Here’s my story of a recent challenge: to design and build a set for our community theater’s production of Clue with only two weeks between shows with all volunteer labor, which translates into only about two full days of actual work. I’ve built several sets for this stage, but this one really pushes the limits of time and space. Where’s Ant Man when you need him!?
The show takes place in seven rooms on a stage that measures 24 feet wide by 22 feet deep. There is minimal fly space above the stage and very limited wing space on each side. Which means any pieces of the set have to pretty much stay on stage. I’d read the script, watched the movie, and had meetings with the director, actors, and others.
I consider several ideas. My first thought is to put everything on wheels and “dance” the set around as the actors move from room to room.
Another idea is to put walls on tracks and move them from side to side. We could divide the stage into six rooms, a main entrance, and a hallway, like the game board, possibly rotating the rooms on multiple platforms. But the positioning of the rooms, the transitions of the actors, and having enough space to act out the scenes is perplexing.
My first idea is simple and effective. The other options are too much to build with too little time and make the rooms too small. Some of the scenes would have seven actors plus some large set pieces. One step forward, two steps back, start over, roll the dice again. I decide to go with my first thought. It’s like never crossing out your first answer to a test question, because it’s usually right.
Modular sets for Clue. On left Gillnett High School, photo by Martin Del Vecchio. On right Gaslight Theatre, Enid, OK, photo by Muncy Photography
I will put everything on wheels. A couch, a table, chairs, a wall, doors, will all be moveable. The cast and crew will dance the set pieces into place as they move from room to room. The two smallest rooms, a library and a conservatory, will be kept in place downstage left and right. This will help set the scene of the play even before the curtain opens to reveal the grand hallway and main entrance which will be placed upstage center at the back of the stage. It will also be on wheels so it can shift left and right, or off stage as needed during the play.
The cast and crew can start rehearsing the “dance” with the movable set pieces even before we have the stage available by moving the seating to clear the house and using that space.
We’ll assemble the various set pieces while the current show is playing. As soon as it closes, we’ll build the main entrance on the stage, dress the two downstage areas and be ready for rehearsals with just two weeks left to finish lighting and sound settings. This is the plan.
Will it work? If you’re reading this before April 2023, come see The Valrico Village Players’ production of Clue. Get tickets at MyVVP.org or call (813) 480-3147.
[Though it is still a few weeks away, we want to remind you that April is National Poetry Month, and we’ll celebrate it with multiple issues as we always do. We’d like to add something special this year: poetry that you’ve created. Wait! Don’t back away! We want to make it easy for you, if this is your first attempt. Here’s our plan.
We’d like you to try your hand at Haiku. In English, of course. We won’t make you learn Japanese Kanji just to write a poem. That would be cruel! (Fun, but cruel.) If you can say anything in 17 characters (First line five, second line seven, third line five), you have created a Haiku. (You may want to polish your first draft a bit.) The typical Japanese Haiku is lyrical, philosophical, nature oriented. But there are also humorous Haiku such as:
So, turn your poetic Muse loose, give her a cup of strong coffee, and see what she helps you create, lyrical or laughable. If you like it, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a bit dubious, let it marinate for a while. We’ll remind you next week. — Editors]
Peter Terzian began his career as a school media and technology teacher in 1980 and retired in 2017. He started brewing a few years ago as a hobby and is now OLLI-USF’s resident expert on turning natural ingredients into tasty beverages. He now enjoys volunteering for arts, education, and technology projects. He teaches for OLLI and contributes to OLLI Connects and the Facebook Group.
[As a stage play, Clue’s conclusion (Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Candlestick?) depends on “votes” from the audience, so it has multiple possible endings. The play you see today may end differently than the one you saw last week. — Editors]
4 Replies to “Get a Clue!”
Thank you for the amazing work you do to support the Valrico Village Players. We treasure our local theater.
Peter, thank you for this piece which illustrates your versatility: author, set designer, wonderful blend of imagination in theory and practice…
You are SO creative and so VERY talented!
Peter, you’re amazingly creative. I’d love to see your stage design and I’m trying to get some members of our Olli SIG Community of Readers and Writers to attend one of the matinees. See you there.