Following last year's "A Place For Us...Somewhere" - an original adaptation of "Romeo & Juliet" (William Shakespeare) and "West Side Story" (Jerome Robbins) - the Byron College theatre group, as a result of their drama lessons (teaching: Ana Sanchez-Colberg and Dimitris Karalis), put on the famous Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which took place at the Deree's (The American College of Greece) Pierce theatre on the 14th February 2014.
I had the chance to collaborate with them for the second time as a lighting designer for this year's project.
After our annual meeting with Ana Sanchez-Colberg back in January, I had the first draft of stage plan. The stage was divided in two sections: the forest (made by real trees hanging from the ceiling) and the palace.
One week before the show, I visited Byron College, where the kids were having their last studio rehearsal with Ana and Dimitris. This meeting is always very important because everyone takes his final notes before we go to the theatre. Last minute changes, final ideas, corrections etc. Seeing these kids' evolution and talent made me even more confident that this year's performance could be even better than the last year's. This was a full theatre production as every possible position from actors to stage crew was held by the kids.
Our first day in the theatre was on the 11th of February, where we had to finish up stage set-up, hanging the trees, rigging and focusing lights. This process lasted more than one day because as usual many problems occur during a technical rehearsal. Fortunately, all my tools (Capture Polar, Titan One) gave me the flexibility and the ability to work without having to be on stage with everyone although I needed some extra time to set-up my stage on my computer.
The stage set up had two sections. The main section was the forest and then we had the palace area, which was also used for Oberon's throne within the forest. We created a path from fabric that led to the stairs of the the palace. I decided to have no color gels for the palace scenes and used amber back lights in order to achieve a warmer atmosphere and simulate a sunny day in the city of Athens. The same area was used as the Oberon's throne and I tried to build it up as higher as possible with any stage riser available, so that it would look more grandiose. I added some cold white front lights, a profile on the top of the throne with a swirl shaped gobo and a floor par behind the throne, to give a different perspective so that Oberon's appearances would look even more impressive.
My main goal was to achieve a more "Tim Burton" like atmosphere. That was the reason I used a smoke machine so that in combination with the UV and blue color gels, which I chose as the general wash light, to approach this kind of fairy tale aesthetics. Regarding the forest area, we had these beautiful real trees painted in gold color with a dozen of handmade wind chimes hanging between them. I decided to make this area very dark and dreamy. I also used some cyan beams to get better reflections from the golden branches. Finally I put two amber spots on the trees to make a second forest scene for every Titania appearance.
For the "theatre in theatre" scene - the mechanicals - I used only front floor warm lighting in order to simulate a plain vintage lighting style. I achieved that by using four floor 1000W flood lights, which I used also in Puck's last famous monologue with the red curtains closed. This scene gave the impression of a performance that takes place back in the Shakespeare days, where they used to lit the stage with oil lamps.
Front lighting was rarely used, mainly because I love shadows, and because we tried to keep a night atmosphere in a magical forest with fairies. Mostly the actors (almost 35 on stage) were lit by tops and boom lights with cold white gels. Whenever it was necessary, like in some songs and towards the end of the play when sunrise comes, I used some general front lighting, mostly without gels.
I had almost 120 dimmer channels, with profiles and some pars. We didn't have the ability to make big changes in terms of rigging. Basically I had to use and re-focus lights, group them for my palettes and build my cues with these groups.
The specials I used were some top spots for Titania's entrance and sleep, the gobo profile for Oberon, the floor par for his throne and some magenta pars for the songs.
By the end of the third day we managed to have the lighting cuelist ready, the kids were rehearsing and did some stage spacing to mark their positions according to light cues.
In the last day we made some final changes, cue corrections and we managed to have the final run through just a couple of hours before the show. Everything went well, without having any major technical issues and the show was a big success.
I would like to thank all the kids for being so talented, patient, focused and disciplined under so much pressure, the teachers (Ana Sanchez-Colberg and Dimitris Karalis) for their fantastic work and adaptation of the play, the people of Byron College and last but not least the Pierce theatre crew and especially Mr. Babis Sofios for their patience and technical support.
See you next year!
Theseus: Guojie Jiang, Hypolita: Maria Petraki, Egeus: Matthew Sibul, Nurse: Layla Bankousli, Philostrate: Greg Stathopoulos, Lysander: John Poblete, Demetrius: Sultan Mukhtar, Hermia: Sofia Messinezi, Helena: Irene Karidas, Oberon: Laurence Windell, Titania: Aya Hammad, Robin Goodfellow (Puck): Vassilis Athanasiou, Fairy 1: Dora Papapostolou, Fairy 2: Anna Michalopoulou, Fairy Chrous: Lyrianne Tugade, Felizha Gallego, Minne Dong, Natalia Papageorgiou, Maria Rosa Epa, Lara Moamar, Lina Abdul Qadir, Jeanette Michalopoulou, Rama Tayyar, Joud Al-Jazi, The Mechanicals: Karim Attari, George Ntogramatzis, Christopher Topalov, Ikramur Rahman, Jason Anthick, Walid Akchir, Musicians: Joe Evans, Constantinos Lachanas, Leon Munk, George Sarantinos.
Co-Direction and Music Coaching: Dimitris Karalis
Co-Direction, Costume Design: Ana Sanchez-Colberg
Producer: Sarah Chenine
Lighting Design: Pavlos Mavridis
Lighting Assistant: Eddie Gigantes
Stage Manager: Sabine Saifi
Props, Set & Costume Construction: Ana Gabriela Webb-Sanchez
Stage Crew & Scene Construction: Shahid Ali Mohammad, Oleh Ostashevskyi, Zeid Rizkallah, Moneerah Al-Sagar
Makeup & Dresser: Kay Megapanou, Layla Bankousli
Prompter: Liza Ihnief