Friday, April 29, 2016

Käthe Kollwitz and The Threepenny Opera

Tacoma Opera finished out their season with a production of The Threepenny Opera. This was a very different set from anything else that I've worked on.  Noel gave me five drawings by Käthe Kollwitz
to reproduce on big panels, to display along the back of the set. The opera was written in 1928 in Germany (between the wars), and its themes of social criticism are nicely illustrated by Kollwitz's depictions of poverty and oppression.

For this show we had the use of an empty office building downtown (owned by the man who owns the Armory, I hear).  Doug checked out a laptop and projector from school, and I used that to trace the images onto the panels. I've never tried reproducing anything like this in paint before, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but it turned out to be surprisingly quick and easy. The fact that they were (mostly) sketchy and imprecise helped a lot.  I ended up just dry-brushing everything, and it looked just like sketchy pencil lines.

This was the one piece that was not sketchy pencil lines--more of a cross-hatch pen-and-ink technique, which was a lot more complicated to reproduce. I'm glad they weren't all like that!

I thought the girl in profile was looking a little too Dr. Seuss-y, so when Anne Marie came painting with me one day, I got her to take a look at it and figure out what it needed. (Doug often gets to fill this role when I work on things at home--it helps to have a second pair of eyes.)

Anne Marie dry-brushing stairs.  The rest of the set was all weathered gray wood.

Photo by Kate (she was having stomach pains and came with me instead of going to school that day).

This was a really nice space. There was plenty of room to spread out all my painting stuff and not get in the way of rehearsals. (It did get a bit hot and stuffy on sunny days, but other than that it was awesome.)  The ceilings were nice and high, too, so I didn't have to worry about whacking anything when turning a panel over.  They were looking for a new tenant, though, so I guess we won't be able to use it again. Alas!

Theater load-in started on a Friday instead of Saturday this time, and I was actually not painting up until the last minute on the day of dress rehearsal. There was still a lot to do, painting and dry-brushing the scaffolding that they put together, and painting the undersides of the higher platforms black so they wouldn't be glaringly visible from the audience. It was kind of a noisy set, with people running up and down the different levels, but Tony put some carpet on the higher platforms and that helped.

Photos by Peter Serko.

(That's Johann in the back.)

I went to the opening night show with Mary McGiffin and Erica Davis (Anne Marie went to a Sherman Alexie book signing and couldn't come). Mary has been to four of my six operas with me, but it looks like this was our last together, since they just found out that they're moving to Spokane. So sad! I will miss my opera buddy!

I wasn't completely familiar with the storyline, but I knew that it was pretty dark and gritty. If I were going to sum up the theme, I would say it's about how morality goes out the window when people are starving. This definitely isn't one to take kids to.  The cast did a fabulous job and everything looked amazing. 

I got to paint all three shows this season! Now I shall fill my summer with other projects.


Anne Marie Corey said...

The little girl turned out not to be suessical, just starving. Those fixes looked great. It's funny, because the cross-hatch one you worried about ended up being one of the best. It looks great on stage. Great job!

Helen in Australia said...

That's quite some cv/oeuvre you're developing. Wonderful work; it looks fantastic.