Secret Garden take 2

Gallery 7’s production of The Secret Garden (the musical) finally took place 3 years after it was postponed by the advent of Covid-19 in Canada. It played in March 2023 at the Abbotsford Arts Centre.

For those 3 years, I was able to store most of the set in G7’s storage container, plus a bit at their office and a bit in my workshop. It was a matter of re-assembling what we had, checking with the stage management team about any changes, and finishing the paint job.

The set is divided into two main parts: the house, and the garden. Flies, scrims, and wheeled set pieces were used.

Set Design is by Matthew Piton. Set Coordination (painting, greenery) is by Andrew Potts and Charlene Crawford. Props and Set Dec by Dianna Lewis. Director: Ken Hildebrandt. Lighting Design: Gabe Kirkley. Costumes by Dani DeJong. Stage Management: Brittany Suderman.

Here are some photos from Load-In:

Here are some publicity photos, taken by Dianna Lewis: (click on picture to see entire image)

And here is the large cast!

It was a haunting, beautiful, artistic, complicated show with lots of heart and soul. But, all good things come to an end. I have stored some of the set, but a large part of it has been repurposed, given away, or sold. Onto the next one!

Set Build – Murder on the Orient Express

The latest show for Gallery 7 is now playing. The set was a large one with a few complications. Following are some photos of the build.

Set Design including paint is by Jeff Kiers and Director is Kate Muchmore Woo.

Jeff’s creative design was shared as a model:

He also provided basic dimensions and (most importantly) fly line locations for the 3 flies.

I realized that to build this I would need to draw this out to make sense of it. There are a few moving parts.

Then I divided it up into parts: risers, steps, walls, flies, observation deck, benches.

Here are some pictures of the flies. I made them in 8×12 sections with plenty of cross-bracing to help eliminate sag. (They are 24 feet long) One fly has 3 working doors so had to be structurally sound.

There is a wall that flips down to become a floor for scene changes. It is heavy as it is made of 3 sheets of 3/4″ plywood.

Jeff painted the outside of the train, and my assistant carpenter Karen worked on walls.

Things started to come together but there was still so much to do!

I was treated to a beautiful double rainbow at the workshop one January afternoon…

Load-in day at the venue came and with several volunteers we got the basic set together so that lighting design could commence.

It’s always nice to see things start to come together under the lights!

Theatre Snow Cradle Fly

See previous post for more about the 1-man play This Wonderful Life.

My director asked for a quiet snowfall during the scene where George is on the bridge, ready to live again. The venue (Abby Arts Centre) does have a soap flake snow machine, but it is noisy and wouldn’t work with the quietness of this scene. So I decided to make a snow cradle.

We did have the advantage of a fly system and a fly operator. Flies are basically long pipes on ropes that can be lowered and raised – and in this case, moved up and down to shake fake snow through the holes of a muslin tarp…

While researching snow cradles online, I found plenty of drawings (they all seemed to have the same source) but no practical photos. So things were a bit experimental. I bought 32 feet of 4-foot wide muslin. I then stapled thin sticks along the edges (sewing would be better but stapling is faster). This gives support for the edges so they don’t sag. Lastly I wrapped the sticks with zap straps every 4 feet so they could be attached to fly pipes easily later.

Next I added some fake snow. I bought some at HollyNorth, which is a cool store in Vancouver that caters to film companies. I wanted something light-plastic flakes would have been preferable-but settled on their biodegradable stuff.

I tested it and realized my holes needed to be bigger. To make holes (only on one side!) I made an X with an exacto knife. It was easy to make the holes bigger by simply sticking my finger in them and pulling a little. Note that when we tried it at the venue, we had to make the holes even bigger!

Here is a link to my test video. It gives you an idea how it works. Note: In the venue, the fly operator doesn’t shake the edges – he moves 2 flies up and down in opposite directions to help the snow settle into the holes.