You’ve heard of movies without film. Now the digital age has made possible entirely online design for the stage.
Well, almost entirely. While Creighton University senior Jake McCoy’s bachelor of fine arts thesis is about paperless design, his professors have found one or two reasons low-tech face-to-face communication might still be good here and there.
Creighton’s next show, the romantic comedy “Almost, Maine,” opens Wednesday. On his iPod and laptop, McCoy created 3-D renderings of the set, artwork that will be projected onto an overhead screen that is part of the set, and costume-design collages. Lighting schemes and even where the seats are placed in the studio theater were spelled out online.
Flash drives and email made everything easy to share instantly with the costume shop, scene shop, director Bill Hutson and tech-theater professor Bill Van Deest.
“I haven’t even read a paper copy of the script,” McCoy said. “It’s online.”
Van Deest said it’s helpful for those making costumes and sets to be able to quickly communicate with designers, particularly when they’re not onsite.
Hutson took a field trip to Cabela’s with McCoy to get ideas for an outdoor costume, and photos they snapped of hats, coats and shoes became instant reference points. McCoy said computer visuals can get as detailed as how light reflects off an actor’s silk shirt on the set.
“We also use Virtual Callboard to post designer notes, cast members’ class schedules and other administrative information,” Hutson said. “And we can control who has access to which information. Jake turned us on to that.”
McCoy said students often check rehearsal times on their smartphones. And if they’ve been measured for costumes for one show, they may not have to be measured again for the next. It’s all online.
“It ends up being about efficiency and better communication,” he said. “Email and Skype (live conversations via computer with video) help so much.”
Van Deest said the design process was quicker and cleaner, while Hutson said any necessary changes in designs or schedules could be accomplished more simply.
Still, Van Deest said, he loves a tangible model of the set as a reference. Sometimes what’s clear in the designer’s head is not as clear on the computer screen.
“He’s tried hard to stay paperless,” Van Deest said. “But even Jake’s facile skills on computer can’t completely communicate all the information necessary to build this show.”
In the theater, it seems, talking is not yet obsolete.
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