Next to Normal – MTC – Plotting

Plotting is very much like it’s homophyn – plodding.  I guess it’s the technical twin of the first block – you wade through, questioning every moment, getting everything to work together and make sense, and then one day a moment will play and look effortless.  We’ve done two days of plotting now – the part where the theatre time is pretty much devoted to devising the lighting, getting the automation and set cues correct, and matching up the AV (there’ll be the addition of actors, costumes and sound from Monday.  And band from Tuesday).  Of course, there are people working tirelessly in the theatre 20 of the 24 hours in a day.  The earlier parts are devoted to installing new pieces, fixing parts of the set, finessing the automation, refocusing lights, painting, stretching plastic, adding speakers and foldback – etc.

The set is almost all in – there are still the cutters in front of the cyc to be finalised, but the basic house and props are in, moving and look beautiful.  The automation is a little like a toddler learning to walk – they stumble a lot, then take a few steps, and then before you know it, they’re running (sometimes into each other).  We’re working through the show, finalising what moves where when, as Matt lights over the top of each scene, using crew as walkers until we add the actors.  Some of the crew like to act out the parts, often with a great deal of commitment.

The sessions are long and require intense focus from everyone – coming up with new and beautiful ways to make each moment work, imagining elements that don’t exist yet (while playing through the exact blocking of the show in your head to make sure you haven’t missed anything), and always working against the clock, knowing real people are coming to see this show in under a week.  It’s a slog, but the payoff is seeing the model you’ve worked on for months in full size up on that stage, looking wonderful.

The band came in Thursday morning to set up all over the stage – they’re quite present in the show – and Matt ran through some of the rock numbers, which sounds amazing, even with no major sound balance done yet.  It’s going to sound phenomenal in the Playhouse – I wonder if a rock musical has ever been seen there before?

There are the usual setbacks – the lighting board crashed, taking three hours of work with it – though Matt S got in back into the board in under an hour, which is pretty remarkable.  One of the trucks drove into the kitchen bench, not really causing any damage, but making quite the noise.  Marrying the lighting and AV is a process as we learn how those two elements work best together.  There are some remarkable visual images already – the painted screen at the rear is truly beautiful – and often looks like a landscape as done by Turner – stormy and quite romantic.

The team continue to work in harmony, with nary a raised voice, or undue stress.  This process has been remarkably calm from day one, design, rehearsal and now tech.  It’s a great place to work and a great way to work.

Three days off now to celebrate Jesus’ rebirth, then we’ll birth Next to Normal next week.

Published by bryantandfrank

Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank make musicals. And other things.

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