My little granddaughter was actually in a different class and did not get to decorate the "castle," but she did get a photo op.
Guess I should go back to researching. Maybe I'll get some more inspiration.
Cardboard is actually an amazing medium for building scenery. Oh how I wish I could find some cardboard tubes (for free, of course) so I could make some turret towers for the castle set I intend to build for my Summer Camp show!
What a fun idea some enterprising teachers came up with. At daycare, the teachers set up cardboard boxes, cut to look like castles, and let the children color on them. Kids have such amazing imaginations that Im sure their artwork suggested a real castle.
My little granddaughter was actually in a different class and did not get to decorate the "castle," but she did get a photo op.
For me, I have to get a lot of the parameters of a show set before I can actually write the dialogue and the songs. Oh sure, a lot of the ideas sort of bloom at the same time --- the set, the costumes, how many characters and their names, the music, the dancing, and so forth.
For example, I was trying to write the Opener for the show a few days ago, and got through 2 verses and a contrasting section, I even figured out the ending, but got stuck at the 3rd verse. The reason was partly because I hadn't really settled on just who would be singing the song. The purpose of the song I think I have worked out. It needs to set up the action for the first scene, but it also has to tell some of the backstory of why and how the Prince was turned into a Frog.
Guess I should go back to researching. Maybe I'll get some more inspiration.
No Musical set in Ancient Greece could be complete without some authentic Greek instruments -- authentic looking at least. In my enthusiasm to help the cast immerse themselves into the ancient Grecian world, I spent a good month creating some Pipes of Pan, a Cheyl's Lyre, a Pandouris, and some Tympanum. These were fascinating to learn about and wonder how they would actually sound.
From what I can imagine, they would not sound musical to our modern ears. However, I have great respect for the idea of using these unusual instruments as unique features for my upcoming production of "Never Cry Wolf." In Scene 5, the artisan character Altair the Magnificent, brings his Muses and Musicians to help him get in the mood for painting a set of Commemoration Amphora (the Greek vases famous for capturing scenes of Greek life from the ancient times.)
The production number "Set It for Posterity" allows the Muses adjust the poses of the Politicians to help them look heroic for their portraits on the vases. The Musicians, of course, play their "authentic" replica instruments during this wild and wonderful romp complete with demonstrations of 1960's dance crazes and a rock 'n roll guitar solo. Yes, the instruments are key to this number!
The Pan Pipes are a blowing instrument. The Pan Pipes were tubes of varying lengths blown somewhat like we would blow a harmonica today. In fact, they are considered the first mouth-organ.
The Tympanun are simply variations of hand drums. I decided that Quaker Oats containers were the perfect size and shape. I painted them and added "skins" out of fake leather held on with glue and rubber bands. Seems to work out well. Sturdy enough for four performances, anyway.
The Pandouris is a type of lute with just 3 strings. I had my husband cut the shape of the sounding box and the neck out of an old length of a light-weight wooden shelf. I added sculpted insulation foam glued onto the board to create the shape of the sounding box. We added nylon fishing line strings using small dowels mounted to the board. We wanted her to be able to move around and pretend to play like a Rock Star, so we gave the pandouris a shoulder strap made from a macrame purse strap. She really got into the groove and rocked it, baby!
The Cheyl's Lyre is more interesting because it needed to look like it was made from a turtle shell and ibex horns. We took apart an old wooden crutch to imitate the shape of the ibex horns. The long screws and predrilled holes simplified the work to just cutting down the boards to the lengths we needed. We added sculpted insulation foam to create the "turtle body" sounding box and added strings. After painting, it looks amazingly good as an ancient lyre.
Being a musician, I wanted this Musical to incorporate the musical flavor of Ancient Greece as much as possible. It was fun researching before writing the music and as well the script, and it has been fun now creating the musical props.
I am glad they will not sound, though. We don't want them interfering with the soundtrack now, do we!
We went to see "Hans Christian Anderson in New York" last night at the Hale Center Theater in Sandy, Utah. We went not knowing what to expect and we were delighted with what was delivered.
First off, the set was beautiful, very imaginative and so colorful! One side was a book store. When it spun around, the other side was a dance studio. The live band was tucked up behind the tall "buildings" on Stage Left. (We could just see a bit of the trombonist and trumpeter playing during the show.) The costumes were also very colorful and period appropriate. This show was set in New York during the early 1960's. The bouffant wigs were great, too.
My daughter and I went to see her friend perform as "Hans Christian Andersen" himself, 3rd grand nephew to the famous author Hans Christian Andersen. Alex King did a phenomenal job dancing and singing his heart out. The show had actors in a small ensemble cast that were equally enjoyable in their parts. And the seven children were delightful as the students taking dance in the dance studio.
This show's original script was written to showcase many of composer Frank Loesser's popular songs from the 1940s-1960s, plus some songs from the 1952 Danny Kaye movie about Hans Christian Anderson such as "I'm Hans Christian Andersen," "Thumbelina," "Wonderful Copenhagen," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "Inch Worm," and "The Ugly Duckling."
My personal favorite number was "The Emperor's New Clothes." The young girls carried large puppets who represented the members of the court of the Emperor. Using puppets was so clever!
It was such a family-friendly show! Happy and upbeat. The only tension in the show came from the situation of Hans inheriting a failing bookstore from his aunt, but not inheriting a legacy to run it or pay the bills. The plot revolves around Hans putting on a Christmas show to help drum up business for his store and pay the back rent. Several colorful characters also appear to help him.
This show is being premiered at the Hale Center Theater through July. Because we in Utah like family-friendly fare, I hope this show finds its audience and does very well, indeed.
The Hale Center Theater's production of the musical "Titanic" was incredible. The set was so amazing it is almost impossible to describe. Parts of the set were flying down from above, and parts were descending or rising from below. We in the audience could see 'way up into the rafters where the "crow's nest and bridge" disappeared, as well as down several stories into the basement where the "boiler rooms" of the ship were. With all of the lighting effects and smoke and lots of movement, I actually had the feeling of sea sickness for a while.
This show was about a very real tragedy, so we were sort of prepared for how sad it would be. But not really. It was still a very sad ending, although the writers tried to put in moments of beauty and heroism and even some comic relief. The music was at times ebullient and full of anticipation and other times lyrical and sentimental. The singers in the cast had incredible voices. Although it was billed as musical theater, it was actually more like opera because so much of it was sung and it was so tragic.
But I have to say that the real star of the show was the set. How the scenic designers came up with the concept of how to build a "ship" set for theater in the round that the audience could see into the various decks, from the crow's nest and bridge, to the Grand Salon in First Class, down to the boiler rooms in the lowest depths was incredible. The engineers who designed and synchronized all of those moving parts deserve some kind of award nomination!
Some friends and I attended the Sundance Summer Theater production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" last night. The mountain setting was delightful. There was a lot to enjoy about the production, especially the dancing, but I must confess I hardly recognized the show. The story line and songs had been completely reworked to be a rather far departure from the original. (I wonder where that renovated script and score came from? There was no mention in the program credits.)
What is always interesting to me in watching a live production of a fantasy show is how will they achieve the MAGICAL EFFECTS. It was fun to watch the Fairy Godmother's and Cinderella's dresses change from rags into beautiful glittering gowns. It was also fascinating to watch how the actors moved around the set pieces throughout show to change the scenes. That was pretty magical, as well, but watching the maneuvering made me tense and nervous.
Early in my experience doing live theatrical shows, I had an unfortunate accident involving the "movable" stairs of the set. Watching how the dramatic curved staircases were positioned last night and how the cast members moved around all over them brought back memories of my accident.
In my case, the crew had not moved the set pieces close enough together for a child to negotiate the gap between sections. One of my legs slipped through the gap and on the way down I got all scraped up. Fortunately, I caught myself so I didn't fall all the way down to the stage level. My fall was on the way out of the scene so some crew people were able to rescue me and quickly apply bandaids before I had to get into the next scene. "The show must go on" and all that, you know. But my 9-year-old self was pretty traumatized.
Watching the large staircases last night kept me in a state of apprehension. Oh, how I hoped the crew members would hit all of their marks and get the set pieces locked into place so the actors wouldn't have troubles. Fortunately, there were no accidents and I was able to finally relax at the end of the show.
(But I still wonder why they felt they had to so drastically rework the script...This new version was not the old favorite I remember.)
Memorial Day 2022 was the coldest I have ever experienced! We went to decorate the graves wearing sweaters and rain jackets. Our mountains got some fresh snow. It was cold. The Memorial Days of my past were marked by getting to finally go to the swimming pool and coming home for a cookout and s'mores. Well, instead, this year we turned on the heater and had a fire in the fire place.
My yard loves the cold rainy weather, though. The roses are getting ready to explode. In a couple of days we should see the bright pinks, reds, peaches, and yellows of all of our roses. I am hoping they bloom quickly so we can enjoy them for a couple of weeks before I have to do some serious pruning. The bushes have grown so tall that they will block the view of our patio "stage" if I don't do something drastic.
Our Summer Camp show this year "A Successor to the Throne" is all about celebrating the different seasons as the story rolls around a full calendar year. We start out with the song "Spring Is Here" where the girls dance with pink parasols and colorful flower wands. I feel sad that I will have to prune back the roses so dramatically. They would add lovely Spring color to the set. The flowers would look nice for the song "Summer Comes," too. But I guess they just wouldn't fit the orange color scheme of "Autumn Lingers on the Breeze" or the whites and blues of "Wintertime."
We also have a stone step walkway that right now is almost blocked with the thorny branches of the roses. When it is cleared, it will become the parade entrance for the Emperor and his entourage. The story revolves around the old Emperor's plan to let the flowers choose his successor. I really should have pruned more energetically in the fall. But alas. I didn't. Hopefully, I won't have to cut back all of the beautiful roses. We really should leave some for the Emperor's Palace Garden.
I love how Nature provides the most beautiful set decorating!
My neighbors have a son about the same age as my youngest son. He has been a good friend to my boy from their High School years on. Now they are grown-ups. He doesn't visit his folks very often these days because his work is far away, but when he is here, he keeps himself very busy. For example, he was home for the Thanksgiving holiday working on rebuilding his truck transmission. I was visiting with them the other day and was curious about what he was making. It looked like knitting. When I looked closer, he WAS knitting. He told me that he needed a headband of a certain width and color and weight. So he decided to just make it. He did not have knitting needles, though, that would make the stitches as tight as he envisioned. So he took some tent stakes, ground the ends to points, and started his project. What a resourceful guy!
When working in Children's Theater, RESOURCEFULNESS is one trait you really need. Either you do not have funds to cover costs the way you would like, or the venue you have for performance is awkward in many respects, or you don't have exactly the talent pool you need for the show ... there is always something that is challenging. So, the best thing is to be flexible and very resourceful. Take stock of what you've already got and think creatively. It is amazing how you can adapt props and sets and costumes you already have for new purposes. And if you think about it long enough, you can usually come up with solutions to how to use the performance space adequately. And so what if you don't have the talent pool, the dream cast, you expected? This gives someone else a chance for a better part and an opportunity for growth.
All of the shows I have ever been part of had limited budgets. We scrounged around for fabric, old paint, furniture parts, old shoes, cast off craft materials, and anything donated that might possibly be turned into something for the show. We used a lot of found objects such as tree branches and cardboard boxes for props and set pieces. The funds we did have needed to be budgeted for the things we actually had to buy. Those things were precious. You just have to pick your battles and allocate your funds to cover costs for the most important things and be creative for the rest.
You may not need to grind down the points of tent stakes to make the knitting needles to knit your costumes, but you may have some other seemingly insurmountable problems. Remember, with creative thought and some elbow grease, you can be RESOURCEFUL and come up with a solution!
Bavaria in Germany is probably the most picturesque and photographed area of the world that I have ever visited. The mountains and valleys with forests just showing a hint of changing fall color and the fields still exquisitely green were almost too beautiful to be believed. No wonder this area became the backdrop for King Ludwig II of Bavaria's most ambitious castle --- Neuschwanstein.
At the time of the king's death in 1888, Neuschwanstein was not completed. In fact, the tour guide said that of the 200 rooms planned, only 28 were actually completed. Soon after the death of the king, this castle was opened for visitors to tour. It was an income source for the royal family up until the World Wars. It has been featured in movies and documentaries. It was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty castle and many other castles that were renovated in the Romantic style. It has become a symbol of Bavaria in many tour brochures. This castle is very beautiful.
But Neuschwanstein was never really used as a residence. It was designed more as a theatrical set dedicated to the operas of Richard Wagner. King Ludwig was a friend and admirer of Wagner and he loved the Medieval mythology and folk tales brought to life in Wagner's Operas. The Hall of the Singers, Throne Hall, Drawing Room, Study Room, Dining Room, and Bedroom were all ornately painted with scenes from "Lohengrin," "Tannhäuser" and "Tristan and Isolde."
As beautiful as Neuschwanstein is, it still felt like a stage set --- beautifully executed fake history. The castle felt as real as make-believe.
Still, you can't discount King Ludwig's choice of a dramatic setting. The scenery was real and gorgeous.
The photo below is a cast photo of the Sego Lily Elementary production of Momotaro, a Tale of Bravery. You may notice a few things about the stage. There is a proscenium curtain and a few stage lights, but no other curtains or drapes to shield the lovely avant guard artwork of pipes and lights on the ceiling. And what you cannot know is that I had my son hang sheet drapes to provide a backdrop to hide the storage container, cubbies, P.E. mats and games, many odd boxes, a piano, and lots of other clutter that had to remain on the stage.
This stage has three options for getting performers onto it: the front risers, a side door leading out to an odd hallway on Stage Left, and a long winding ramp on Stage Right leading to the front of the stage. In other words, because all of these options for getting onto the stage are in full view of the audience, it is clear that once the actors come onto the stage, they must remain on the stage for the entire show.
When I inquired about removing some of the junk from the stage so that we would have some room to corral the kids during the show, and have room for costumes and props, I was told, "Sure, we can get some of that stuff moved for you."
And while it was true, that some of the bigger items were moved, the space was still rather tight backstage with 40 kids and all of their costumes and props.
The only comment I got from the overworked and rather put out custodian was that this was not an upscale Junior High or High School with a well appointed theater, it was just an over-crowded elementary school with every room doing double and triple duty! Well, I do understand that.
I have gone to several productions at this school and found that the sound system was dismal. So, thanks to my generous son, I was able to bring in a P.A. system to boost the success of the house system.
Sadly, due to illness, I was not able to really finish painting the sets with the detail I had envisioned. But, the show must go on...
Fortunately, the show did go on to great success. The comments from the guests and the school principal were along this order:
"This was the best performance we have ever seen at this school!"
"The kids were great and we could actually hear them!"
"The dancing was so beautiful!"
"Loved the story and the music!"
"Everything looked so professional!"
So, in spite of all of the extra effort it took to create a workable stage, having wonderful comments at the end makes it all worth it!
The Summer Theater Camp 2016 experience turned out amazingly well for our 30 intrepid troopers. Usually, the month of June in Utah County has simply splendid weather -- not too cold and not yet the hot temperatures of summer and no fierce winds to contend with. But not this year. Most of our two weeks of camp, we experienced an unusual heat spell of temperatures above 95 degrees and some mighty winds! 95 degrees plus is hot by any standards.
But our kids stuck it out and put in the effort to make a fun show. They learned their lines and their moves and pulled it all together for an appreciative audience of parents and neighborhood friends in just two weeks!
We started out with both casts together singing "You Can Learn a Lot" which introduced the two Aesop Fables. Then the younger cast took their places for "The Ants and the Grasshopper." Here is the set for the Ant Hill.
After the Ants' last song "Pay Now and Play Later" and bows, on came the Country Mice to "sleep" in front of their big oak tree in the country. The Country Mouse sings "What Is It Like" as she dreams about the Big City.
Partway through the story of "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse," the location changed to the City Mouse's town home. There they were joined by the French Maid and some neighbors to sing "As the French Say" as they contemplated a night of feasting in the pantry.
When the City Mouse takes the Country Mouse to the pantry to taste cheese and other tasty delights, the mice have to sneak along a brick wall past the sleeping cat.
Unfortunately the Cat wakes up and chases them all over the stage and back behind the wall. The Country Mouse decides that she doesn't care about tasting cheese that much. She wants to go back to the country where she knows what to expect.
The Country Mice sing their last song "A Country Mouse" doing a hoe down dance and are joined by the Narrators and the City Mouse for the Finale and Bows.
Then, the Ants and Grasshopper came onto the stage and sang a Reprise of "You Can Learn a Lot" for the final bows.
Thank goodness we scheduled a morning show -- before the winds came up to blow our sets away! Yay!
My name is Betsy Bailey. I have sung, written and taught music all of my life. I enjoy writing and directing Children's Theater shows. This blog will be directed to topics on creating the magic of Children's Theater. I would love to hear your comments!