November 5, 2010

Focus on Design

The Theatre Department recently completed a major overhaul of one of our rooms. Known as the Acting Lab, or COM128, this space has always been in high demand as a classroom, rehearsal and performance space. Now the space will have even more versatility. Regent Backstage spoke to Design Professor Mike Burnett about how the decision to convert COM128 came about.

Mike Burnett: “We've been producing Second Stage shows in the Studio Theater for the past few years. With our intense production schedule, high production quality, and minimal technical/design staff, we either had to find another space or cancel the Second Stage shows. We decided that since Lab shows were successful in COM128, we would move Second Stage in there, and give them a little bit of budget and staff support.”

Regent Backstage: “What were the deciding factors that contributed to the current design?”

Mike Burnett: “Flexibility. Since four days a week COM128 is a heavily used classroom, plus still has to handle rehearsals, we had to create a space that had minimal impact on all that.”

Regent Backstage: “Can you describe the changes to the space?”

Mike Burnett: “COM128 now has permanent seating, which leads to a higher seating capacity. Previous capacity was thirty bodies (audience, actors, techs)...we are now at sixty. We also invested in new lighting equipment - light board, light fixtures. All the lights are installed in a ‘rep’ plot. This means that the lighting gels can change per show, but adding/taking away lights and refocusing the bulk of the lights will not happen. This allows all shows in there, as well as classes, to always have multiple lighting areas with multiple colors without having to go thru the process of hanging, circuiting, and focusing. There is also a new sound system complete with speakers, amps, CD/iPod/Computer playback capability. We added new floor surfacing. Previously, there was a really old Marley dance floor. We replaced it with masonite hardboard which allows us to tape and paint it. Finally, there is a new emergency exit door.”

Regent Backstage: “What are the biggest pros and cons of the new design?”

Mike Burnett: “The biggest pro is all the flexibility and ease of use. Now any student production, with minimal instruction, can have a higher quality production. Since we now can bring in larger outside audiences, they can expect higher quality productions.

The biggest drawback is how the audience accesses the space. We had intended for the audience to enter and exit through the new door to the outside. This isn't happening now, so they will enter and exit through the old doors, which means they come through a backstage space. It’s not ideal, but it’s something we'll figure out. It also means that dressing room access and bathroom access for actors and audience is something we're still feeling out. Another con is how the changeover from classroom to theatre happens. There are lots of props and class furniture to move around.”

Here are a couple of pictures from Royal Gambit - the first production to utilize the new COM128 space.  The show runs Nov. 5-6 at 8:00pm and Nov. 6-7 at 3:00pm.  Call the box office for tickets at 757.352.4245. Come see a performance of Royal Gambit this weekend and check it out! 

Cast and Crew of Royal Gambit

Tim Stanlake and Megan Friberg in Royal Gambit

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