Friday, February 07, 2014

Painting Seville

I have been busy busy busy working on this for the past month--I got to do the set painting for Tacoma Opera's production of The Barber of Seville.  It's been a really fantastic experience.  Lots of work and lots of fun.

21 days
73 (and a half) hours of painting
probably about 5 hours (or more) of clean up
21 hours of travel time
numerous NPR podcasts
1 audiobook
5 runs to Home Depot
and 20 almond-butter sandwiches.

The genesis of this was Tacoma Opera doing The Pirates of Penzance  right after our church put it on last summer, and borrowing some of the pieces, including the rocks that I painted.  They asked for my number and got in touch with me.  (Would I like to do some painting for the opera?  Heck yeah!)  We had a meeting back in November and got started on the planning.  I met Bill the set designer, who does amazing blueprint-style plans complete with architectural handwriting, Tony the master carpenter, and Kevin the technical director/assistant stage manager/glue that holds everything together. 

Notes, plans, inspiration!  (That's Bill's skyline and a Tomie dePaola illustration from Strega Nona.)

Most of the painting happened at the Urban Grace church downtown (just up the hill from the Rialto theater).  They have a big storage closet there, and a little room on the side where I worked.  Since we moved we're now a lot farther from downtown, so it's about a half-hour drive, and I had to work around my family's schedule, but for the most part it was pretty flexible.  I just went in after Doug got home, and took along some food and something to listen to. On Saturday mornings I also got to listen to the Tacoma Youth Symphony practicing, which was kind of fun. 

The first thing I worked on was the city skyline backdrop.  I had a copy of the plans and got to enlarge it onto the panels free-hand.  (Which was fortunately not as difficult as I had feared, but did take a while!)

I probably spent more time on this than I really needed to.

Next, roof tiles. I had six 2'x8' panels to cover, and I mixed up six different colors.

I had picked up a large pointed round brush that turned out to be really good for doing these outlines. It still took me about half an hour to outline one panel, and I was bending over the whole time, so it was pretty hard on my back!

The rest of the pieces were ready to paint just a week before dress rehearsal. Kevin helped me with the base coat, which probably took about two days off my work time. We worked on these out in the big room (Urban Grace's Lower Temple). I was able to start messing around with my stucco finish effect before they were moved over to the theater, but didn't get a lot done.

Theater load-in was that Saturday. This was where it really got exciting. I enjoyed working by myself, but being on site with everyone else putting it all together was just very cool. Once the walls were secure I was able to continue putting on the stucco finish. (There were also a few things that needed another layer of base coat, and some last-minute additions that hadn't been painted at all, so there was plenty to keep me busy.)

(I took some of these with the camera on my little Samsung media player, but once I saw how they turned out I went back to lugging my big camera back and forth.)

Kevin puts up a roof panel.

More stuccoing. Lots of ladder work. I was starting to get a twinge in my leg from going up and down ladders.

Lisa Prina, who was Mabel in the church Pirates production, is playing the maid in this. She arrived for rehearsal and I got her to take some pictures for me.  (She was awesome--thanks Lisa!)

Tony the carpenter.

Kevin and Royce hang backdrop panels.

Everything came together just beautifully. Noel Koran, the general director, told me it's the best-looking set they've had. I told him how much I enjoyed working on it, and he said, "Well, it won't be the last time, if I have any say in it." I would love to make this a regular thing. (They only do three productions a year, and the next one is Madame Butterfly, which they've done before and already have a set for, but there will be more in the future.) The hours were kind of hard on my family, so it's probably a good thing that I'm not running off and painting all the time! I'll have to ask Doug if he's up for it again. He's been a great support through all this. 

Here are some rehearsal photos where you can see the set in various stages of completion.  (I ended up taking out that red railing in the background--it just didn't look right.)  Can't wait to see the performance! 


Helen in Australia said...

Looks fantastic. Well done, and how exciting that must be.

Kathey said...

Wow, Helena, This is fabulous. Thanks for all the pictures and all the detail!

jen allyson said...

Looks AMAZING!! do they pay you by the hour or for the full project?

Helena said...

By the project, though I did keep track of the hours just to see how long it took.