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I’ve been employing these and other things throughout my career as a designer and director. As a steampunk, recycled materials are some of my favorite items with which I create. For my performance of Jekyll and Hyde the musical this past February at the Stadium Theatre for the performing arts in Woonsocket. I worked with a very minimal budget. As artistic director and designer of the show, I knew there would be many challenges. The budget was minimal, but I used that to my advantage.


First and foremost, I used a free CAD program – Trimble SketchUp to get my concepts to my build crew. With is program, I was able to completely illustrate the set design including dimensions. The build team had access to the 3D model and could zoom in or out. This is fortunate as I designed two inverted periaktoi (three-sided columns) as the central fixtures. With up to four levels and a base eight by eight foot with heights up to twelve feet, it’s impossible to fully convey without a model. Once designed, the first order of business was determining what was in the company’s warehouse. We recycled every possible item, including boards that were stored in a company member’s barn (they made perfect aged joists for the East London scenes). Using these elements helped tremendously.


For the laboratory, my steampunk exploded on the stage. I used whatever I could to create the look of a Victorian lab out of its time. The end rolls from a newspaper printer became copper piping with water bottle caps as brass bolts. Wine bottles became eerily lit chemical mixers run by bicycle gears taken from a local bike shop. Cleaned and painted, they formed the drivers of the “machine.” There were pieces of street lights and even a stand for an old mirror. How materials are


arranged and manipulated dictates much, but the simple details like taking a Dremel tool and engraving filigree patterns into the surface of plastic or plywood turns it into another era’s materials.


Paper and pencil are also your best friends, provided you have the right ones. There are some instances where the above rules must be paid attention to in another dimension. That would be when the materials cannot be recycled and must be new. This, in my experience, applies much more to visual art. In that respect, there is a fifth rule: when investing in new supplies, buy the best you can. I know I started with this as a budget conversation and it still is. Hit sales and pay attention to applicable discounts. I have been able to buy hundreds of dollars of materials at half price when I hit it just right. This being said, be wary of buying your supplies on the internet. If it is something you’ve used before, by all means, find a better price online. For my part, I still like to see, feel and use these senses to determine the usefulness of my materials. Other than this rule, the first four rules still apply. You will want to get artist’s grade or as close to it as possible if for nothing else, they last longer when used properly. In the long run, you’ll be much happier and save money. Fighting against the materials because they are insufficient will only pull your creativity away and make you spend more on the good stuff anyway.


Last, but certainly not least, be personable with your supplier. If you can, shop local at a small store, they want to do price matching and compete. Helping these small businesses goes a long way for the local economy and for you as an artist. Establishing a rapport with a materials supplier will not only yield smart economics, it also allows for you to get access to things


that would have loads of red tape attached to them at a big box store. Small stores carry great specialty items and can usually order whatever you need, or they’ll know where to get it. Better still, most of the owners of these stores are practicing artists and can give you first-hand advice on material usage. This also widens your network for gigs.


So, good luck! Gather your supplies. Go out and create great things from nothing!


Jekyll and Hyde the musical, February 2015 at the Stadium Theatre. Photo supplied by Jason LeClair.


Layout Design by Lillian Ferranti Vol. 3 Issue 6 | 35


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