Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012-03-23/24 Imperial House of OPA

Back in January, I was asked by The Imperial OPA Circus to help an amazing group of performers put on a production as their Stage Manager and I was happy to accept.  For over two months we rehearsed and I helped herd my favorite cats and help bring this amazing production come to life!

The script was written by Luke, known mostly to the audience as that amazing juggler with the awesome mustache, and Tim Mack, the ringmaster, who worked tirelessly to make the amazing ideas and script come to life.  The show was amazing with a wonderfully twisted plot, an amazing live band and aerialists who cover trapeze, lyra, silks and Spanish Web as well as all the acrobats and dancers.  There is no way you'd be able to see a show of this caliber anywhere else for this cheap.  You're practically stealing your seat when you buy a ticket to any Imperial OPA show as they are often a third or less then the travelling Cirque de Soliel shows and you're supporting local Atlanta artists.  

The plot was a cross between Rocky Horror and a morality tale which seems to be a running theme of the OPA shows.  Not only are they entertaining to watch they have a good positive message that you can take away from all the amazement. A Man and Woman break down on the side of the road in front of The Imperial House of OPA and discover a circus inside the house and all of the dreams they thought they had lost along the way in order to make it in the corporate world.  In the end everyone discovers a path to follow their dreams which is the best advise you can give, find a way to follow your dreams and you'll find happiness!

Ironically, as I am in school for theater right now, I had to write a paper about a live theater show and was given permission to write about this particular show as far as the technical elements so if you're interested in how we took a nearly abandoned theater with well loved (broken and damaged) equipment and made this amazing production please keep reading!

From January 25th through March 24th I worked as the stage manager for The Imperial OPA Circus’ production of The Imperial House of OPA.  There were many challenges with working on this production including the space itself.  The Arts Exchange, where our rehearsals and shows took place, used to be a school and is now an artists’ complex that has fallen into a bit of disrepair over the years.  Though we spent time working on it last fall, we still had more work that needed to be done such as finding additional lights, bringing in and running lines for the PA, etc…

The lighting has been its own issue since the beginning.  As the space is wired but many of the dimmers do not work, some of the lights are shot due to frayed connectors, and others do not work for reasons unknown.  In order to make-up the difference we moved the lights around to get the most coverage on the stage, added clip lights to the front of the stage to create foot lights and help add additional lighting to the stage.  We covered most everything with gels of blue, amber and magenta in order to blend the lights on the stage and help create the mood.  Someone was also kind enough to bring in four LED lights that could change color so we used golds and greens in the first act and turned it to blues for the goldfish ballet in the second act.  We also had access to an older light that we had found and were able to get a new lamp for it and mount it to the booth so we could have a working spot light for the production.  Thanks to an abandoned giant gold disco ball we were able to simulate goldfish swimming around the theater during the large “aerial explosion” towards the end of the second act.  I am by no means saying that our lighting was perfect, but Myron placed the lights to get the maximum amount of coverage and controllability.  He was able to create a seemingly high tech lighting design through what we had available and what we were able to be scrounge up.

The sound was mainly used for the band and for a few special effects as we did not mic the performers.  There were a few actors that made me wish we had left the choral mics on throughout the whole show, but over all I do not think they were necessary.  The band sounded great during the first act, however, the second act had three routines that were done through CD instead of with the live band and the transition back to the band after the prerecorded music seemed to cause an issue with the sound.  Though we tried to correct it I feel that Gary, who was running sound, was unable to hear the problems that we could hear in the back of the theater.  There were a few moments where, for dramatic effect we put an echo on the hanging choral mics for during the dream sequence and a very dramatic moment of someone screaming “NOOOooooo” so we put the delay to emphasize the drama of the moment.

The set was very minimalistic; it included an arm chair with ottoman and a table with a goldfish bowl and a hat rack DSR and DSL a small platform with a small table and two chairs.  Other than some fabric draped on the back wall that was the extent of set pieces.  The costumes were done by Dee Dee, and I think that over all she did well with creating a consistent aesthetic.  The only costumes that did not seem to blend as well were ones that were brought in by the performers themselves.  Also, for one of the dream sequence bits there was a giant paper mache goldfish that Tim wore to represent the spirit of one of the characters long dead gold fish.  As a result a few moments of the show had a weird balance between amazing professional circus acts and elementary school arts and crafts which somehow totally worked.

Over all I really enjoyed working on this production and am very proud with what everyone was able to accomplish with our very limited resources.  The performances were amazing and we had sold out shows.  I do wish we had been able to have a longer run due to the amount of time and energy that we put into that production, only two nights seemed a bit of a letdown.  However, we have discussed these issues and hopefully the next show will be even bigger and better than the last one.

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