Rich Dionne's Blog (124)

It Looks Like This is the End...

I'm sitting in the house at the Dorset Theatre Festival as my crew finishes applying molding and other detail touches to the set for Clybourne Park, our last show of the season. This production was coproduced with Barrington Stage in Massachusetts, and as part of the cost-sharing discussion, we decided it would be smart to split the physical labor--have some of the set built by our shop here, and some built in the shop at Barrington.

There were a lot of reasons to…

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Added by Rich Dionne on August 16, 2013 at 6:58am — No Comments

How to Build It (or, Drawing for the Shop You Have)

I found myself staring at a designer drawing of a simple porch column the other day: about 14' tall, with a 3'-tall brick base and a tapered square profile above. I started drawing it, and then stopped. I was stuck--thinking about different views, different construction techniques, different material choices. It was a little frustrating, frankly, but not all that uncommon: I often find myself spending a lot of mental energy thinking about how to build a piece of scenery--even the seemingly…

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Added by Rich Dionne on August 9, 2013 at 11:34am — 3 Comments

Oh boy...Another Oversized Crown Molding...

Three quarters of the productions at Dorset Theatre Festival this summer have been architecturally-real box sets (not atypical for this company). One fairly standard feature for these kinds of sets is the oversized crown molding: typically the profile for molding like this is something like nine inches to a foot tall by six to nine inches wide, and features a couple of different curves and breaks to create shadow lines. Our three architecturally-real sets are no exception, all three have… Continue

Added by Rich Dionne on August 2, 2013 at 5:15am — 5 Comments

Wait...They'll be Barefoot? Or, A Show About Shoes

Last weekend, during the load in of our production of Barefoot in the Park at Dorset Theatre Festival, the costume designer came up to the theatre and asked if she could slap some shoes down onto the stage floor to see how they sounded. The actors had been wearing their costume shoes in rehearsal, and as they sounded very load on the hardwood floor of the rehearsal room, there was some concern they'd be loud on stage as well. If they were going to be, this would probably mean a trip to the… Continue

Added by Rich Dionne on July 26, 2013 at 5:37am — No Comments

Getting Over the Hump

We are days away from our third changeover here at Dorset Theatre Festival, and after weeks of rain impeding our build progress (we have a pretty small shop, so we rely on the ability to build outside), we've suffered through a week of near-100-degree temps and daily heat advisories. Our only vehicle capable of picking up material of any size from the lumber yard is in the shop. We just finished a changeover not two weeks ago. And, people are getting tired, and cranky, and generally…

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Added by Rich Dionne on July 19, 2013 at 6:24am — No Comments

Keep the Painters Happy!

I was driving to the store with our scenic charge, Jes, yesterday to pick up some vinyl tile for our upcoming production of Barefoot in the Park, and lamenting that I had no idea what I was going to write this week. As a joke, she said, "well, you should just write about me!" Of course, she meant it as a joke, but it got me to thinking...

Any time I start working with a new shop, I lay down a few ground rules. Most are the basics: correct is better than quick, but…

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Added by Rich Dionne on July 12, 2013 at 6:17am — No Comments

Building a Destroyed Ceiling

I have written many times about how to build machines or how to put together control systems for various effects; I can't recall a time when I wrote about how to construct a particular visual effect. We have had a really cool element to tackle the last week at Dorset Theatre Festival that I really wanted to share. The set designer has called for a full ceiling in our production of The Whipping Man (yes, the backwards ceiling from last week!); she also has called for a chunk of that…

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Added by Rich Dionne on July 5, 2013 at 5:00am — 2 Comments

Handling Mistakes

Yesterday, to quote a children's book, was a horrible, no good, very bad day. The set we are currently building at Dorset Theatre Festival is for a production of The Whipping Man, and features a large ceiling with a hole blown through it--as if from a cannonball strike. The shop has been working really well, and they've cranked out this scenery pretty quickly. I've been feeling quite good about our progress.



I was onstage yesterday, watching the painters apply texture to the ceiling… Continue

Added by Rich Dionne on June 28, 2013 at 5:01am — No Comments

How to be an Intern

One of my two shop interns has asked me the same question a number of different ways the past two weeks: "what is expected of me?" It seems like a simple question with an obvious answer--to those of us who've been working for a while. For the newcomer, the expectations and parameters can be blurry and intimidating. And, knowing what is expected of you is kind of fundamental to knowing how to perform.

So, without further introduction, and as a courtesy to all the new and…

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Added by Rich Dionne on June 21, 2013 at 6:19am — 3 Comments

The Intern Paradox

We're deep into the load-in of our first show at Dorset Theatre Festival (a production of Theresa Rebeck's The Scene). As is often is the case, it's a bit of a push to make it to focus and tech, and I find myself a little tense, a little anxious, and expecting way to much of myself and my staff in too little time.

I've got a fantastic staff: my ATD, Aaron, is level-headed, talented, and hard-working. The staff carpenter, Amanda, is also very skilled, and both…

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Added by Rich Dionne on June 14, 2013 at 5:59am — 1 Comment

CAD Basics

I was inspired by Erich Friend's blog post, "A 400 HP Pencil," on CAD issues yesterday, and I thought I'd use this time to talk a little about my thoughts on using CAD most effectively.

First off: "CAD" does not refer to "AutoCAD." I recognize that there's something cool about shortening names and creating our own "insider lingo," but that's not where "CAD" comes from--it's not an…

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Added by Rich Dionne on June 7, 2013 at 6:04am — No Comments

A Murphy Bed?!

I mentioned last week that one of the designs I'm building this summer incorporates a Murphy bed, and I've spent the last week working out how to make it happen. What's a Murphy bed, you ask? You've seen them; they were a staple of physical comedy for a while. A Murphy bed is simple a bed that folds down put of a wall of a cabinet.



Here's some footage of the great Charlie Chaplin wrestling with a Murphy bed from the film, "One A.M.":…



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Added by Rich Dionne on May 31, 2013 at 5:30am — 7 Comments

Summer Theatre!

It's that time of year again: I've been organizing and packing my life into a summer-sized, fit-in-the-car packages as I prepare to head off once more into the time-honored tradition of summer theatre. This year, I'll be headed back to beautiful Vermont to work as the technical director at Dorset Theatre Festival for about twelve weeks.



Summer theatre, for me, invokes both excitement and dread. Dread? Yep, I said it: I sometimes dread the summer theatre scene. Those are some long… Continue

Added by Rich Dionne on May 24, 2013 at 7:25am — 2 Comments

Undergraduate Courses

Most of my teaching responsibilities since coming to Purdue have been at the graduate level. There are a lot of reasons for this, but suffice it to say that I have--much to my own chagrin, quite frankly--found my curricular development efforts directed at the MFA degree program, rather than at undergraduate course work. Recently, I received a bit of a promotion--from lecturer to assistant professor!--and with this change comes the opportunity to shift my focus to include undergraduate course…

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Added by Rich Dionne on May 17, 2013 at 5:35am — 1 Comment

Sport Clips

So I was getting my hair cut yesterday, and the place where I go I sport-themed, with a half-dozen televisions showing ESPN. (Don't judge! I like the hot towel wrap!) Now, while I enjoy watching a good football game or a day at the diamond, I'm not one of those people who avidly follows particular teams, players, coaches, or the like. It's just not something I've ever spent time on. So as the young woman was cutting my hair, I found myself listening to SportsCenter, marveling that there are… Continue

Added by Rich Dionne on May 10, 2013 at 6:08am — 2 Comments

Linking it all together

It is important to me that the final projects on my upper-tier classes do a few things as the culminating work in the class. They should:

  • Incorporate as many concepts, procedures, techniques, and processes as possible
  • Require students to integrate these concepts in ways similar to the ways they would need to be integrated in "the real world"
  • Present as close to a "real world" technical design process as possible, including a client/director/designer/producer…
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Added by Rich Dionne on May 3, 2013 at 5:30am — No Comments

End of Semester Evaluations

It's that time of the year again: end of semester evaluations. At the end of each semester, my design and production colleagues and I all get together for a couple of hours and take time to share our experiences with each others' graduate students over the last 16 weeks. Ideally, this is an opportunity to celebrate the many good experiences while discussing those times when we've perceived opportunities for growth and development.

I'll confess that I approach these meetings…

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Added by Rich Dionne on April 26, 2013 at 5:28am — No Comments

Flying Solo

We've had an explosion of student-driven workshops over the past year at Purdue. It has been truly amazing to see so many young theatre artists exploring their craft, trying out new things, and generally being excited about our art, and I'm proud to say we've been fairly successful at making room for these projects that are not part of our main production season.

However, as one might imagine, these workshops create inevitable tensions; the greatest of these center around…

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Added by Rich Dionne on April 19, 2013 at 6:47am — 1 Comment

Community experiences

I don't often get to see shows as an audience member. West Lafayette, Indiana isn't exactly a hot bed of theatrical activity, and getting out of town for a show can be tough with my job and also being the parent of a five-year-old. Certainly, I see many productions--but mostly they are shows I'm affiliated with, and mostly it is during tech, previews, and openings.



I had the chance to go be a "typical audience member" last night, and I'm so thrilled I took the opportunity. I tell my… Continue

Added by Rich Dionne on April 5, 2013 at 5:52am — No Comments

OSI Layering: or, putting data on the road

Throughout this semester in my Show Networks and Show Control class, we've tried to connect concepts we've been discussing back to the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) layering scheme, which is a model of communication systems that breaks these systems into modular functional building blocks. Hammered out in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the OSI layering scheme provides a complex framework for communication systems; each of the seven functional layers describes a specific set of "duties"…

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Added by Rich Dionne on March 29, 2013 at 6:51am — No Comments

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