Setting the scene – the different faces of the stage
Hi, I am Jan Wieringa and I joined the team of set-builders at Saddleworth Players in February 2015, after only a few of weeks into my retirement from the NHS following 32 years of service. I must say, so far, it has been very enjoyable.
Whilst getting into the swing of things I thought of taking a series of pictures along the way as we were building the sets. A kind of work in progress because, after all, a stage set is an essential part of every production and the foundation of the performance to be, which is why I felt it might be interesting to keep a record of each and every set at different stages throughout the build.
If you think about it, several times a year the face of the stage goes through a process of metamorphosis as it peels off the old mask and transforms once again to reflect a brand new look (with a fair bit of help from us!).
Largely all the stuff we need to knock up a new set again can be found in our store, a true Aladdin’s Cave. Any plank or piece of timber, ‘we are short of nowt we‘ve got’ and we’ve got more paint than all the colours of a rainbow.
To do our bit for the environment, absolutely everything (except the odd bent nail) is reused time after time, until it finally keels over and falls apart.
If we were to put our minds to it, I am sure, the age of the ‘flats’ (wall-panels) could be calculated from the many layers of old paint like the rings of a tree. Over the years, the scenes they’ve witnessed, the sights they’ve seen and the words they’ve heard can only be imagined. Every single layer of paint must have an interesting story to tell, but, ……. we’ll never hear them told, because they’re all securely wrapped up under another layer, one by one, set after set, play after play and preserved for posterity, or indeed until they too fall apart.
The purpose of a set is to support and help create the illusion of the play whilst the audience is whisked away to a different time or place for just a couple of hours. Because of its very short life, there’s no need to build Fort-Knox or even build to ‘military spec’. Like the wooden houses in ‘wild west’ movies, there is not a great deal of anything behind the often colourful façade.
Armed with hammer and nails, staple gun or even a roll of masking tape (a set-builder’s best friend), swinging from the rafters (after getting used to going up some very tall stepladders!), everything is either firmly secured or simply held together with a piece of tape in a way where health and safety is paramount but common-sense prevails.
Although the aim is to create a brilliant scene to please the audience, it must be said that a set in progress or a look behind the scenes has its own charm and mystique and could be quite intriguing, like the dark-side of the moon.
Now, one year on, it might be time to share the pictures (mostly taken in poor lighting conditions) via a photo album, showing some of the complexities and intricacies of the Saddleworth Players Stage at various ‘stages’!
‘And in between the various plays, the stage it has no face at all. A hollow eerie empty space, that’s wide and deep and tall.
It’s only for a fleeting moment, when nothing is displayed. Now you see me, now you don’t, cause a brand new set is being made.’
Jan Weiringa, Mar 17, 2016