The Set Construction Team
Ten productions a year, each of at least ten performances requires a well organised sequence of events. Ten productions a year means that there are five weeks between plays. For two weeks of the five, the Play is on stage. That leaves three weeks to prepare for the next production.
Building times have to be interleaved with rehearsals (the actors start rehearsing on stage from the first Thursday). This allows the main features of the ‘Set’ to be started and gives the actors an idea of the final layout they will be acting in.
Long before work starts, The Master Carpenter ensures that all the required materials for the new ‘Set’ are available. Although most sets are built with canvas flats, a considerable quantity of timber will be used for supports, hardboard for facings, and chipboard for floor areas is also used, together with quantities of nails and screws.
The Workshop Team start their activities on the Sunday after the last performance. Striking the old set is the first task . The Strike morning is a very social event, traditionally all the actors, back stage staff, set builders and anyone else who can help all turn up to lend a hand.
Before work starts the seats are covered to protect them from dust.
Because of the limited storage space available most items apart from flats are broken down to bare timber, screws and fittings. As much material as possible is kept for re-use. This takes less space than storing assembled items.
The Stage Manager’s final tasks are to ensure that all borrowed properties costumes and furniture are returned to their owners or to the Archway Wardrobe or Props Store, and to ensure that the dressing room is clean and clear ready for those who will occupy it next.
There are always mixed feelings when the ‘Set’ is broken up, those who have played for ten performances will feel sad. On the other hand, those who will be part of the next production are full of anticipation and excitement.
By early Sunday afternoon the stage is usually clear and The Master Carpenter will mark out the stage ready for building the next Set.
As soon as parts of the set are completed The Painters will start cleaning the flats ready for painting, The Electricians will start setting the lights, and the Set Designer will be much in evidence checking to make sure that all is being done to plan, and if necessary suggesting small changes.
Gradually the set takes shape and the painters and electricians will complete their tasks. The final dress rehearsal usually takes place on the Sunday before ‘First Night’ which is usually a Tuesday.
The construction team consists of a small core of members who regularly turn up and help build most sets, they sometimes get help from non regular members.
As well as building sets, the same group of people being handy with tools, also get involved in general maintenance. We do as much of the general maintenance as possible ourselves, but since the expansion of the Theatre in 1987 directors have become more ambitious and the sets take longer to build. This means that there is less time to maintain the fabric of the theatre ourselves. If the work is urgent or requires more time than we are able to spare, then we have to have it done professionally.