ASU student play has less than 2 weeks before opening night; crew hard at work at set design, fight choreography and more
Editor's note: This is the third installment of a semester-long series following the production of "Feathers and Teeth" from casting call to wrap party. Look for the next story soon.
It has been four weeks since the actors on “Feathers and Teeth” received their scripts.
Every night since then, they’ve been working hard to get down their dialogue, coordinate their movements and hit their marks.
Behind the scenes, another group has been working equally hard to get the play ready: the 26-member crew whose numbers quintuple the small cast.
“There’s a stereotype that abounds regarding directors where they are sitting in a canvas chair and barking orders at the actors,” said Ricky Araiza, the director of “Feathers and Teeth,”“Feathers and Teeth” is a retro comedy-thriller. The plot follows Chris, a 13-year-old who suspects foul play when her father hooks up with an attractive home-care nurse two months after the death of her mother, Ellie. Set in a Rust Belt factory town in 1978, the play combines the supernatural with classic rock, family dysfunction and gremlin-like creatures that roam the house’s crawl space. an upcoming play that will debut in Tempe on Oct. 28. Araiza is a third-year master of fine arts student in Arizona State University’s School of Film, Dance and TheatreThe School of Film, Dance and Theatre is a unit of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.; the play will serve as the equivalent of his master’s thesis.
“The best metaphor I can use is that a director is the captain of a ship. A captain doesn’t do everything on the boat, but he has to know how to delegate to get everyone on the same path and heading in the right direction.”
The ship has about two weeks before it sets sail. If Araiza is nervous, he isn’t showing it to his crew, a mixture of stage veterans and rookies who are working on their first production.
They’ll cover design and construction of the sets, sound and lighting, special effects, props, makeup, wardrobe, choreography and publicity.
“It really does take a village to put on a production,” said Jamie MacPherson, a 28-year-old MFA student in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the play’s fight choreographer.
Staff technical director Zach Krenytzky (left) confers with "Feathers and Teeth" technical director Anthony Lee on staging for the play in the Nelson Fine Arts Center studio shop on Oct. 10. Lee is a sophomore in sound and lighting design.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Anthony Lee moves one of the three 8-foot-tall walls for the staging for "Feathers and Teeth." The three sections range from 7.5 to 8.5 feet in width. The set will also have five hanging windows and a mobile crawl space that can be wheeled on and off stage.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
In the background, Anthony Lee marks a length of 1-by-4 lumber before cutting it for the play's staging.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Director Ricky Araiza (foreground) listens to ideas during a production meeting for "Feathers and Teeth." The play will serve as the equivalent of Araiza’s master’s thesis.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Props sit on a table after a rehearsal and before the start of a production meeting tor "Feathers and Teeth" on Oct. 6 in the Nelson Fine Arts Center rehearsal studio. The play will feature more than 50 props.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Stage manager Ben Vining (right) raises a point about the special effects during the Oct. 6 production meeting for "Feathers and Teeth."Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Lighting director Juana Moreno discusses lighting solutions during the Oct. 6 production meeting. "Feathers and Teeth" will feature approximately 300 sound and lighting cues. Moreno is a senior in lighting and technical direction.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Director Ricky Araiza makes a point as he talks with production leads on Oct. 6 at the Nelson Fine Arts Center rehearsal studio. The four-actor retro comedy-thriller will open for a seven-performance run Oct. 28.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
MacPherson, who has worked on close to 25 stage productions, said the play has “five major moments of violence.” She said for every minute of action there’s about an hour of blocking and preparation.
MacPherson looks at three things before choreographing a fight: What does the stage look like? What does the script call for, and what are the actor’s instincts when they pull a punch for the first time?
“I also have to know what kind of costume will they be wearing, and if it includes jewelry,” MacPherson said. “And wigs are always a fun problem.”
Costume designer Andres Marin and makeup artist Macaley Fields said they’re having a blast working together on getting a look and feel for the era — the flashy and flamboyant ’70s. Marin did a photo search of the decade to research color patterns and prints, while Fields leafed through old copies of “Cosmopolitan.”
“What better magazine to consult for hair, style and makeup trends at that time?” said Fields, a design major working on her first stage production.
Technical director Anthony Lee said although he’s having fun, he’s under intense deadline pressure. This is also the 19-year-old sophomore’s first experience with an official stage production. He and about 20 other students from THP 231: Scenic Construction will build nine pieces of furniture — three wall units, five hanging windows and a mobile crawl space that can be wheeled on and off stage.
Lee will receive a lot of his cues from set designer Rhea Solanki, a 20-year-old junior majoring in theater, production and design. Solanki said playwright Charise Castro Smith’s writing is visual, and she wants the set to look like a combination of “Gremlins” and “The Brady Bunch.”
Because of the limited space where the play will take place,Nelson Fine Arts Center, Room 133. designing the set had its challenges, she said.
“Because there are classes that take place in this room during the week, the set had to be compact enough to be stored away and at the same time would work for the play,” Solanki said.
Despite its proclamation as an intimate show, “Feathers and Teeth” will feature more than 50 props, dozens of pieces of furniture, approximately 300 sound and lighting cues, five different types of stage blood and a few special effects that Araiza won’t reveal until opening night.
“Ensemble is very important to me,” said Araiza. “Yes, I came in with a vision, but it’s not my piece of art.
“These are the folks that really bring the image of the play together.”
Part 2: “Building chemistry among a new cast”
Top photo: Technical director Anthony Lee tacks the facing on one of the three 8-foot-tall walls for the staging for "Feathers and Teeth" Oct. 11 on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now