“I live in a swamp! I put up signs! I’m a terrifying ogre! What do I have to do to get a little privacy?”
This famous line comes from the movie Shrek, which has been transformed into a Pinewood theatre department into a play. Though the actors are deserving of the credit that they receive, it is also important to acknowledge what is happening backstage. Having been involved with technical theatre and backstage management in the past, I can say that the work these people do is just as hard as the actors. From sawing large pieces of wood to assembling props, the technology that goes behind a single play is immense. For instance, in the most recent play, “Shrek,” the crew has to design settings that convey a sense of magic, but at the same time be able to support the weight of a dozen people and look pleasing.
“Because Shrek takes place in many different places, you can’t make it too specific. But since most of it takes place in a forest or a swamp, we have designed flaps that look tree-like and walls that come in to give a sense of a castle,” Doug Eivers said.
In order to do such a task, the backstage crew must not only get materials, but make everything from scratch. This means cutting pieces of styrofoam, designing frames for support, and painting multiple layers of different colors of paint to make it look more realistic.
“The actor for Shrek will be wearing full on makeup and a cowl… also Pinocchio will have a growing nose,” Eivers said.
Apart from the designs, the costumes are also a big deal. Though it is difficult to make all these items, the intricacies are instrumental in making the play come life.
And other technology bolsters the actors’ performances. For example, a prop bird that is pressurized so that when the actors press a button at the bottom, the head will fly out giving the audience a feeling that the bird has exploded. Furthermore, there will be a passerelle (an arch structure that extends from the stage) that goes around the audience, which makes the audience feel more involved in the play and allow actors to be among the crowd.
As of right now, there are eight students on the stage production team, and even though much of the designs for the play may remain the same, each play brings its own unique style and requires these students to also adapt quickly to the what is required.
Overall, it looks like Shrek will not get his privacy because the theatre department has just brought his swamp to the eyes of its audience.