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IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance spend twelve weeks planning individual productions



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Kenneth Robertson, director and choreographer of the production, leads the IU Theatre production meeting. The meeting was on Tuesday in the IU Theatre. Xiaoan Guan

Behind every IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance production is 12 weeks of collaboration, design and construction the audience never sees.

“Each one of our shows has a scale – what we can do time-wise, budget-wise, labor-wise,” production manager Thomas Quintas said. 

From set, costume and sound design to technical design and rehearsal, everything related to a particular show comes up at these conferences. Shows go through a 12-week design process, beginning with a preliminary design conference.

“Graduate designers work with the director in developing a theme, style and final design for our show,” Quintas said. “We need a mood to set.”

Director Jenny McKnight led the design conference Tuesday for the spring production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” She presented a slideshow demonstrating her inspirations for the dystopian tone she wanted for the production, referencing photos and clips from movies like “1984,” “V for Vendetta” and “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Lighting designer Q’ier Luo also presented a preliminary set of ideas in terms of visual palette to display on stage, which consisted of dark, dystopian and supernatural elements.

“They look up images that give feeling, color, and they use those to inspire their lighting,” director of marketing and communications Amy Osajima said.

From there, lighting, costume and set designers and producers spend the next four weeks bringing together practical ideas that fit the director’s intended tone. Additional conferences are held every four weeks throughout the production cycle to gauge the progress and assess issues that might arise.

For the upcoming musical “Urinetown,” which premieres Sept. 22 at the Wells-Metz Theatre, costume designers created an inspiration book for the looks and styles of each character. These personalities are then rendered by artists and sent to the cutters and drapers for production. 

Each department works closely with other departments to contribute to the production. Sound designers work with set designers and actors to get a feel of what lights need to be used where. 

For “Julius Caesar,” McKnight said the department is interested in using projections against the background, which prompted discussions about how those might be implemented effectively.

“As they collaborate together, they form an idea of what costumes, sets are going to look like,” Osajima said. “Sometimes, changes are drastic.”

While shows go into rehearsal, meetings are continually held to discuss various issues that arise, ranging from sound and light, stage construction and logistical concerns of individual departments.

“Things will evolve based on if we have time to build it, will we have time to make it, will it actually be effective,” Quintas said. “The stage manager has to translate all that stuff to the other departments, so they know that their work can continue or if they need to change.”

Musicals provide additional challenges. Lighting, costume design and the orchestra all have to be taken into account.

“You have to figure out how the orchestra fits into the set,” Quintas said. “How does the set, how do the lights, how do the costumes work if there’s dancing?”

By the end of the production and build cycle, each team will have come together to contribute its part toward a show. The cycle ends when the audience comes to spend an evening witnessing the product of a 12-week endeavor.

“We have to deliver something they can use to tell the story,” Quintas said. “It’s a community effort to create the best production we can.”

"Urinetown"

Sept. 22, 23, 26-29, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Wells-Metz Theatre 

"Julius Caesar"

January 19, 20, 23-26, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.
January 27 at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Ruth N. Halls Theatre

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