Creating the floor for King Lear
I am getting super excited about our upcoming production of King Lear. Directed in the round in the Thomas Theatre by our very own Artistic Director, Bill Rauch, Lear promises to be a very direct and contemporary telling, but full of unexpected suprises.
The show's setting is timeless, contemporary and ancient, and the concept has a lot to do with light. Scenic Designer Christopher Acebo has set the entire show on on a giant antique mirror, and it was our job to paint it.
The shop custom made boards and laminated them with aluminum, so the sheen is real metal. Then we had to make it look old, which is both easier and harder than it sounds. You know the way an old mirror separates from the back? We had to give it that kind of depth and make it tough enough to be walked on and to withstand being repped in and out with The Unfortunates that opens in March and The Liquid Plain that opens in July.
Led by Lead Scenic Artist Thayne Abraham, we coated the floor with a near indestructible clear sealer that is industrially used to seal statues and airplanes, then got to work with rags and tinted sealer to create the levels of age at the edges.
Scenic Designers can give a paint department several resources from which to work, but I feel the most helpful are one or more images taken from books, magazines, or the web that provide examples of what he/she would like to see. These give us a better understanding of what is in the designer's head, and help us get a good idea and feel of what we are painting. Another resource is the rendering, or an actual image created by the designer of exactly what he/she wants to see. Every scrape, every dot of color is planned. We just make this image bigger. It was interesting to look at the way a mirror ages and has so many different colors to it as the backing is peeled away. I thought there would only be one color, perhaps a muddy brown, or even a dull grey. But, as we studied the image, we found soft browns as well as gentle blues, and even hot rusty reds and oranges.
The shapes were very organic. We would lay down a glaze and let it set up, and then polish some away with a rag or dry brush. Or sometimes we would wait for the glaze to dry completely and scrub some away with a brillo pad, or dab some away with alcohol on a cotton swab or rag. And in some instances, we created a resist with water in a sprayer soon after laying color down.
As you can see in the photo above, the floor has turned out beautifully. I'm sure it's going to really add to the show to have these actors walking around on this mirror, reflecting light fron various sources. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "...playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure."
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