The Drowning Girls, Stage Set Design, 2014

The Drowning Girls; a story of marriage misogyny and murder adapted to the stage of the modern time. Our goal as a Free Lab was to bring to life the characters of this story, and to make them relatable to a modern audience.  As a group we staged a live reading of the play to further our understanding of the show. Our primary objective was to research and experiment with the different set possibilities for the show. It was essential to the proof of concept that we explore and test the individual set pieces in order to present a clear summary to the theater company. We focused on the logistical issues that were presented by the water elements of the set, mainly the large pond, showerheads and mist bar. Our goal with the mist bar was to create a device that would bring down a sheet of fog, water or mist that we could then project an image on, which would give the image more depth. For the pond we were testing different connections and material, focusing on solving the issue presented by the travelling show. It was essential that the large pond be modeled as a kit of parts, as opposed to a permanent component of the stage. We tested materiality and construction methods for each component of the show in order to develop a stage that would present a contemporary rendition of the play, while remaining highly mobile.

Member Names:
Aimee Hill, Da Lun, Jayme Spinks, Marshall Peebles, Philippa Ovonji-odida, Tingjun Han, Wei Lu, YingxinRen

Instructor: Peter Henry

July 18 – August 1 2014


Water System

We focused on the logistical issues that were presented by the water elements of the set, mainly the showerheads and mist bar. For the halo showerheads, at first we think we can use a copper pipe, we will drill holes on it and band it by machine, but after that we found a ABS pipe have a better flexibility to reach our goal. Our goal with the mist bar was to create a device that would bring down a sheet of fog, water or mist that we could then project an image on, which would give the image more depth.

Unfortunately, the mist bar works not as well as we thought. With out an appropriate pressure, mist can’t go down to ground. At the same time, it was not smooth enough for projecting.

We used water curtain instead mist bar in the end. A water curtain works much better than mist. At least, it is easier to control water than control air with a pump.

 


Pond

For the pond we were testing different connections and material, focusing on solving the issue presented by the travelling show. It was essential that the large pond be modeled as a kit of parts, as opposed to a permanent component of the stage. We tested materiality and construction methods for each component of the show in order to develop a stage that would present a contemporary rendition of the play, while remaining highly mobile.

 

 

Related Project: 

http://stevelucasdesignblog.blogspot.ca/search/label/Thousand%20Islands%20Playhouse


Pipe System

In this project, I was fully charge of the plumbing system. I was surprised to find that the plumbing system was the connection of all those stuffs we designed. The pipe will cover the whole stage. Most of the two weeks, I take part in other process of design the water effects to understanding their concepts and water requirements. Then I can design these requirements in the plumbing system.
To understand the needs of plumbing, I went to home depot to see the size, material and connections of pipes. I also need to test how much pressure can a pump reach and how high water can go with a pump.
These works are instresting and creative. The hardest part for me was I need to use limited tools and environment to solve problems such as I need test the height that water can go with our pump, so I need to find a 18 feet height (the height of the Dunn Theater) place and a hose longer than that height….
Finally, I came out a water system including the direction of cold/warm water flow and parts of the items we need in this system.


Plaster Hands

During the last few days of the workshop, we focused on working with plaster and alginate to create life casts of human hands. These hands are used as feet of tubs in the show.


Theatre

Before the end of the free lab, we went to see the Dunn Theater in Dalhousie Art Centre to learn how a theater stage construct and how to use the lights and setting. This tour of Dunn Theatre is a great experience for me and also for this free lab of stage design project.


Exhibition and Critical Summary

 

Aimee Hill:
I thoroughly enjoyed working on “The Drowning Girls” as my first Free Lab experience. I worked alongside a great group of students, who were all incredibly nice and eager to get to work. Peter Henry was a great leader, providing us with ideas and advice for his vision for the play, while allowing us to design and explore these elements on our own. We worked on several of the set pieces for the play, building prototypes to test out and experiment with ideas. The prototypes we constructed were for shower heads to douse the actresses at different points during the play, a shallow, watertight pool that all of the scenes will occur in, a misting bar to project images and light onto, and plaster casts of a claw-like hand, to act as the feet of the three tubs. Each member of the group worked a little bit on each element, which I enjoyed because it kept us from feeling too stuck on one thing. We also knew that we were working toward producing prototypes, rather than finished set pieces, which gave us more freedom with our time to experiment and really get into the specifics of the effects we wanted to create.

Darren (Da Lun)
This freelab course is a wonderful experience to me. The course is a stage design for a show called “Drowning girls”. We started from acting the play, I found it’s more interesting and inspiring to act it out than just read the screenplay. Then we divided our work into four directions, so four teams are set up based on our background and experience. The four directions we have are the misting bar design, pond design, the plumbing system design and the tub design. I am in the pond design team and I really enjoy the work. My work is to work out the 1:1 prototype of the pond which is going to be used in the show. After discussing with the class, we have the final solution and started to work on it. I spend all days in the woodshop to make the prototype, and I have met some brilliant people there who helped me a lot. They are the students from architecture, we had some good conversations which helped me know more about architecture and they got some product design way of thinking from me.
Overall, I think this freelab is a great course not only because it has interesting projects to do, but also it provides a good opportunity to extend our knowledge, communicate with other designers and practice collaborative work.

Jayme Spinks:
The Drowning Girls freelab with Peter Henry was an engaging, handson experience filled with challenges and learning opportunities. We were tasked with not only the creative ideas of the set design, but also the realworld logistics of our solutions, which proved quite rewarding.
Our initial readthrough of the play script was a helpful exercise, allowing us to better understand the intention and characters. After a few days of brainstorming, we landed on some ideas we were happy with, which gave us amble time to investigate the production.
It was interesting to explore various production methods and materials. I’d never spent any time with dry ice before, so it was fun to have the opportunity to experiment with it. The structures we made to work with the dry ice functioned surprisingly well, despite the fact that it was ultimately not the ideal material. We ended up having a lot more success with water instead, which was an allaround better solution.
The casting was both challenging and fun. We really had to work as a team, and as a whole, we were all quite happy with the results. It’s nice when hard work pays off.
Overall, I thought this was a great experience, and was happy to have had the opportunity to participate.

Marshall Peebles:
Our goal as a Free Lab was to bring to life the characters of this story, and to make them relatable to a modern audience by developing a contemporary stage. As a group we staged a live reading of the play to further our understanding of the show. Our primary objective was to research and experiment with the different set possibilities for the show. It was essential to the proof of concept that we explore and test the individual set pieces in order to present a clear summary to the theater company. We focused on the logistical issues that were presented by the water elements of the set, mainly the large pond, showerheads and mist bar. Our goal with the mist bar was to create a device that would bring down a sheet of fog, water or mist that we could then project an image on, which would give the image more depth.Although the fog created a visually successful effect, the use of dry ice to create a projection screen presented too many complications for the show and was inevitably ruled out as an option.As an alternative, we eventually decided on projecting on a screen of mist, after testing the effects and experiencing great success.For the pond we were testing different connections and material, focusing on solving the issue presented by the travelling show. It was essential that the large pond be modeled as a kit of parts, as opposed to a permanent component of the stage. We tested materiality and construction methods for each component of the show in order to develop a stage that would present a contemporary rendition of the play, while remaining highly mobile.
Philippa Ovonji-odida:
Initially having mixed feelings towards this free-lab due to the fact that it did not seem directly related to architecture, I eventually signed up for it because of the possibilities that were presented due this very fact. During the course of these two weeks, working on prototypes for set design has showcased one of the different avenues that an architect can be led down.
As per the actual free lab, I appreciated how it was structured because it allowed for people to explore areas of interest and thus ensured active participation from everyone. There was a diversity of areas looked at; prop placement and concealment, adaptation of the bath tubs due to props required, history of the case on which the play is based, and rigging up water screens. During the last few days of the workshop, we focused on working with plaster and alginate to create life casts of human hands. I appreciate the introduction to this new medium of expression that I can now use for exploring models in the course of my architectural degree.
If the play’s production time had not been moved to spring of next year, I would have loved to get into production of prototypes for the tubs to experiment with various materials like wood and acrylic.

Mort (Tingjun Han):
Our free lab course was a quite fascinating program, which mainly focused on the stage design for a play that called the drowning girls. I was so happy to get this opportunity to cooperate with students from architecture or other background. On the first day, we were not designers because we were cast as the different roles for an actor of the play. Each member had a better understanding of the drowning girls by performing dialogues. We tried to find some new ideas or improvement projects based on the original one in the next couple of days. Then, we divided into several small groups to develop the separate items, which are bathtub hands, dry ice, plumbing and stage. My co-worker and I had an obligation to make the full-scale prototypes of the stage. Actually, I just had a little bit experience about woodworking. At the beginning, we had many technical problems like how to bend the narrow strip of wood or how to connect among pieces of wood. After a short struggle, we overcome those difficulties and achieved the final effect we expected. In sum, I learned and shared much interdisiciplinary knowledge about architecture or stage design, which might be good for me as a graphic designer.

Wei Lu:
I have received a great chance to discover the possibilities in the area of set design in the free lab “Drowning Girls.”It is always fun to consider the most significant part of a theater, like how to built up the bridge between audiences and the play, how to make a clear communication on the stage, how to create certain symbols that represents a story, and in this case, how to built the variouscharterers via simply crafting sets and props in certain ways.
Alongside our process, we follow through the script and we have established the basic elements of the stage, since this is an exceptionalshow that only preformed by 3 almost identicalactors in multiple roles, so our premier task was to sort certain ways to somehow present the different characteristic of the roles.We considered the possible solutions both individually and collectively, from the small pieces of fragment from the script, to the overview of the stage. We have been through the research and experiments based on the different materials, medias, patterns of production, and the presenting ways.
I was trulyenjoying the processes we have been through, and got satisfaction from our final outcomes. Thisfantasticjourney of the show business gave me a chance to consider not only from my own study as a visual designer, and also to think and practice more outside of my expertise,than to locate my position in this group work.

Anna (YingxinRen)
Throughout freelab, Peter advocate for the practice of a stage design program for a stage play named Drowning Girls. He think this type of design is a combination of graphic design, product design, mechanical design and this freelab is also a practice of sculpture, wood shop and other skills. The first day, we go through the script by ourselves and collect some aspects need to be designed. In this program, we should design a stage with water pond and various water effects such as water fountains, water screen, smoke bar and underwater lighting. We also need to design a water-proof stage and some sculptures for stage properties.
In this project, I was responsible for the plumbing system. I was surprised to find that the plumbing system was the connection of all those stuffs we designed. The pipe will cover the whole stage. Most of the two weeks, I take part in other process of design the water effects to understanding their concepts and water requirements. Then I can design these requirements in the plumbing system. Beyond that I also study much while the tour in Art Centre. After the project, it seems like the stage is ours. Hope I can watch the show next year, with the stuffs we designed.

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