Dirty Deeds At The Depot production work, 2013

This is just a brief overview of some of the steps I employed to get the stage design and set work accomplished for the Summer Melodrama, “Dirty Deeds At The Depot”, this last summer at the Longview Theater.

First I created a draft – very loose – of what the needs of the director and the play were going to be after lots of online research and discussion with Jamie Hegstadt (said director) and lots of mental stewing and frying.

Preliminary draft for Stagework Northwest's production of "Dirty Deeds at the Depot", Summer 2013

Preliminary draft for Stagework Northwest’s production of “Dirty Deeds at the Depot”, Summer 2013

Then we started the under-painting process which is very boring and sometimes seems like I have no idea of what I am doing to the untrained eye.  During this time I usually employ whoever will hold a paintbrush to help make this part go faster.   The entire set usually needs some sort of base-coat because we always paint back to front. What we paint underneath matters to the final product.  The work behind me is the color wash for the brick work for the train station.  The half-circle will be a template to create some arches that will break up the large expanse of brickwork and give architectural interest.

Getting things ready for the next play:  Dirty Deeds At The Depot!  Summer 2013

Getting things ready for the next play: Dirty Deeds At The Depot! Summer 2013

As each layer progresses it becomes more evident what the texture conveys: bricks!

Lauing out the work and painting the first color - brown - to show the shadows.  Notice the level!  That is my best friend ever!

Laying out the work and painting the first color – brown – to show the shadows. Notice the level! That is my best friend ever!

2 colors - brown "L"s and cram "7"s create a realistic 3D version of the brick work.

2 colors – brown “L”s and cream “7”s create a realistic 3D version of the brick work.  Really tedious unless you have some good music on.

Working on creating a 3D overhang for the spanish tiles.  Also the alcoves have been painted in.

Working on creating a 3D overhang for the Spanish tiles. Also the alcoves have been painted in.

Coming along with the train station and adding wood work texture for the steps.  My fabulous sidekick, Cindy Taylor, was a major help with all these steps.

I also had painting help on the brickwork from Lynn Jansen and Katie Jansen.   Once they got the hang of the technique they were excellent brick layers!

A picture of the stage from the sound booth/balcony.  As you can see lots of the set is getting worked on little by little.

A picture of the stage from the sound booth/balcony. As you can see lots of the set is getting worked on little by little.

Since painting is back to front I had to constantly keep working on different parts of the set and then waiting for it to dry so I was all over the place.  Cindy and I created the wood texture on the cannery (stage left) and I color washed a stucco effect on the entire stage right side to show the San Juan Capistrano mission style train office.  My poor little arm was so tired of “wash on” “wash off” after this portion of the work.

The sides of the set that extend out toward the audience we decided to create a feeling of distance by painting the Old West town theme on the left and receding train tracks in the distance on the right side.

Chuck Jansen, Set Man Extrordianaire, was busy helping us to build an veranda for the cannery building.   Lynn is also painting sagebrush on the lower part of the stage.

Look at the wicked weathered wood texture!  And the cardboard we used for shingles on the overhang were grand!

Look at the wicked weathered wood texture! And the cardboard we used for shingles on the overhang were grand!

This is the Belford Cannery and I have to create a sign that says just that!  The set piece here is at least 14 feet high.  Painting this high is a bit scary.

An action scene from "Dirty Deeds at the Depot", melodrama performed by Stageworks Northwest Theater Co Summer 2013

An action scene from “Dirty Deeds at the Depot”, melodrama performed by Stageworks Northwest Theater Co Summer 2013

Sign getting worked on in my set shop.

Sign getting worked on in my set shop.

Signwork in progress – the Belfrod Cannery makes fig marmalade.  Hence the figgy things on the top o’ the sign.

Lynn Jansen painting grass on top of Lucy's tufts of sagebrush.

Lynn Jansen painting grass on top of Lucy’s tufts of sagebrush.

One aspect of painting this large scale is that you love folks willing to give you a hand!  Lynn is our resident costume designer but she was willing to lend a hand to create some grass texture for the front of the stage.  We could have just left everything blank or painted black but hey, it’s so much more fun (and more work) to transform the space!

BTW – Lucy Gilbertsen, my daughter, is 12 and is a wonderful under-painter when she isn’t busy reading a book hidden somewhere in a nook in the balcony.  All ages can be a part of this process – I highly consider the value of inclusion for everyone in the artistic process over perfection.  Perfection isn’t any fun and doesn’t teach that everyone has something important to offer.

Signpost for Hope Springs

Signpost for Hope Springs

Next is putting in significant things such as the signpost for the town as mentioned in the play.

Working on the large-scale mural (20+ feet long x 9 feet high) that depicts the town of Hope Springs.

Working on the large-scale mural (20+ feet long x 9 feet high) that depicts the town of Hope Springs.

Working on fleshing out the town in the distance and trying to make sure my perspective is okay.  That stuff can be hard on a large project… a few wrong angles and it’s all wrong!

 Mmm, I think I need to stop in at the “oon”  to wet my whistle!

A shot of the play during the first night's show.  The popcorn is thrown by the audience as per it's audience requirement of the melodrama.

A shot of the play during the first night’s show. The popcorn is thrown by the audience as per the audience participation requirement of all melodramas!

There are more shots of the process – I just have to upload them – but it certainly shows some of the different things I and my team of painting minions are able to accomplish in a short 2 week period!

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