The Inside Scoop: Early Summer 2019

Posted July 4, 2019

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APT at 40! There’s a special feeling in the air this year – extra energy. Since the last Inside Scoop dispatch, we’ve welcomed (and welcomed back) something like 200 staff members, all working on getting the first five plays up and running. We poked around and chatted up some of the artisans and staff to see what unusual stories we could find. We found a few: 

Food, Part I: Risotto

We mentioned in our last Inside Scoop that several of the plays have stoves as part of the scenery. In many cases, those stoves lead to onstage food. For instance, risotto plays a large role in The Man of Destiny. Guiseppe (James Ridge) takes great pride in making it and telling us about how he’s making it. But what is the stage version of this delicious dish? According to Stage Manager Laura Wendt, the risotto is actually Rice Krispies mixed with water. And, she notes, it has to be mixed early to remove all of the snaps, crackles and pops. So, is this what poor Napoleon (Charles Pasternak) is forced to eat? Not quite. Through Mr. Ridge’s sleight of hand, the Rice Krispie mixture is replaced by a bowl of actual risotto – though not one of which Guiseppe would approve. It’s instant (three cheese flavor), microwaved and at room temperature since it has to sit out from the time the house opens to let the audience in. But according to Laura, Charles finds it tasty.

Food, Part II: Fried Chicken

Bodey (Colleen Madden) spends much of the play making fried chicken in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. This also involves a few stage tricks. First, the rehearsal chicken: actors generally like to have a substitute version of stage props as they put the play together. For this occasion, Props Director Nate Stuber used rubber mulch in Ziploc bags wrapped in duct tape to create objects that mimicked the size, shape and weight of chicken pieces. They use real chicken for the performances, though. The stove doesn’t heat up, but the burner lights up and a small speaker emits the sound of frying food. So to complete the illusion, the crew places cinnamon in the bottom of the pan, so as Colleen flips the chicken it looks like it is browning. Because safety is always a top priority, the raw chicken is bathed in bleach so it is safe to handle, and there is lots of soap and hand sanitizer on stage. Just like on TV cooking shows, the finished product is pre-set in the oven to pull out for serving (or in this case, packing for a Sunday picnic at Creve Coeur Park). 

Tales from the Daily Schedule, Part I: Meetings

The daily rehearsal schedule is chock full of information and is a quick glimpse into the level of detail it takes to make these plays happen. There are a lot of meetings, and sometimes the meetings are on very odd subjects. For example, the meeting list on May 17 included:

· A meeting to discuss “wall dressing” for She Stoops to Conquer to choose what pictures would hang on the wall of the set.

· A meeting for the Production Assistants to get training on proper lifting and stretching techniques – very important since they will change the scenery from one show to another upwards of 200 times during the season.

· A Macbeth “baby meeting” to discuss the requirements for the prop being used as the MacDuff baby.

· A Twelfth Night shackle meeting for the props department to train David Daniel (playing Malvolio) how to safely use the shackles he wears during the play.

Tales from the Schedule, Part II: The Run Through

A run through by any other name…causes less anxiety. There comes a time in the rehearsal process where the cast and director start putting bigger pieces of the play together. This is commonly known as a “run though.” Sometimes, though, the term puts a little too much pressure on the group. We’ve noticed on the Daily Schedule, the Stage Managers try to alleviate the pressure by calling run throughs by other names. For instance, “walk through” is a common substitute. But we recently spotted these less common monikers. For instance: “Run Through on our Knees” (Man of Destiny), Whoosh Act 1 (A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur), “Stitch Together Act 3” (Twelfth Night), “Put-together, Part 2” (She Stoops to Conquer). “Sequential Review” (Macbeth).

Blood and Dirt

Warning: Macbeth contains blood (and dirt and grime). From the very beginning of the design process, Director James DeVita and the designers knew parts of this play would be messy. So, a lot of planning has gone into it. Wig Master Becky Scott also takes charge of tricky make-up assignments, including this one. She reports that the cast will go through about 4 gallons of blood during the run of the play. 

Becky also explained that the gold standard in fake blood these days is from a company called Gravity & Momentum which has been around since 2011. Their stage blood was developed by a fight choreographer from the Chicago area. It’s a secret recipe that easily washes off skin and costumes, dries quickly and always looks shiny. A trip to their website reveals that the blood comes in three consistencies: juice, syrup or jam and a gallon sells for $140.00. 

The dirt comes from a company called Fleet Street Dirtworks. APT staff favors this brand largely because it’s formulated without allergens. “It’s hard to find a dirt powder that doesn’t use ground up nut shells,” Wig Artisan Lara Dalbey informed us on a recent visit. For the record, the actors are using “Muddy Waters” and “Soot” as their dirt palette for Macbeth.

More Mac

We stopped in the Craft Shop to get the story on all of the Macbeth armor. Craft Master Becky Hanson, along with Artisans Haley Jaeger and Elizabeth Swanson told us all about the gauntlets, and gorgets and greaves, and how they were all jiggedy jaggedy – it was like learning a new language. The armor is made of soft leather, which makes it nice to handle. It’s been a big job – they made 11 separate sets of it for different characters – but they said they loved creating a “full world of armor.” 

Feste’s Suit 

While visiting the craft shop, we ducked into the dye room to talk to Dyer/Painter Samantha Haddow. We had questions about that suit that Feste wears in Twelfth Night. The costume is made from buff colored ultra suede – essentially upholstery fabric. Draper April McKinnis and her crew cut the fabric and marked where the diamonds would go on each piece. From there, Samantha taped the areas to be left unpainted with masking tape, then painted the diamonds in six different colors. The prepping and painting took about three days. After the garment was finished, Samantha had one more step – to take the just-finished masterpiece and distress it so it looks a little roughed up. 

That’s all for now. So many stories to tell, but so little space. Look for our next edition later this summer for news about what’s happening in performance, and how rehearsals for the rest of the season are going in the meantime.