Saturday, October 8, 2011

How I Spent My Autumn--Travelogue: Part II Craters of the Moon

A couple of months ago, my brother Bruce called me to ask if I wanted to present to a group of high school speech and drama teachers at a conference in Sun Valley.  I told him I would, and today was the day.  The conference was held in Ketchum, Idaho and we stayed at the lodge in Sun Valley.  Chimene went with me and we had a grand time.

We drove over yesterday, Thursday, October 6th and for a goodly portion of the drive we were in blizzard conditions.  Blizzard conditions in October!  That was alarming because on Saturday we are supposed to have the 2nd Annual, Rexburg, Idaho Zombie Apocalypse.  The weather report says it will be sunny and 55 degrees at the time of our march, so I think it will be okay.

To get to Sun Valley from Rexburg you have to pass through the town of Arco, Idaho and the INL which was recently called the INEEL, and before that it was called the INEL.  Us locals just call it "The Site".  Arco is famous for being the first city in the free world to receive it's electricity from nuclear power.  Another interesting feature of this area is the Navy base in the middle of the Idaho desert.  According to a friend who is a security guard at the site, there have been as many as three nuclear subs buried in the desert for training purposes.  My guess is that they are sub simulators, but for all intents and purposes they are submarines buried in the Idaho desert.  I find that kind of cool.

The town of Arco has the tower of the decommisioned USS Hawkbill in a small city park to commemorate the fact that there is a navy base there.



Tower of the USS Hawkbill, SSN 666

The road to Sun Valley passes through the edge of Craters of the Moon National Monument.  I have spent very little time in the monument and I have always regretted that I haven't explored there more often.  I have committed to do more of it.  Nick, my son-in-law has inspired me to do so.  He has hiked all over the monument and I wish to see it as well.

When we drove through yesterday, though, as I said it was blizzarding.  I took a few photos on the way over.  Even with the snow, it was breathtaking and awe inspiring.


Snow covered cinder at Craters of the Moon
Snow beginning to collect on the National Monument


Kipuka

A kipuka is a portion of an older lava flow that is surrounded by a younger lava flow.  The flow that once destroyed the steppe vegetation now preserves it.  Scientists from all over the world study the pristine kipukas that have not been altered by grazing domestic livestock or invasive plant species.  These are left as God created them.

We arrived at Sun Valley around 5 PM and checked into our room.  The lodge is a swanky place that has hosted just about every celebrity from the 1920's to the present.  Sun Valley was founded by W. Averell Harriman, the son of the great railroad baron, E H Harriman.  He was looking for a destination for the railroad and found an ideal location at Sun Valley.  Today there is much to do there, hiking, skiing, ice skating year round, shopping, swimming etc...

They have a magnificent swimming pool that is circular and cone shaped.  The staff keeps it heated to 95 degrees during the summer and 105 during late fall and winter.  Guess where I spent some quality time...


Brass door handles at entrance to the lodge


The pool

I spent about two hours in the pool on Thursday night.  The weather alternated between raining on me and snowing on me in the pool.  It was amazing.  I didn't mind a bit.  It was neat to lay on my back in the water during the snowstorm and watch the snow fall.  I got out, and headed for the sauna.  That wasn't my favorite thing to do, and I don't know if I could get used to it or not.  After my swim and sauna, I slept pretty well.

This morning, I arose at about 7:30 and headed to the pool again.  This time it was a little warmer outside and no precipitation.  I spent about an hour in the pool this time, mostly alone.  What a peaceful place.  Of course the best part was that I didn't have to pay for it!

There is a pond in front of the lodge that is host to a pair of swans.  They were swimming around this morning so I was able to get a few shots of them.



Swan at the lodge

After Chimene and I checked out we ate breakfast and explored the town of Ketchum til it was time for me to present.  There was an art gallery there that we spent some quality time in and there was a watercolor of a raven that I really liked and someday wish to have hanging up in my home.

My presentation to the drama teachers was titled "Theatre Props--Imagination on a Shoestring".  I showed how you can take something that cost almost nothing and turn it into a first class prop.  I showed several photographs and brought a bunch of props that I had made on the cheap.  I brought things like the hacked Big Mouth Billy Bass, the Mephistopholes cane from the opera Faust, a couple of the Oedipus Metopes, several Holy Grails and a couple of my modified books.  When I showed the props to them, I talked them through the process and showed them how none of it cost very much money at all.  I hope they found it informative.  I know I had a great time doing it.

Then it was time to depart.  On the way home, it wasn't storming so bad and we stopped at Craters of the Moon and I hiked around the flow in the drizzle for a few minutes.  I feel truly blessed to live in this part of the country where we have so much beauty.  I wish to come back in the spring and hike the whole park.  Chimene didn't get out with me, but she was gracious enough to let me walk around and view the park.  I really enjoyed it even though it was raining.


Terraces cut into the hillside by the Civil Conservation Corps
Monoliths in the a-a flow at Craters of the Moon


Alternating pahoehoe and a-a flows


Amazing pahoehoe flow


Framents of an earlier crater that were broken and deposited to this spot by the younger flow

As a geology groupie, I couldn't get enough of Craters of the Moon.  I will be back.  I love this part of the world and can't wait to explore it more fully.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fire Prevention Day in Technical Theatre Class

When I took Technical Theatre in college, they didn't talk about safety.  When I was in grad school, I was the proctor for the Technical Theatre Lab and they didn't talk about safety there either.  Over the years I have been hurt and injured many times while practicing my craft.  I decided a long time ago that if I ever became the Technical Theatre teacher, I would talk about safety, and that is what I do.

I spend about three weeks at the beginning of the semester each year talking about different aspects of safety, such as personal safety, chemical safety, public safety and fire safety.  The last few years I have had the campus fire chief come and talk to my class for a couple of days.  On the first day, he talks about fire, it's causes and prevention and how to determine whether or not to fight it.  On the second day, he brings his training equipment to the shop and we go out and learn in a practical way about fighting a fire with a fire extinguisher.  It's alot of fun and the students really enjoy it.

He teaches us the acronym, PASS which stands for, Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the flames, Squeeze the handle, Sweep side to side.  He also teaches us that you should never fight a fire unless you have cleared the area of people, called 911 or pulled the fire alarm or both, determined if the fire was still able to be fought with an extinguisher, and then never to fight a fire unless you have a clear means of egress to your back.

On fire extinguisher day, the fire chief lights the fire and the students each take a turn attempting to put it out.  They usually have the extinguisher right in front of the fire, the fire starts and the student calmly walks up to the extinguisher, pulls the pin and puts the fire out.  I decided that I needed to show them how it really was, so I always put the extinguisher away from the fire because they are never convenient to the fire in real life, then I attempt to disperse the crowd before I attempt to put out the fire.  One of my students filmed me today.

video

What can I say?  It's a theatre class.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Arsenic and Old Lace

I have wanted to design Arsenic and Old Lace for years.  I had seen the show before and had worked as a carpenter on a production in graduate school.  This is one of those plays theatre people always want to work on.  I got my chance fall semester, 2010.

The play is set in an old Victorian mansion in the early 1940's.  The Brewster family is known for insanity.  Grandfather Brewster was a doctor and always had a corpse or two hanging around the house when he was alive.  The two Brewster aunties, Martha and Abby believe it is their Christian duty to assist tired, lonely old men into the next life.  They do so by giving him elderberry wine that is mixed with just enough arsenic to do the job.

The Brewster nephews are equally crazy.  Jonathon is a serial killer and Teddy believes he is Theodore Roosevelt.  Mortimer Brewster is the only sane one of the bunch and that is suspect as the play proceeds.  It is a grand old farce that Frank Capra made into a famous movie in 1944, starring Cary Grant.

The concept of our production was spiderwebs.  The director wanted the suggestion of spiderwebs without actually having them on the set or in the costumes.  We as the design team had to decide what that meant.  I think we were quite successful.


Arsenic and Old Lace full set shot

To execute this design, I immersed myself in books about Victorian architecture and interior design.  First of all, there is nothing conservative about Victorian design and certainly the characters in the play are eccentric.  It is absolutely appropriate in this play to design it over the top.

There were several features I wished to show in the set design for Arsenic and Old Lace.  Gothic Victorian homes often had a turret.  I wanted one of those in this design.  I can only imagine that a house like this would have a secret passage way or two.  I had to have one of those.  In the film, "Psycho", the great old Victorian home has a newell post light which is a sculpture with a light attached.  It figures into one of the murders, so I thought we ought to have one of those as well.


Jonathon and the aunties in the turret


The secret door to the cellar behind the bookcase


Newell post light

When I found out who the actor was that played Jonathon, I asked him how tall he was.  He was 6'-4" tall.  Because of that, I designed the front door to be 6'-6" tall.  He was much taller than any of the other characters, so they appeared to be in proper scale to the door.  I wanted Jonathon to fill the door when he entered for the first time so he would appear to be even more menacing.  The lighting designer lit him from the back and the effect was chilling.



Jonathon's entrance

The spiderwebs showed up all over the design.  We decided that spiderwebs are characterized by connections so I looked for things that had intersecting lines.  The windows were all small diamond shaped panes, the wallpaper all had connecting lines, there were hanging lamps all over that were very spiderlike.  I also found some reproduction Victorian trim that had the shape of webs.


Spiderwebs

There were also spiderwebs in the veining of the marble, the swags of the curtains and the doilies and antimacassars (woven pieces over the backs of chairs and couches).  There were spiderwebs everywhere.

I had a very definite plan for dressing this set as well.  Victorian homes have walls covered with photographs of family members, plants on plantstands and wall sconces.  Every square inch seems to be covered with stuff.  We went for the crazy ancestor look on the walls, and found sepia prints of Victorian people and displayed them in gaudy frames.  Three of the larger pictures were photoshopped portraits of the director, the lighting designer and me.  My face was photoshopped onto a famous portrait of Martin Van Buren.

Most of the plants we used were spiderplants.  As far as wall sconces go, we had at least eight.  I believe this is the most practical lights I have ever used on a show.  Eight wall sconces, three chandeliers and a newell post lamp.  I built several of the sconces out of lamp parts that we had in the department.


The director


The lighting designer


And me

There were a few other quirky things in the set dressing.  We built an elephant foot umbrella stand out of a piece of sono tube, foam, muslin and plastic water bottles.  It just seemed that an eccentric man like Grandfather Brewster would have one of them.

Teddy often talked about his safari in Africa, and I imagined that his aunts gave him a BB gun and he took care of rodents and other varmints in the yard.  In the areas associated with Teddy, I put a stuffed squirrel, a raven and two taxidermied racoons.  I imagined that he thought they were lions and tigers and other game that Theodore Roosevelt had killed on his safari to Africa.


Elephant foot umbrella stand
This was a delightful show, and a very detailed production.  It was a pleasure to work on and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How I Spent My Autumn--Travelogue: Part I Boiling River

Yesterday was the second day of Autumn, and the weather is still nice.  We decided to take another trip to Yellowstone.  I'm not sure how many more times we'll get out this fall, but I know we'll have at least one trip to Craters of the Moon, weather permitting.  Still, I'd like to do as much as I can and see as much as I can.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to sneak into Yellowstone at night and go skinny-dipping in the hot pots.  We called it hot potting.  Everybody did it.  That makes it right, right?  There were a few legal hot pots, but most of them were illegal.  Mostly I frequented the legal ones.  I really liked the ones where you sat in the river at the point where hot water from thermal areas drained into it. 

In places like that you could position yourself to be as warm or as cool as you wished, depending on where you were in relation to the water pouring into the river.  I really enjoyed the river near Ojo Caliente and the river at Midway Geyser Basin.  Unfortunately, the river at Midway was closed because it became a real party place and the rangers grew tired of cleaning up beer cans, litter and underwear.

There was another place like this at Mammoth Hot Springs called the Boiling River.  I had heard about it for thirty years and had wanted to go there but it was never convenient for one reason or another.  We decided that the Boiling River would be our destination in Yellowstone this time.  We would see many things on our way there and many things on our way home, but the emphasis of the trip would be the Boiling River.  I must say, it did not disappoint.

On our way to Yellowstone we stopped at a place called Howard Spring.  There is a natural spring just on the Idaho side of the continental divide on the way to Yellowstone.  The Forest Service has tapped the spring and created a fountain where travellers can stop to picnic and refresh themselves.  My children believe it is the best water in the world.  We love to stop there when we travel, and my Dad used to stop there from time to time when I'd go to Yellowstone with him.  This has been a family tradition for decades.

Howard Spring is named for General Oliver Otis Howard who stopped there during his famous pursuit of Cheif Joseph and the Nez Perce.  I have always taken the side of the Nez Perce, but this is not the post to discuss that topic.


Garrett, Rhys and Chimene at Howard Spring

Last summer, the NPS (National Park Service) undertook an extensive remodel of the Gibbon Falls area.  Gibbon Falls is one of the prettiest and most accessible waterfalls in Yellowstone, and one of my favorites.  We almost always stop there when we go on the Northern Loop.

The original overlook was just a wide spot in the road where cars, rv's and tourbusses would park and people could walk along a narrow walkway for a short way along the falls.  It never seemed safe there with vehicles pulling in and out, and I was always nervous about my children there.

The new overlook is a hundred times better.  The Park Service created a parking area that is sufficient for even the peak times of the park.  They have also created a short paved trail along the river that shows the brink of the falls, the classic view and a much longer view of the falls.  The new setup is fantastic, and I think the views are actually better than they were in the past.  I heartily approve of what the Park Service did here.  They created a better situation where people can enjoy one of the great views of the park and made it far safer for children.  Bravo NPS!


Gibbon Falls

While we were at Gibbon Falls, a very large raven decided that we were parked in his territory.  He was fearless and none too happy that we were there.  I was within ten feet of him and he still didn't fly away.


The Raven

Next, we stopped at the Artist's Paint Pots nature trail.  This is another area that the NPS has improved.  The original trailhead was another wide spot in the road.  To get to the trail, you had to cross the highway and walk along a decrepit boardwalk through a swamp to get to the main trail.  I suppose because of the volume of traffic at this site, the NPS decided to make it more accessible. 

They installed a parking lot and improved the trail which can now accomodate strollers and motorized wheelchairs, one of which was there when we were.  The trail winds through a mature lodgepole pine forest for about a half mile til you reach the geyser basin.  There are pretty pools, a small geyser that was continually gushing while we were there and up the side of the hill were the mudpots.  When viewing the mudpots, Rhys, Garrett and I had a discussion about viscosity.

While this particular geyser basin isn't as showy as some of the other geyser basins around Old Faithful, it is still worth seeing.  The crowds aren't as great here as they are in other areas of the park so that makes it even better.  Another good thing the Park Service has done.


Mineralized pool at Artist Paint Pots


The view from the ridge at Artist Paint Pots


Mudpot at Artist Paint Pots

One of our favorite places in Yellowstone is Sheepeater Cliff.  The boys were anxious to go there and to climb again.  I have a hard time not stopping at this site.  It's easy to climb and very enjoyable.  We love to go there.  Sheepeater Cliff is an ancient basalt flow that cooled into jointed columns.  I have always loved columnar jointed basalt.  Sheepeater Cliff does not disappoint.  We stopped long enough for the boys and I to climb the cliff a few times and then headed to Mammoth.


Sheepeater Cliff


Columnar jointed basalt

We love waterfalls and are on a mission to see all the falls in Yellowstone.  We have a really good start.  On the way to Mammoth, we stopped at Rustic Falls at the Golden Gate of Yellowstone.


Rustic Falls brink of the falls


Rustic Falls


Yellowstone's Golden Gate

The boys were anxious that we not miss the Boiling River, and that was our next stop.  The hike was about a mile, give or take from the trailhead to the spring, but it really felt like less.  It was level and an improved gravel trail.  There were lots of cars in the parking lot and lots of people coming and going.  This is a very popular spot in Yellowstone.  I imagine it could be standing room only during the peak season.

The trail follows the Gardiner River without deviation until you get to the Boiling River.  The Boiliing River is an underground hot spring that gushes out of the side of the hill into a very short stream until it pours into the Gardiner River.  It pours into the river at several points along about a hundred yards of riverfront.  Over the years bathers have used rocks to dam the river into shallow soaking pools and placed flat rocks in front of the best spots for soaking.  We opted for the first such pool.  There were fewer people there and it was very nice.  The main soaking area was downstream from us.  Whatever the allure was for the lower area, the privacy where we were was much better. 

I have many happy memories of hot-potting, and soaking in the Boiling River brought them all back.  Soaking in the Boiling River was an item on my bucket list and it did not disappoint.  The boys were already making plans for our return trip next summer.  They said it was the highlight of the whole trip.  We will go back to Boiling River.


Headwaters of the Boiling River


Main bathing area of the Boiling River


Garrett and Rhys in the Boilng River


The boys and me in the Boiling River

There had been some road construction and delays between Norris and Mammoth, so we opted to go to Tower and swing around through Canyon instead.  It didn't really save us much time, in fact it probably cost us an hour or two, but we saw alot of neat stuff along the way.  We stopped to see several waterfalls and other attractions along the way. 

The first waterfall we stopped at was Undine Falls which is just past Mammoth on the road to Tower.  Undine falls is a beautiful three stage waterfall with sheer drops interrupted by cascades.  The easiest way to view this falls is from the road, although there is a trail to the base of the falls which we hope to hike next season.


Undine Falls

The next waterfall we viewed was Wraith Falls.  This is a hike we took a few years ago but didn't take a camera with us.  I wanted a picture of this one as evidence that we had been there.  I think the next time we go to Wraith Falls we will go closer to the spring when the water flow is heavier.  All along the path there were plants with white berries.  I don't know if it was poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac.  I wasn't about to find out.  The trail to Wraith Falls is really quite pleasant, level except for the very end when it goes up a series of switchbacks into a small canyon.  The falls is hidden until just before the lookout point.

The waterfall splits around a bulbous rock formation and most of the water goes to one side or the other with a little making it's way over the top.  During the spring runoff, I think the flow is more dramatic.  We will see when we view it next.


Wraith Falls

Along the road to Tower we saw a magnificent, lone bull bison grazing.  We stopped for a photo and he didn't even acknowledge our presence.  (Note:  we didn't vacate the vehicle)


Bison

After that, we stopped at Petrified Tree because we have seen bears on that stretch of road before and were hoping to see one yesterday.  We didn't, but we always like going to that part of the park anyway. 

At one time, Yellowstone was covered in a redwood forest very similar to California's.  A volcanic ash flow covered the forest and the trees petrified.  Over the years, erosion has exposed the harder rock of the petrified forest and left standing tree stumps and tree trunks on the hillsides.  The famous one at Petrified Tree is surrounded by an old iron fence to keep people from collecting and vandalizing. 

I also think the fence is there to misdirect people as well because on the hillside to the right of the petrified tree is a virtual forest of vertical petrified tree stumps.  We were with Nick and Cynthia a couple of years ago in the park and Nick saw something on the hillside and sprinted up.  This hill is on about a 60 degree angle, so it is not a leisurely climb.  I followed, and when I got to where Nick was there was a much larger, more impressive petrified tree stump.  This one was at least fifteen feet in diameter and we were touching it.  We counted on that hillside about twelve more equally impressive petrified tree stumps.  The NPS doesn't call attention to them because I'm sure they don't want people to know about them.  That's part of the hidden Yellowstone that I love so much.


Petrified Tree

As we were leaving the Petrified Tree area, I stopped the car because the sunset over the mountains was beautiful.  Mist had gathered in the valley and it looked like the Smoky Mountains.  I had to have a picture of it.


Yellowstone's version of the Smoky Mountains

By the time we got to Tower it was dusk, heading toward nightfall.  There was still enough light to see the waterfall, but just barely.  I didn't travel all that way to miss it, so I hiked to it and got a photo.  In years past, there was also a trail to the base of the falls which we have taken.  Unfortunately, the trail washed out this spring and I wasn't able to take it.  I hope they rehabilitate that trail for next season.  It's quite beautiful.



Tower Falls

This was a long day, but a good day.  We saw alot of stuff and did alot of things on this excursion.  I hope to get to Yellowstone at least once more before the season is ended.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oedipus

For my day job, I design scenery and lights and sometimes costumes for theatrical productions at the university where I teach.  It's a good life.  I love doing it and I love being engaged in creative endeavors.  I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Scene Design from Mankato State University (now Minnesota State University at Mankato).  I also have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre with a dual major in Psychology from Brigham Young University.  In addition to that I have an Associates of Arts and Sciences in Theatre from Ricks College.

When I was majoring in Psychology, I was amazed at how much the early philosophers and theorists in Psychology borrowed from the Greek playwrights and from Shakespeare.  I was also astonished at how much the early 20th century playwrights were influenced from early psychologists, specifically Freud but also others such as Jung.

It was a great opportunity to major in both Theatre and Psychology because I was able to reconcile both interests and relate them to each other.  I am a much better practitioner of theatre today because of my background in psychology than I would have been without it.  I believe the two are absolutely related.

One of the great plays analyzed by Freud was Sophocles, "Oedipus Rex".  I spent a great deal of time in undergraduate school studying Freud's Oedipus Complex and comparing it to not only the original play, but also Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie".  I even wrote a scholarly paper entitled, "Is Tom Wingfield Oedipus?"  My technical writing teacher thought I should flesh it out more and publish it in a professonal journal, but alas I had no confidence back then and didn't do it.  I found the paper about five years ago and reread it.  It's still a good paper.

I have always wished to design the set for Oedipus.  I have been inspired by Josef Svoboda's design for it and wanted to work on this piece.  His design was very symbolic and non-realistic.  It was essentially a coast to coast stairway with some platforms built strategically for acting areas and beam projector lights shooting up in places through a haze fog to create columns.  It was an amazing piece and it was done, I think in the 1920's.  I had always envisioned doing something similar but not copying Svoboda.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to design the set and the lights for Oedipus here at school.  The director, Hyrum Conrad thought it should be more realistic than the Svoboda piece.  When I work on a script, I have to consider it from several points of view.  I have to understand what the playwright felt when he wrote it, what the director felt when he read it, and what I felt when I read it.  If I try to impose something on the director, such as the Svoboda piece, we'll end up with a non-unified production that won't make sense.  I need to work within the concepts the director gives, otherwise the set or other design elements won't fit into the world created on the stage.

The theatre department already had two very large Greek sculptures made of foam rubber of all things.  They were each about nine feet tall.  They were colossal and  I knew I wanted to use them, and in fact I designed the whole set around them.  They were statues of Apollo and Artemus and had been used almost twenty years earlier in Antigone and hadn't been used since.  They had been stored upside down from the grid in the theatre.


Apollo


Artemus
The play is set in Thebes, one of the Greek citystates.  Hyrum didn't want the set to be reflective of Athens because that was too stereotypical of ancient Greece, instead he wished to go with some of the more obscure areas in Greece to find the inspiration for the set.  In my research I discovered that in most Greek citystates, the public areas, the seat of government and the temples to the gods were set on the highest hill in the city.  In Athens, that hill is referred to as The Acropolis.  The other Greek citystates also referred to the seat of power in their communities as acropolis' as well.

In most Greek tragedies, there is a chorus, usually made up of the 'elders and wisemen of the village'.  The chorus narrates, chants and interacts with the other characters.  In Greek plays the chorus resides in an area called the orchestra, inbetween the audience and the main actors. 

For my design of Oedipus I wanted to show that relationship, plus I wanted to create an acropolis for Thebes.  My design consisted of a set of stairs, flanked by a pair of winged sphinxes, from the audience to the stage, Oedipus' palace downstage left, a smaller temple to Apollo upstage right, an altar and a statue of Apollo.


The set design
In order to make the set look less Athenian, I took my inspiration from all parts of the Greek world and was inspired by a Greek library in Ephesus.  I based my design for Oedipus' palace on that.  It was a large, multi-story building with very large niches in the exterior walls that held grand sculptures.  For the temple, I found inspiration from many such temples all over Greece.


The temple complex

We hired an art teacher to carve the two large sphinxes.  They were really more eighteenth century sphinxes, based on funerary statues.  The riddle of the sphinx is integral to the story of Oedipus, so we translated the riddle into Greek and then carved it into the front of the sphinx pedestals.


Sphinx

Oedipus is set during the Bronze Age, so I wanted to show alot of bronze in the detail of the palace, suggesting that he who controls the bronze controls the kingdom.  I designed two very large bronze doors for the palace that only opened once, when Oedipus has blinded himself.  The doors were each four feet wide and ten feet tall.  The large doric columns across the front of the palace were each three feet in diameter and sixteen feet tall.  This was a very large set.

Set design tells you all the tangible things about the show, but lighting design tells the audience how to feel.  The great cosmic irony of the play, Oedipus Rex is that those who can see cannot see and those who cannot see can see.  Only when Oedipus has blinded himself does he really see himself for who he is.  I wanted to show this cosmic irony in the lights as well, so as Oedipus zeros in on the secrets of his origins, and becomes more illuminated as to the truth, the stage grew darker.  I did this by showing the passage of time.  The closer he got to the truth, the darker it became onstage.


First cue-full daylight


Second cue-afternoon


Third cue-late afternoon


Fourth cue-late evening


Fifth cue-nightfall

In between each cue, there was a choral ode that we used to show the passage of time.  The odes were to be lit as if they were on another plane or sphere, unworldly.  I used strong blue side light with purple fill and amber in a pattern rotator.  The lights were enhanced by a haze fog so at times they became almost architectural.


Choral ode

My two youngest sons, Rhys and Garrett wanted to be in the show, so they were cast as Polynices and Eteocles, Oedipus two sons.  Things were going great until they learned they were going to have to wear "dresses", girl sandals and have their hair curled.  We explained to them that they were tunics, not dresses and that they looked right for the part.  After they got used to it, they were good sports and did a very fine job in the show.  I was proud of them.


Rhys and Garrett with Seve Isaacs as Oedipus
I am fortunate enough to work in a theatre department that is interested in doing the classics.  This is a play I have wanted to do for my entire career.  It was a labor of love and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to work on it.