Dark Sisters: Production Insights
VO’s Technical Director, Dan Paterson, shares some insights into the production of Dark Sisters.
Welcome to this production of Dark Sisters! Dark Sisters is an important and relevant piece and I’m very excited to be part of a company that is willing to produce it.
So how does a show like Dark Sisters make it to the stage? What goes into the creation of a new production? What happened in the moments before you arrived at the theatre, found your seat and watched the house lights dim in anticipation of this Canadian premiere?
First things first, we had to choose the show. Our Director of Artistic Planning, Tom Wright, along with General Director James Wright and the senior management team at Vancouver Opera decide on the repertoire for the season. The repertoire, along with the operating budget is put forward to VO’s Board of Directors for approval. Once the board has approved it we move forward on the creation of the production.
For the physical elements of the production – everything you see on stage – we start with our Stage Director. The director of Dark Sisters is Amiel Gladstone. We’re very happy to be working with him again. He was last here for our 2010 production of Lucia di Lammermoor and has worked extensively across the country. His expertise in directing new works makes him a perfect fit for this show. With Amiel in place, the next step is to provide him with a design team to create and execute his vision for the show. We are so pleased to have Pam Johnson designing the sets and properties, Parvin Mirhady the costumes, Jamie Nesbitt creating the video design, and Gerald King designing the lighting. This is a team with a wealth of experience creating new works.
Once our director has met with the designers and discussed his vision, the designers begin submitting drawings, plans, and plots. From Pam, our set designer, we receive technical
drawings of the set, props lists, and a model. From our costume designer, Parvin, we receive costume sketches, colour swatches for fabrics, lists of costume pieces and costume changes. Jamie submits a plan for video – how many projectors, what size of images, concept ideas, and
source images. And from our lighting designer, Gerald, we receive lighting plots – detailed maps of all the lighting fixtures used in the production.
These plots, plans, and drawings all arrive at different points along the production timeline. Costume and set drawings arrive first, followed by video plans and finally lighting plots. Once it is determined that we are able to execute the concepts presented by our designers we move into production.
The physical show was built in two locations. The costumes, and props were built at the
O’Brian Centre for Vancouver Opera, our facility in East Vancouver. The set was built in the Pacific Opera Victoria Scene Shop.
Parvin and her team have been building the costumes for approximately two months. The process involves discussions with the director, shopping for fabrics (in this case some lovely raw silk), creating patterns, doing fittings with the singers, alterations, and fi nally packing and sending the costumes to the theatre.
Sourcing and building of the props has been going on for approximately two months as well. Our Head of Props, Valerie Moffat, and set designer Pam chose options that would fit the period, look, and world of the show. Props are used by the singers during rehearsals, during which adjustments are made. After rehearsals, the props are packed and sent to the theatre.
Construction of the sets began on October 13th in the Pacific Opera Victoria Scene Shop. They were loaded into a truck on November 15th and made their way over to Vancouver to be
loaded into the theatre the next day.
Once everything arrives, we put the show into the hands of our skilled IATSE technicians, stagehands, electricians, carpenters, dressers, hair, and make-up attendants. It’s a whirlwind of activity as they hang and focus lights, put together the sets, lay out the props, set up the orchestra pit, prepare the costumes and wigs, all the while making sure everything happens on time, on budget, and in a safe manner. It’s a privilege and an honour to work with all of them.
And now it’s time to stop thinking about the flurry of work that goes into creating a new show. Instead, please sit back, relax, listen to the music, and enjoy!
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Author: Vancouver Opera
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