Before too much time passes, I am assembling the photos from Big River, that best reflected our production process. The cast photo with the moon was taken by Guy Rhodes, our Lighting Designer. Empty stage photo was taken by Michael Brosilow- and the rest of the photos by myself during the production process. The assembled batch reflects our production process from Linda and I’s initial meetings where we went from three 1/8th inch paper models to form one new idea which was brought to completion onstage.
We decided to set the play outdoors in an environment that ensconced the band, gave a little depth to our shallow space, and be transformative to every scene. The actors enter with a show trunk, their costumes, the things they use come out with each character. Trees rise up behind them forming a framework by which the actors can come and go and are truly the main focus telling the story in a natural enviornment. We pulled from our memories as children playing outdoors, where a stone becomes a stove, a tree stump becomes a table and the boughs of a tree~ a roof.
This moving story of dedicated friendship is told by an amazing cast of performers and the music is undeniably some of my favorite. Huck Finn is played by James Romney (Broadway bound after this show…), and his friend Jim performed by Jonathan Butler-Duplessis. At the heart of the musical lies the difficult subject of race relations, the journey of friendship and how we as individuals find our place within the world.
A painter at heart, I would still have loved to use our mechanised roll drop to have had a painting of the Mississippi travel in on cue, but that was not to be in our time frame and was not needed. For this set I made every effort to use stock items and construction materials we had except for the sonotobe for the trees, the leaves and grasses themselves which came from Autograph Foliage, Jaxsan (a roof coating) used in 3 layers for making the foam durable. The magic is in the finish work and the safety is in the construction, but with a set like this they must work hand in hand. Dennis (ATD), Melissa (Shop Foreman), and Jessica Howe (Our incredible charge painter) pushed through the initial stages of the build with stock platforms, layering and carving foam. Melissa immediately understood the three-dimensional sculpture needed to form the shape of the trees over their steel skeleton, and Jess brilliantly executed the bark texture in muslin, drywall compound mixed with white glue to sculpt relief. The entire team of carpenters helped with every part of the process.
Within the span show, we saw two of our collaborators in the shop move on in life- Aaron to the military, and David on a move across country. Anna- pictured in one of the photos stepped up to be our Assistant Stage Manager on this show unexpectedly.
In every one of the pictures below are the people who make these shows happen behind the scenes. From the drawings to the manifest set- they begin to tell the story before a word is ever spoken onstage.
Directed by: Linda Fortunato Musical Direction: Bill Underwood
Lighting Design: Guy Rhodes Sound Design: Mike Patrick Costume Design: Brenda Winstead
Head of Production/Set Design: Ann Davis Asst .Technical Director: Dennis Galbreath, Shop Foreman: Melissa Geel Charge Scenic Painter: Jessica Howe Props: Brittney O’Keefe
Sound and Lighting Supervisor: Tom Plummer
Costume Shop Manager: Caitlin Dalton