer clear from shows, while popular, might be dated and a product of their time:

“I don’t think Oklahoma can be created today, and I don’t think Rent could have

been created 40 years ago. The most important thing an artistic director can do is

to put together the right season, and that involves being a good dramaturge and

understanding the product and the community.”

Hamilton says that when people ask how one gets to be artistic director of your

own theatre, he tells them to get “a Jack Lane. I don’t mean to sound simplistic, but

to create something like Stages you need someone who can quickly gain the support

of the community, be proactive and go around to all the nearby restaurants

and shops and tell them how they will benefit from a theatre like this and then

enlist their support.”

That aside, his advice to those wanting to be artistic directors is “be a passionate

student of theatre. See as much theatre as you can. Go outside your comfort zone

and see theatre you aren’t necessarily excited about at first. And be a student of

the human condition — read the newspapers, the periodicals, know what is happening

in the world and try to understand how it can impact your art…

“And make sure you can’t do something else.” • May 2008 37

Show Biz

By Tim Cusack

Plays Without the Development Fund

The NEA’s new grant has an $80,000 entrance fee — where does that leave you?

Recently, the NEA announced the

New Play Development Program.

Administered by Arena Stage in

Washington D.C., companies awarded

this grant would be allocated either

$10,000 to support new play development

(with an additional $10,000 going

directly to the playwright) or $80,000 to

help underwrite the costs of a new play’s

world premiere.

But, in order to be eligible to receive

the money, your organization must be

able to match it dollar for dollar. That’s

right — to collect your 80 grand, you’ve

got to line up donors with some pretty

deep pockets who are ready to reach

into them. So, unless you’re a LORT A

theatre (maybe LORT B), you’ve got about

as much a chance of landing this grant as I

do of being cast as the next Superman.

So where does that leave us little

guys? Where we’ve always been —

making new work happen, without

tens of thousands of dollars in government

funding. Granted, for folks producing

under a code, whether on the

East or West Coast, not having to pay

the actors or make the monthly mortgage

on a big, expensive space makes

it much easier to take a risk on a young,

unproven playwright. But I would argue

there’s another factor in play — which is

that many smaller companies (the ones

that produce the majority of new plays)

have built up long-standing relationships

with the playwrights whose work

they are developing or are themselves

being run by playwrights.

OBIE-winning Director John Clancy

would certainly agree. One of the founders

of the NY International Fringe Festival,

Clancy is a huge advocate for using the

multinational network of fringe festivals as

a developmental tool for new work. Every

year for well over a decade he brought

work to the Edinburgh Festival, and his

persistence has paid off: This past year,

he received the first annual Edinburgh

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International Festival Award, which comes

with a £10,000 commissioning prize and is

bestowed on a fringe company of exceptional

artistic quality. For Clancy, this is the

perfect illustration of his belief that the

best way to foster the development of new

theatrical work is to “give the money to the

voices.” Clancy used part of his grant to pay

himself for the month he spent finishing

his new play. He applied another chunk of

it to underwrite the costs for a two-week

workshop that he directed, paying his cast

a modest fee, which culminated in a public

reading of his play. The process proved

invaluable —“I got two major rewrites out

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was his process, not one imposed by an

institution. As Clancy puts it, “If you plant

my crop in the soil at the Magic Theatre, it

will taste like the Magic. But if you give me

the money directly, I can water the field

myself. And my play will taste like itself.”

Clancy would like to see younger organizations

given the opportunity to partner

with larger institutions as “shadow

companies,” taking advantage of underutilized

space, such as theatre lobbies, to

develop and rehearse new work during

off hours.

Blue Coyote Theatre is moving in that

direction. Three years ago, they entered

into an agreement with Access Theatre

in Tribeca to take over that space’s dayto-day

management. In exchange they

have the right to book themselves into

any performance period on the calendar

at a reduced rate. According to Stephen

Speights, one of their four founding

directors, this “access” to space has proven

invaluable in enabling them to nurture

work they feel passionately about.

They also have used funding creatively,

taking a portion of the grant they

received for marketing and applying it to

publicizing their reading series to bring

in more members of the surrounding

community, allowing the playwright to

gauge their work in front of regular

theatergoers. Since quite a few of their

plays have shown up in the Plays and

Playwrights anthologies over the years,

their creative combination of savvy space

acquisition and out-of-the-box grant allocation

seems to be working as one model

for getting new work on its feet.

38 April 2008 •

TD Talk

By David McGinnis

Keeping the Faith

It’s something larger that keeps the blades turning and the drills pressing.

By the time this reaches you undaunted masters known as

our readers, the show in question will have closed, and the

remnants of the intensive labor put forth from my crew will

have vanished into storage between the body of Jimmy Hoffa and

the Arc of the Covenant. That said, stories have passed that bear

repeating, and such a scribe as myself would be remiss to exclude

you from the adventure.

When the production on which I am currently working was

named, I knew that space would come at a premium. The required

set would more than double both our material needs and expected

man-hours. Storage has already run thin, and some small portions

of this new world we’re creating have yet to be completely

assembled. If I wrote in this mischievously honest memoir that my

nerves suffered, I would sue myself for libel, as such a statement

would not give due weight to my current scenario.

Having now begun the process, nights have passed that, as I

stride the threshold of my forgotten home at hours leaning toward

morning, I pass the sympathetic yet undeniably dismayed eyes of

a woman who has seen fit to endure my absence. She did not sign

any contract at any time that binds her to this life, and there are

days — rather nights — when I could not hold a grudge against her

if I found her as absent in the morning as I have been at night.

There are days when the sight of bare lumber stacked along a

wall and the sounds of circular saws remind

me that we have but begun this process. In

these moments, I sweat like a man dodging

fire because I have seen before the events that

precede failure, though time is still with us.

And my wife has yet to leave me.

It is faith that carries my wife, my crew

and myself through such times. Truth be

known, it is so for each and every one of us.

As I survey the seeming wreckage of a set

yet to take its final shape, I cannot escape

the fear that it will all crumble, but I cannot

shake the faith that it will all take shape. I

cannot shake the fear that I’ll return to an

empty home, but I stand on the faith that

I will not.

My wife entreats me to leave work as

soon as possible, and she fears that I’ll be

late yet again. However, she keeps the

faith that I’ll at least return, and I repay that

faith every night.

My crew stand beside me, awed by the

task before us, but they keep their faith

that it will stand one day. Though I cannot

be certain, I suspect a certain faith in me. If

this is so, then it is only right that I return

with faith in them.

We do not necessarily dwell in the world

of abstractions that our colleagues enjoy,

though most, if not all, of us are capable of

it. In our world, that which we might smell,

taste, touch, hear and see looms large over

that which it holds up — namely, the vision that birthed it.

Such a world does not resemble a place of faith. Such a

world dictates its rules through numbers, measurements,

tools. Are these the implements of faith?

Yes, my friends. A drill relies on our hand, and our hand

moves only when commanded by our mind, and that is where

our faith lives. Faith in ourselves, faith in our craft, faith in both

the people with whom we have the honor of working and

for whom we have the honor of doing our work. If we do not

believe in what we do, then it will never be done.

In light of that revelation, I know that every inch of these

drawings spread before me will one day stand, and I know that

I will be able to walk on it, touch it and let anyone know that,

“Yes, I helped the finest crew you’ll never know build it.”

Now, having shaved away that burdensome doubt, and

having renewed my faith that all of us will prevail, the time has

come to return to my sanctum — my shop. By the time you

read this, the show will have opened, run, closed and struck.

But you may keep the faith that it did.

And somewhere in Florida, a woman will have finally

stopped waiting through the night, for her vagabond will have

come home.

Keep the faith. • May 2008 39

Off the Shelf

By Stephen Peithman

One Voice

Monologues and other resources for

portraying character and situation

The market for monologue collections seems insatiable.

Actors who use these to audition want something that

will set them apart from their competition, and teachers

often use monologues to help students develop character

and project a point of view in a very short time. They also are

a favorite with agents, directors and casting directors, offering

the opportunity to size up an actor’s ability in a minute or

so. Scenes for two actors take this a step farther — not only

establishing character and situation, but forcing each person

to make those choices mesh with those of the other actor.

In 101 Original One-Minute Monologues for Women

Ages 18-25, Author Kristen Dabrowski provides not only the

title’s promised number of short pieces for women (dramatic,

comic and seriocomic), but a variety of situations and personality

types that particularly suit the 18-25 age group. She

also includes some good advice on how to choose the right

monologue. [$11.95, Smith and Kraus]

Also gender-specific are The Best Men’s Stage

Monologues of 2007, and The Best Women’s Stage

Monologues of 2007, both edited by Lawrence Harbison.

Some of the playwrights represented are familiar (Theresa

Rebeck, A.R. Gurney, Terrence McNally), but much of the

material is from new and emerging authors — once again

giving the performer access to well crafted, but not overexposed

works. [$11.95 each, from Smith and Kraus]

161 One-Minute Monologues from Literature is an

eclectic anthology derived from novels, short stories, memoirs,

narrative poetry and essays, indexed by gender, age,

tone, voice and author. Editors John Capecci and Irene

Ziegler Aston include both classic and recent material, and

authors as varied as Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel

Hawthorne, H.G. Wells, William Goldman, Fannie Hurst and

Rita Mae Brown. This is an exceptional collection of unusual

material for audition and study purposes. [$19.95, Smith and


A compact volume with a very long title is The Ultimate

Audition Book for Teens Volume XII: 111 One-Minute

Monologues — Just Comedy! by Kristen Dabrowski. It’s

designed for auditions, class or practice, focusing exclusively

on the comic — from smiles to outright belly laughs. Young

people should enjoy working with this collection. [$11.95,

Smith and Kraus]

Ready for My Close-Up!: Great Movie Speeches, edited by

Denny Martin Flinn, contains 200 speeches from some of the

best — and a few of the worst — films ever made. Although

it wasn’t designed for audition or study purposes, it nonetheless

provides material for actors looking for something a bit

different — from Groucho Marx’s “I shot an elephant in my

pajamas” to Julia Roberts’ “What it takes to be a movie star.”

[$19.95, Limelight Editions]

The Best Stage Scenes of 2007 offers excerpts from recent

plays for student actors to learn how to share the spotlight

with another actor. There’s no time limit for any of the scenes

in this fine collection — some are short, others relatively

long. Characters range in age from teenagers to seniors,

and the tone varies from comic to dramatic. Again, many of

the authors represented may be familiar (Ken Ludwig, Alan

Ball, A.R. Gurney, Daisy Foote), while others are relatively

unknown. The collection includes scenes for one man and

one woman, for two women, and for two men. [$14.95, Smith

and Kraus]

Many songs by Stephen Sondheim are essentially monologues

set to music, and now performers can practice their art

with professional accompaniment with Stage Stars Records’

sing-along CD release of Sweeney Todd. The two-disc set

includes 16 background tracks and guide vocals, plus 16

tracks with accompaniment alone. All selections are in their

original keys and tempos. Price is $33.49, and Stage Stars

offers similar discs for Avenue Q, Cats, The Fantasticks, Grease,

Into the Woods, Les Miserables, The Sound of Music and Wicked,

among many others [].

And if you’d like to compare your Sweeney performance

with those in the original Broadway production, check out

the remastered classic 1982 video recording with Angela

Lansbury and George Hearn, in Dolby Surround 5.1, from

Warner Home Video [$14.97].

40 May 2008 •

The Play’s the Thing

By Stephen Peithman

Culture Clashes

Five plays explore

how basic differences

can lead to conflict.

This month’s roundup of recently published plays centers

on five that explore conflict within and between


George Packer’s Betrayed, which centers on the plight

of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. as translators in Baghdad,

began as an article in The New Yorker. Surprisingly, it makes a

gripping play, detailing how these workers become trapped

between the hostility of fellow Iraqis who consider them

traitors and the Americans unwilling to reward their service

by granting them asylum in our country. The result is not so

much an anti-Iraq war piece as it is a drama about the sort of

human dramas that are the inevitable by-product of any war.

Although the situation and historical facts makes a happy

ending impossible, Packer alleviates the tension with a good

deal of humor, and the bittersweet ending is not without

hope. Cast includes 15 males, five females; some parts can

be doubled. [Faber & Faber Books; includes licensing information]

The Overwhelming, by J.T. Rogers, is the story of

an American family, newly arrived in Rwanda in early

1994, who become embroiled in politically driven, lifethreatening

situations with no clue of how to deal with

them. The action develops in a series of short, sharply

drawn scenes that bring the characters to life while

exploring the tensions leading up to the tribal conflict

that eventually killed 800,000 Rwandans. Rogers brings

his point home to us by using as his central characters a

visiting American family who are witnesses to the horrific

events. In doing so, he helps us understand not only the

Rwandan genocide, but what led to it and what it tells us

about ourselves. Eight males, three females; some parts

can be doubled. [Faber & Faber Books; includes licensing


On a much lighter note, Jim Knable’s Spain chronicles

a woman’s journey of self-discovery after an acrimonious

divorce. Dreaming of a new life in Spain, she conjures up

a dream lover — a sexy Spanish conquistador — and the

two of them begin a fantastical love affair as she discovers

more about herself than she might ever have dreamed.

It’s a funny play, although the second act isn’t as good as

the first. Still, the Conquistador and the Ancient (a sort of

Mayan figure) are intriguing comic characters. The New

York critics weren’t kind to Spain, but in the hands of a

strong cast and director, Knable’s dramatic comedy still

has much to offer. Three females, two males. [Broadway

Play Publishing]

In Huck & Holden, by Rajiv Joseph, a college student

from India named Navin comes to the U.S. to study engineering,

but ends up getting a first-hand look at some

other things America has to offer — like sex, porn and

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Navin has been

assigned to write a paper on two American literary rebels,

Holden Caulfield and Huckleberry Finn, and develops

an immediate fascination with Salinger’s anti-hero, who

reminds him of Singh, a classmate of his back in Calcutta.

Immediately, Navin’s vision of a Singh/Holden combo

becomes an imaginary advisor who turns up whenever

he needs help in dealing with the conflict between what

is expected of him by his family and his relationship

with an attractive and outspoken African American student

named Michelle. The author’s writing is smart and

sophisticated in its ability to see past stereotypes and

reveal his characters’ essential humanity in this outstanding

new play. Three males, two females. [Samuel French]

A cultural conflict of a very different sort is at the center

of Theresa Rebeck’s Abstract Expression, published in

a new edition by Samuel French. After a scathing review

15 years ago, a once-celebrated painter has faded into

obscurity, living with his daughter in poverty, creating

works that he shows only to her. Then a chance encounter

promises — or threatens — to relaunch his career.

With biting humor and considerable compassion, Rebeck

compares the gritty reality of people living from day to

day with the capriciousness of the art world, where fame

can be a matter of who you know and reputations can be

bought and sold. Six males, three females. • May 2008 41


By Erik Viker

Backdrop Basics

Leah Yetter

Backdrops Fantastic’s Tropical Beach Sunset TB004 used for South Pacific at the Theatre Macon in Macon, Ga.

Large-scale painted backdrops are a mainstay of professional

theatre production, and veteran scenic

designers and stage technicians effortlessly select,

install and operate them almost daily. Even with talented

scenic artists on staff, the space needed to sew and paint

scenic backdrops often makes it impossible for small

theatre companies to create their own panoramic backdrops.

With some planning and simple training, community

theatres, academic programs and small professional

companies can also take advantage of the versatility and

flexibility of painted backdrops. If your budget allows, you

can use several backdrops for impressive yet quick scene

changes augmented by easily moveable set pieces and

complementary lighting effects.

A Practical Solution

If your scenic design requirements are flexible and a specific

artistic approach isn’t necessary, backdrop rental may

be a practical solution for your production design needs.

Backdrop rental companies (such as those listed in the directory

pages that follow) maintain extensive online catalogs,

including thumbnail photos of their available products and

rental rates and policies. Online backdrop rental companies

offer backdrop packages tailored to specific popular plays

and Broadway-style musicals, or customers may browse galleries

arranged by design theme. Because these companies

do brisk business year round, you should inquire about

availability before assuming your preferred design is in

stock when you need it. Depending on the design selected,

backdrop rentals can range from $100 to $500 per week,

plus shipping costs. Remember, fabric is surprisingly heavy

and a 50-pound package can be expensive to ship both

ways, so budget your production accordingly if you plan

to rent backdrops. Of course, it is important to make sure

costuming and set pieces are artistically comparable to the

backdrops selected, so your scenic and costume designers

should be involved in the decision-making process from the

beginning. For example, a Victorian environment majestically

displayed across the entire stage may not be what your

designers have in mind as the setting for a “casual contemporary”

production design.

The size of the soft goods you select must be carefully considered.

Pre-painted rental backdrops may range in height

between only 10 feet tall to over 30 feet tall, and widths can

exceed 50 feet in some cases. Consider the sightlines of your

venue to ensure the backdrop you choose will meet your

needs, and consider the side masking necessary to adequately

frame the drop visually. Do not underestimate the effect of

distance on perceived size of your scenery: What may seem

like a huge painted surface from the stage apron may look

like a postage stamp to the patrons in the 15th row. If your

design requires one or more backdrops to fly out of sight, you

42 May 2008 •


Grosh backdrop ES1313 at the Glasgow Summer Theater’s production of Children of Eden

must measure the travel distance of each rigging lineset to

be certain the bottom of the drops can be flown out entirely.

You can determine this distance by loosely fastening the end

of a flexible tape measure to the batten with spike tape and

slowly flying it out to maximum height. Also consider diagonal

sight lines from the first few rows to the bottom of the

flown scenery. If a glimpse of the very bottom of your painted

backdrop from the first few rows is unacceptable, you may

need to add black masking downstage of the backdrop.

Installation and Operation

If your staff does not include an

experienced rigging technician, you

should first ensure your personnel are

properly trained in the installation and

operation of counterweight rigging

equipment before flying any scenery.

Pre-painted backdrops, like most

conventional theatre curtains, usually

include sturdy jute webbing across

the top hem, with metal grommets

and ties installed at 12-inch intervals.

Installation simply consists of centering

the backdrop on a pipe batten

and fastening each tie to the pipe

with shoelace-style knots. For the best visual effect, you

may need to slide sections of threaded one-inch steel or

aluminum pipe (called “bottom pipe”) into a pre-sewn

tube at the bottom hem, thereby stretching the fabric

slightly and minimizing wrinkles. This bottom pipe adds

to the overall weight of the backdrop assembly and must

be considered when flying the backdrop. If your theatre

lacks working linesets, you may still use a painted backdrop,

but you may need to tie ropes or “pick-up lines”

from an architecturally sound location

above the stage, such as a grid or gallery

railing, to support the steel pipe to

which the backdrop will be tied. This

approach is available when the backdrop

does not have to be flown out of

sight. The backdrop should be tied to

Schedule 40 steel pipes, with pick-up

lines leading from the pipe batten to

the grid or other architecture, placed

every 10 feet to avoid flexing the pipe

under load. Your technicians must be

experienced with several types of knots

to ensure the scenery does not place

anyone at risk.

You should follow information about how to handle and

maintain the backdrop as provided by the rental company,

and make sure the painted surface does not drag on the

theatre floor at any time during installation or operation.

Alteration of the backdrop dimensions is not permitted,

but if the drop is too wide for the venue you may be able

to gently fold back the excess width on both sides and tie

the reversed excess to the pipe.

Although rented backdrops are sometimes not the most

Charles H. Stewart’s Paddington Green backdrop used for Oliver

cost-effective scenery solution, they offer lavish design execution

with minimal effort. There is no easier way to visually

fill a large area on stage, and backdrops can add versatility

and elegance to even a modest production.

Erik Viker is an assistant professor of Theatre at Susquehanna

University, where he serves as faculty technical director for

the Department of Theatre and teaches courses in theatre

operations and stage management. • May 2008 45


Acme Scenic & Display, Inc.

7737 NE Killingsworth St.

Portland, OR 97218

P: 503-335-1400

F: 503-335-0515


Adirondack Studios

439 County Rte 45 Ste. 1

Argyle, NY 12809

P: 518-638-8000

F: 518-761-3362


AE Mitchell & Co., Inc.

4316 Wheeler Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22304

P: 703-823-3303

F: 703-823-3374


ASI Production Services, Inc.

10101 General Dr.

Orlando, FL 32824

P: 800-808-3179

F: 407-240-4358


Automatic Devices Company

2121 S 12th St.

Allentown, PA 18103

P: 800-360-2321

F: 610-797-4088


Backdrops Beautiful

7990 Dagget St. Ste. C

San Diego, CA 92111

P: 866-622-5842

F: 619-209-7809


Backdrops Fantastic

552 Poplar St.

Macon, GA 31201

P: 800-508-1916

F: 478-750-7471

W: www.backdropsfantastic.


See their ad on page 47. New York

Sound, LLC

8 John Walsh Blvd. Ste. 322

Peekskill, NY 10566

P: 914-739-0480

F: 914-739-0573


Big Image Systems USA

4208 Ottawa Ave. S

St. Louis Park, MN 55416

P: 888-626-9816

F: 952-400-3397


BMI Supply

571 Queensbury Ave.

Queensbury, NY 12804

P: 800-836-0524

F: 518-793-6181


BMI Supply South

209-B Depot St.

Greer, SC 29651

P: 800-670-4264

F: 864-877-1062


See their ad on page 7.

BN Productions, Inc.

P.O. Box 353

Boxford, MA 01921

P: 978-352-4730

F: 978-352-4131


Brimar, Inc.

28250 Ballard Dr.

Lake Forest, IL 60045

P: 847-247-0100

F: 847-247-9270


Broderson Backdrops

873 Broadway Studio 603

New York, NY 10003

P: 212-925-9392

W: www.broderson

Charles H. Stewart Co., Ltd.

115 Flagship Dr.

North Andover, MA 01845

P: 978-682-5757

F: 978-689-0000


See their ad on page 43.

Chicago Canvas & Supply

3719 W Lawrence Ave.

Chicago, IL 60625

P: 773-478-5700

F: 773-588-3139


See their ad on page 51.

Classique Decor Ltd.

5528 47 A Ave.

Wetaskiwin, AB T9A 0M1

P: 888-352-9112

F: 888-352-9112


Cobalt Studios

P.O. Box 79 134 Royce Rd.

White Lake, NY 12786

P: 845-583-7025

F: 845-583-7025


Continental Scenery, Inc.

7802 Clybourn Ave.

Sun Valley, CA 91352

P: 818-768-8075

F: 818-768-6939

W: www.continentalscenery.


Dammannart Scenic

Backdrop Studio

22395 S Western Ave. Ste. 302

Torrance, CA 90501

P: 888-957-0320

F: 310-783-0275


Dazian Fabrics

124 Enterprise Ave. S

Secaucus, NJ 07094

P: 877-232-9426

F: 201-549-1055


See their ad on page 47.

DeClercq’s Theatrical

Specialties, Inc.

724 Kevin Ct.

Oakland, CA 94621

P: 800-200-6873

F: 510-633-5114


Demolli Fine Art Studio

P: 813-731-3257


Drape Kings

3200 Liberty Ave. Unit 2C

North Bergen, NJ 07047

P: 201-770-9950

F: 201-770-9956


Dreamworld Backdrops

6450 Lusk Blvd. Ste. E106

San Diego, CA 92121

P: 800-737-9869

F: 858-453-2783

W: www.dreamworld

See their ad on page 45.

Dudley Theatrical

3401 Indiana Ave.

Winston-Salem, NC 27105

P: 336-722-3255

F: 336-722-4641


Fullerton Music Theatre

218 W Commonwealth Ave.

Fullerton, CA 92832

P: 714-526-3832

46 May 2008 •

F: 714-992-1193


G&G Design Associates

310 S Long Beach Blvd.

Compton, CA 90221

P: 310-632-6300

F: 310-632-6333


Gerriets International

130 Winterwood Ave.

Ewing, NJ 08638

P: 609-758-9121

F: 609-758-9596


Georgia Stage, Inc.

4153 Lawrenceville Hwy.

Ste. 12

Lilburn, GA 30047

P: 770-931-1600

F: 770-717-6474


Grosh Scenic Rentals

4114 Sunset Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90029

P: 877-363-7998

F: 323-664-7526


See their ad on page 46.

Handloomed Textiles

Of Nepal

770 Tolman Creek Rd.

Ashland, OR 97520

P: 541-482-4866


Hudson Scenic Studio, Inc.

130 Fernbrook St.

Yonkers, NY 10705

P: 914-375-0900

F: 914-378-9134


I. Weiss

2-07 Borden Ave.

Long Island City, NY 11101

P: 888-325-7192

F: 718-482-9410


See their ad on page 44.

John S. Hyatt & Associates,


420 Alabama Ave. NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49504

P: 800-466-9245

F: 616-451-2813


Joseph C. Hansen

Drapery Co.

423 W 43rd St.

New York, NY 10036

P: 212-246-8055

F: 212-246-8189


Kenmark, Inc.

8125 Santa Fe Dr.

Overland Park, KS 66204

P: 913-648-8125

F: 913-648-5218


See their ad on page 48.


Kenney Drapery

Associates, Inc.

13201 NE 16th Ave.

North Miami, FL 33161

P: 800-543-1842

F: 305-891-7396



12660 Branford St.

Los Angeles, CA 91331

P: 818-768-5768

F: 818-768-4217


Lite Trix, Inc.

2422 Long Rd.

Grand Island, NY 14072

P: 716.774.TRIX


Limelight Productions, Inc.

471 Pleasant St.

Lee, MA 01238

P: 800-243-4950

F: 800-243-4951

W: www.limelight

Mainstage Theatrical

Supply, Inc.

129 W. Pittsburgh Ave.

Milwaukee, WI 53204

P: 800-236-0878

F: 414-278-0986


See their ad on page 50.

Major Theatre Equipment


190 Dorchester Ave.

South Boston, MA 02127

P: 617-464-0444

F: 617-464-0101


Michael Hagen, Inc.

207 Ferry Blvd.

South Glen Falls, NY 12803

P: 518-747-8986

F: 518-747-5375


Newmark Scenic Productions

2917 Poplar St.

Sarasota, FL 34237

P: 941-316-9204



825 Rhode Island Ave. S

Golden Valley, MN 55426

P: 800-220-6920


Performance Solutions FX

29 Basin St.

Toronto, ON M4M 1A1

P: 416-410-1102

F: 416-461-0770

W: www.performance

PNTA, Inc.

615 S. Alaska St.

Seattle, WA 98108

P: 800-622-7850

F: 206-267-1789


Premier Lighting &

Production Company

12023 Victory Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91606

P: 818-762-0884

F: 818-762-0896


Production Advantage, Inc.

P.O. Box 1700

Williston VT 05495

P: 800-424–9991

F: 877-424–9991

W: www.production

Propmasters Miami

9940 NW 79th Ave.

Miami, FL 33016

P: 305-826-1900

F: 305-826-1850


Paron West/Paron Annex

206 W 40th St.

New York, NY 10018

P: 212-768-3266

F: 212-768-3260


Performing Arts Supply Co.

11421-B Todd St.

Houston, TX 77055

P: 800-351-8688

W: www.performingarts

Quality Stage Drapery Ltd.

18021 105th Ave.

Edmonton, AB T5S 2E1

P: 800-661-5649

F: 780-484-1929


Ravenswood Studio, Inc.

6900 N. Central Park Ave.

Chicago, IL 60712

P: 847-679-2800

W: www.ravenswoodstudio.


Rose Brand East

4 Emerson Ln.

Secaucus, NJ 07094

P: 800-223-1624

F: 201-809-1851


See their ad on the inside

of the back cover.

Rose Brand West

10616 Lanark St.

Sun Valley, CA 91352

P: 800-360-5056

F: 818-505-6293


See their ad on the inside

of the back cover.

S&K Theatrical Draperies, Inc.

7313 Varna Ave.

North Hollywood, CA 91605

P: (800) 341-3165

F: 818-503-0599

W: www.sktheatrical

San Diego Opera Scenic


3064 Commercial St.

San Diego, CA 92113

P: 619-232-5911

F: 619-232-1925

W: www.sdoperascenic

Scenery First, Inc.

207 Elmwood Ave.

Sharon Hill, PA 19079

P: 610-532-5600

F: 610-532-5601


Scenic Technologies

539 Temple Hill Rd.

New Windsor, NY 12553

P: 407-855-8060

F: 407-855-8059


Scenicsource Fabrics Inc.

1209 Security Dr.

Dallas, TX 75247

P: 214-638-8300

F: 214-638-8804


Schell Scenic Studio

841 S Front St.

Columbus, OH 43206

P: 614-444-9550

F: 614-444-9554



Sculptural Arts Coating, Inc.

P.O. Box 10546

Greensboro, NC 27404

P: 800-743-0379

F: 336-379-7653


Secoa, Inc.

8650 109th Ave. N

Champlin, MN 55316

P: 800-328-5519

F: 763-506-8844


Set Shop

36 W 20th St.

New York, NY 10011

P: (800) 422-7381

F: 212-229-9600


Set Solutions

29 Basin St.

Toronto, ON M4M 1A1

P: 416-410-1102

F: 416-461-0770


Sew What?, Inc.

1978 Gladwick St.

Rancho Dominguez, CA 90220

P: 310-639-6000

F: 310-639-6036


Showman Fabricators, Inc.

47-22 Pearson Pl.

Long Island City, NY 11101

P: 718-935-9899

F: 718-855-9823


Silhouette Lights & Staging

2432 S Inland Empire Way

Spokane, WA 99224

P: 800-801-4804

F: 509-456-3718


Silk Spirit

411 San Anselmo Ave.

San Anselmo, CA 94960

P: 415-945-9410

F: 415-456-6403


Stage Front Presentation


6 Southern Oaks Dr.

Savannah, GA 31405

P: 800-736-9242

F: 912-233-5350


Stage Technology, Inc.

3110 Washington Ave. N

Ste. 100

Minneapolis, MN 55411

P: 800-889-4081

F: 612-455-0224


Stagecraft Industries, Inc.

5051 N Lagoon Ave.

Portland, OR 97217

P: 503-286-1600

F: 503-286-3345

W: www.stagecraftindustries.



1510 S Main St.

Little Rock, AR 72202

P: 501-375-2243

F: 501-375-2650


Sunbelt Scenic Studios

8980 S McKemy St.

Tempe, AZ 85284

P: 480-598-0181

F: 480-598-0188


Syracuse Scenery &

Stage Lighting Co., Inc.

101 Monarch Dr.

Liverpool, NY 13088

50 May 2008 •

P: 800-453-7775

F: 315-453-7897


Texas Scenic Co.

5423 Jackwood Dr.

San Antonio, TX 78238

P: 800-292-7490

F: 210-684-4557


Theatre Service and Supply


1792 Union Ave.

Baltimore, MD 21211

P: 410-467-1225

F: 410-467-1289


TLS, Inc.

1221 Jordan Ln.

Huntsville, AL 35816

P: 866.254.7803

F: 800-229-7320


Tobins Lake Studios/TLS


7030 Whitmore Lake Rd.

Brighton, MI 48116

P: 888-719-0300

F: 810-229-0221


See their ad on page 49.

Tru-roll, Inc.

622 Sonora Ave.

Glendale, CA 91201

P: 800-989-7516

F: 818-240-4855


United Stage Equipment

110 Short St.

Hartselle, AL 35640

P: 800-227-5407

F: 256-773-2586


UV/FX Scenic Productions

171 Pier Ave.

Santa Monica, CA 90405

P: 310-821-2657

F: 310-392-6817


Vadar Production

Company, Inc.

1300 W McNab Rd.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

P: 800-221-9511

F: 954-978-8446


Weber-Prianti Scenic

Studio, Inc.

408-A Meco Dr.

Wilmington, DE 19804

P: 888-997-6500

F: 302-998-6931


For more information about the companies

advertising in Stage Directions® and serving the

theatre profession, go to the links listed below.

Advertiser Page Website

ACT Lighting 5

American Musical &

Dramatic Academy/ AMDA


Angstrom Lighting 51

Apollo Design Technology 25

Atlanta Rigging Systems 13

Audiovend Wireless Systems 36

Backdrops Fantastic 47

Barbizon 37

BMI Supply 7

Bulbtronics 36

Charles H. Stewart & Co. 43, 51

Chauvet Lighting 9

Chicago Canvas & Supply 51

City Theatrical Inc. 12, 51

D.A.S. Audio C2

Datapro Systems 51

Dazian Products 47

DreamWorld Backdrops 45

Eartec 12

Elation C4

Full Compass 15

Graftobian 51

Graham Swift & Co/

Theatre Guys


Grosh 46

I.Weiss 44

Kenmark 48

Light Source, The 1

Mainstage Theatrical Supply 50

Mask Arts Company 51


New York Film Academy 6

Rosco Laboratories 11

Rose Brand C3

Sculptural Arts Coating 39 51

Techni-Lux 33

Theatre Wireless/

RC4 Wireless Dimming

51 34

Tobins Lake Studios 49

For advertising

information contact James at


Classified Advertising

Answer Box

By Thomas H. Freeman

Let Down Your Swing

The swing flown at stage level connects the two circular platforms.

Rapunzel sings to her prince while sitting on the swing,

not a tower, in the Kneehigh production of Rapunzel.

For a revisionist take on the tale of Rapunzel, Kneehigh

Theatre staged a swing, not a tower.

Blame Into the Woods, or Disney backlash, but

fairy tales are rarely given the earnest, straightahead

treatment on stage anymore — and

Kneehigh Theatre’s production of Rapunzel at The

New Victory Theater in New York is no different.

Playwright Annie Siddons and Director Emma Rice

reached back to the older texts of Rapunzel that lie

behind the Grimm Brothers’ famous version to find a

more capable heroine and a little jolt of “va va voom.”

As part of the staging for this nontraditional take,

their Rapunzel has long, black dreadlocks and the

step-mother isn’t so much a witch as just incredibly


As part of this re-imagining, the tower where

Rapunzel is trapped is staged as a swing. A red, ovalshaped

piece of floor is flown to stage level during

the show, to bridge a gap in two circular stages. The

same oval piece is also flown approximately six feet

above the stage and supports two performers who

use the platform as a tower and swing. A small, portable

Saxis control unit and BigTow winch, from Stage

Technologies, is being used to create these effects for

the touring production.

Stage Technologies worked with Production

Manager and Lighting Designer Alex Wardle on this

project and provided a system capable of flying a

small platform carrying two performers.

“Part of the reason we chose the system is that the

Saxis is simple to program and operate,” says Wardle.

“During the performance, it is operated by our Stage

Manager Amy Griffin, who is in costume, running

around the stage passing props to actors, setting off

pyrotechnics, fetching the rabbit from its hutch and

flying two hemp sets — so it’s got to be simple! Also,

the tour in the UK played in the round, which meant

that the winch was in the same room as the audience,

so it was important that it runs reasonably quietly”.

Also in the unit’s favor was the compact size of the

Saxis unit and BigTow winch, which make the system

easy to install and transport, and give it more options

for installing in the rigging, making it a good option

for small and touring productions.

Answer Box Needs You!

Every production has its challenges. We’d like to hear how you solved them!

Send your Answer Box story and pics to

52 May 2008 •

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