John Holdun

Setting the Stage

Partially-finished characters from the bakery in temporary position

Here’s a very rough composition of scene 2! It’s the lemurs, Percy, the cake, and a bear and a sloth, in different stages of completion, in a stage-sized space. Everything is together enough at this point that I can start looking at how it fits together. It more or less matches the sketches, but feels a bit more cramped than I pictured.

Up to this point, I’ve been building with the assumption that every scene will be fit into a five-foot-by-five-foot-by-three-foot case, like a window display or a diorama, but looking at this and thinking more about the design of the overall space, I think I might want to adjust that. I’m imagining a zig-zagging layout through a relatively square floor plan, which means about half the space will be corridors that are unthemed and dimly-lit. Instead of dark halls, I’d rather extend the theme of each area all the way to the edges, with a simple step-and-turn to transition from one scene to the next. This gives me more room to spread out the characters and props in each scene, but complicates flow control. I was imagining a short wall to keep guests an arm’s length from each display case, but if there’s no display case then maybe I want stanchions instead. I’m thinking about it.

Here’s a photo of the latest version of the mechanism from last week (click for video):

A stuffed Mickey Mouse hanging from a string, attached to a cam mechanism

As I mentioned previously, the force of the motion has moved from a rod beneath the prop to a line above the prop, which means I can keep the mech out of the scene. I’m imagining that line running from backstage, through a tiny hole in the backdrop, or potentially from overhead, and thinner, like fishing line. If the cam mechanism (which will not actually be built out of cardboard) can be seated behind the back wall instead of under the floor, it’ll make maintenance much easier.

I’ve worked out how to apply this motion to every moving gag in this show and I think it’s going to work perfectly. We’re doing it!

I’m getting to the point where I need to book a venue. I’m not using the theater from last Halloween (they’re great, but their layout won’t accomodate this show). Last time we had a run of seven days, which was a ridiculous number of days. Up to now I’ve been imagining running this show for a weekend, Friday through Saturday, but now I’m thinking that Bobby’s Birthday might open for one day only. Loading in and out will be a pain, but a shorter run means I can get a much bigger and more interesting space for the same budget.

In book news, I’ve passed 8000 words! I’ve covered a lot of ground in the manuscript as-is but I still have a lot to say. I’ve put that on hold this week while I get back to the show, but I’m really happy with how the book is doing.

Next week we’ll see the bakery scene posed and moving, with a drawn (temporary) background and some set pieces for the bakery counter and displays, and…everybody will have hands and feet. Also, I’m now at the point on this show where I can bring people in to help with construction, so if you’re in the NYC area and would like to help build this thing—especially if you helped on the last one—let me know!