Friday, August 29, 2014

Finding Neverland

 Here we are 20 performances after opening Finding Neverland at the A.R.T. This is an interesting show--based on the movie of the same name-- because it was mounted once in London already, but didn't do so well, so when our producer decided to try it again here in the U.S. he brought it to Diane Paulus and a new creative team for revamping. It seems to have worked. Despite the fact that many changes will still need to be applied and worked through, this show is heading for Broadway next.

Finding Neverland is the story of how Peter Pan came to be the beloved children's tale known across the world. It features J.M. Barrie, a writer struggling with his work and his marriage, and a young family that he becomes attached to. Add a demanding-- yet inspiring-- boss, a disapproving mother, and an anxious wife, and we have quite a mixing pot of characters and turmoil for Barrie to consider. I like the interweaving of imagination and reality in this musical that shows so clearly how a creative person draws from their life for each piece of artistic expression. The music is awesome, a delight to listen to every night from backstage. And this cast is remarkable: actors and singers from Broadway, dancers from various amazing places, and 4 very talented kids. 

We have another month of performances to go here in Cambridge! Don't miss out! For more information on tickets, cast, and creative team, please visit the A.R.T. website.

Monday, August 25, 2014

From August 7th

Next week we open Finding Neverland here at the ART, a new musical based on the movie with the same title. It's been a long process to get to this point! The strike of Tempest was fairly tame, and led directly into a huge, extensive load in (and in some ways, continuation of the build) of the Neverland set. 

We started with the stage rigging. The Loeb is a very flexible space without a permanent fly system, so the staff is used to spot rigging and building arbors. For this show, we have 14 drops of various shapes and sizes that fly in and out in addition to 6 very specialized pieces for a big number at the end of Act 1. The stage crew installed most of these linesets early in the summer, complete with head blocks and loft blocks, arbors and guide cables, all of the elements to make a safe and balanced system to fly heavy pieces. The carpenters worked on most of the specialized pieces, since in many cases we had to work around and cut into the building itself. 

The deck for Neverland is also very specialized to allow various effects. While it was being loaded in, I was sent to the scene shop to work on a flying drop called the Kensington Garden drop: a multi-layered, complex piece with stiffeners and intricate details. It was a tough, hot week. When I came back, I continued to work on perfecting the rigging systems, usually from 60' above the deck in our grid. While all of these things were being installed, the lighting and sound departments were getting their massive amount of gear ready as well; the carpenters continued to work alongside us. They put in massive surround walls that encase the playing space. One cool thing they put in is a series of walls on the sides of the stage that turn on a center point. This can change the setting drastically depending on which painted side is facing out and also depending on what angle the walls are set to for each scene. They can be totally closed, enclosing the playing space, or open to have more traditional wings.
Draftings for the Kensington Garden drop I worked on
Painted sections I cut out, reinforced, grommeted, and magneted
Backstage during the final nursery scene

The rest of our scenery involves large wheeled pieces-- most notably a 17' long dining table and a huge bar piece, both of which are danceable. During Act I, we store the bar up in the air, and part of our huge intermission shift is swapping it with the table. We have a large wagon, furniture pieces, a wheeled 3-part fence, lots of large and small hand props, light up props and accessories... all in all, Finding Neverland is a HUGE show to maintain and run! There are 5 of us on the deck moving scenery and flying pieces; 1 person running automation; 2 ASMs; several wardrobe and sound people on deck; and a stage supervisor. With a 20+ person cast and TONS of scenery, there is not a whole lot of room backstage! 
The dining room table, hanging upstage during Act II

We spend most of our time shifting things to get ready for the next scene or number. Each of us on the crew get a pretty thorough workout between pushing sliding furniture and benches, wheeling doors and bushes, lifting chairs and stools, lifting chaise's and sofas for storage, operating line sets, operating hand winches, catching ladders and props, and moving quickly in general. Getting to this point during our tech and previews has been very intense in terms of workload and hours for us. Add the hope that this show will go to Broadway, and the pressure really heightened on cast and crew during the month. From the feedback we've gotten so far, there is more work to be done, but the show has a lot of potential. 

For information on tickets and more, please visit the ART website.