Perception---you have that power.

There is purpose in design. There is information in a setting. There is truth in your environment. Fake or real, it's there.

All images are copyrighted by Heidi Hoffer unless otherwise indicated. Your courtesy in using my photographs must include crediting me as the photographer. You must tell me when and where you've used them and send the link to me showing your use of them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wits Theatre Facility Tour Part One

Lobby,  Loading Bay,  and Wits Proscenium Theatre
I have to confess.I got lost a few times going from venue to venue and office to office in my first days at the Wits Theatre. What follows is a photo journey of the theatre complex.
The Wits theatre lobby services 3 theatre spaces and the workshops. There’s a coffee shop/bar, candy and snack counter, and a home-cooked breakfast lunch or dinner counter with your basic roadhouse toasts and fries.
From the lobby you can get into the main proscenium theatre’s lighting grid through these locked doors. You can also get out to the rooftop terraces, often used for small performances and outdoor banquets.

From the lobby you can go through the “Authorized Personnel Only” door into the backstage area of the Wits Main Theatre, the Downstairs Theatre, scenery storage, loading bay, and workshop. There is even space for the theatre’s bakkie. (All pick-up trucks whether farm style of flatbed are called bakkies.)
The loading doors accommodate larger trucks, too. A human-sized entry door helps to keep out the weather.
Rostrum (platform) and stair storage is in several locations throughout the building, but the main storage is in this wing of the loading bay.

The large sound doors are the loading entrance into the Main Wits Theatre from the Workshop (Sceneshop is what Americans call the Workshop) The proscenium theatre’s upstage cross-over is through the greenroom. The cherry picker in front of the loading doors is not used very much in the theatre, but often used to change out lamps in the workshop.

The Wits Main theatre is a proscenium with 370 seats. It has a large apron extension that makes it a bit more of a thrust theatre, and the seating is great for the thrust portion. The thrust is on a hydraulic lift so an orchestra pit or lower forestage configuration can be had.
Prompt side (Stage Left) is the Assistant Stage Manager’s area – the Stage Manager runs shows from the booth The fly operations are on the opposite side. in a gallery above the wing.

Just upstairs from the Prompt Side is the patch bay. It contains the neatest patch panel I have seen in a long while.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Saturday Night at The Palace" Opens!

First South African Production Opens!
(And we have a South African breakable glass recipe after many experiments!)
The cast and crew of "Saturday Night at the Palace".
     “Fulbright Scholar Heidi Hoffer has designed the scenery, lighting and costumes for the Wits Theatre production of “Saturday Night at the Palace”. The play, directed by Wits School of the Arts lecturer Greg Homann, is part of Wits’ South African Season. Performances continue Thursday August 12th at 3:00pm, and 7:30pm, and Friday August 13 at 7:30 pm.
     The play was written by South African playwright Paul Slabolepszy, who first staged it in 1982, appearing in the role of “Vince”. The play is a disturbing reminder of how a system can turn the most harmless of men into monsters. The playwright attended the opening night performance, and was highly complimentary of Hoffer’s stage design in particular, as well as the excellent performances of the Wits student actors.”
Forsie, played by Jeremy Richards and September, played by Thabo Kunetu, discuss smoking.
Well, now! It was absolutely fabulous for me (and of course the director, cast and crew) to meet playwright Paul Slabolepszy. It was very good to hear about the details he looks for, and he regaled us with his experiments in how to break the glass window in the door. Throughout the week before opening, many veteran South African theatergoers told me about seeing him in the role of “Vince” in the ‘80’s. "He was terribly convincing and even caused one audience member to leave the theatre throwing up."
September asks for the return of his keys to the Palace. Vince, played by James Reynolds, refuses.

September has been left handcuffed to the bike, with Vince dead, and Forsie gone.
Our evening audiences reacted to the racial slurs, the hatred, the ignorance, and the turnabout at the end with mostly a very educated understanding of its historic implications. The high-school matinee audience, however, were very amazed, very vocal, and nearly very angry with the treatment the character of “September” received at the hands of “Vince” and “Forsie”.
The Wits students who worked on the production were primarily “First-Years” supervised by two design assistants who are a “Third-Year" and a “Fourth-Year”. We worked evenings painting and building and making tray after tray of fake glass, trying to get the right brittleness. The design assistants provided necessary transport and financial and geographical acumen for finding props and supplies cheaply, as well as making the production fun to work on.

Here is our final recipe for breakable glass. (In the play, the character of Vince smashes the window with September's knobkerrie.) We molded it in a cookie sheet that was about the size of an A-4 piece of paper. Please read directions before attempting this yourself. Firmed up sugar glass CAN cut your skin. Boiling sugar CAN splatter and severely burn your skin.

South African Breakable Glass
Old heavy-bottomed sauce pan or pot.
Cooking spray to use as a mold release
Cookie sheet or foil the size of the glass you need.
Waxed paper for cookie sheet (optional)
½ cup water
1.75 cups sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose*

Directions: Boil the water and then add the other ingredients. Continuously stir. The boiling point is 220 degrees F. Continue to boil until it reaches about 300 degrees, or boils so furiously the bubbles appear to be more like foam. This should take another 10 minutes. Let boil without stirring for 5 – 15 more minutes. When the mixture feels thicker as you stir, pour into the prepared mold. The sugar mixture will seem to yellow as it thickens.

Drip a bit of sugar onto a plate to see if it gets firm as it cools. If the sugar mixture starts to get dark, it is past ready. Stir again, and pour immediately into the cooking sprayed cookie sheet. Let cool. We even put one in the freezer. Unmold by gently flexing the cookie sheet. You may also put down wax paper first before pouring and spray that with cooking oil, too

Bringing the sugar mixture to a boil.

(*Americans tend to use Thurston James’ recipe which involves white corn syrup. This syrup is difficult to find here in Jo’burg. When we used the same measurement of readily available golden syrup or glucose syrup, the “glass” was bendable and not firm.)