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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

February 18, 2019

Meet Courtney Gomez Odom, Properties Master for “The Curious Incident”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:54 am

 

Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I grew up in Midlothian, VA, a suburb of Richmond. I did all kinds of things as a kid, but I would say girl scouts probably had the biggest influence on leading me towards a career in the arts.

 

Q: Where did you receive training? How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

I did my undergrad at Longwood University, a small liberal arts college in Farmville, VA. Though a small school, the B.F.A. program for technical theatre was pretty intense. It put me on the prop path. I continued my training at Ohio University where I earned a M.F.A. in Props Technology and Costuming Crafts. With all my formal education I was propelled into some high quality circles of theatre.

 

Q: What is your full-time position with Charleston Stage?

I am the Properties Master here at Charleston Stage. Basically if it’s part of the structural set, and an actor isn’t wearing it – it’s a prop! For all of the shows I am collecting, altering, and building from scratch to enhance the show.

 

Q: Please discuss your design process and what was involved with designing props for The Curious Incident.

With any design process, the main goal is to achieve the director’s and designers’ vision, while creating props that are functional and actor friendly. Working on Curious Incident was a process centered around cubes and a model train. The cubes were the first and most important props to nail down. They function like furniture pieces and storage bins, and they shift and transform the location for each scene. As for the moment involving the model, the design was a product of functionality and story telling. This moment literally represents a journey for our protagonist, so we had to make it special. I connected with The Charleston Area Model Railroad Club and they were able to collect track pieces and an English-style model train. It’s always cool when we can collaborate with members of our community. Furthermore, with the set angled on a rake, which is visually stimulating for the audience; however, it presented science-related challenges that we needed to overcome.

 

Q: What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for The Curious Incident?

I’m very excited about having the opportunity to share this show with the community. My youngest sister is autistic and I think this show really highlights how hard it is to be a person who doesn’t have the ability to communicate the way everyone else does and also how straining it can be on family members. I think all of the design elements, not just scenic and props, combine to give the audience a glimpse into what things are like for Christopher. I hope the audience walks away feeling moved, empathetic, and wanting to learn more about it.

 

Q: Tell us a little more about yourself.

I’ve lived in Charleston for 2 years, I have a toddler that lights up my world, and I play roller derby for your local Lowcountry Highrollers.

 

Final 4 performances of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time run Feb. 21 – 24 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

 

 

 

 

February 12, 2019

Meet Luke Walchuk, Original Music and Sound Designer for “The Curious Incident”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:02 am

 

Q: What is your position with Charleston Stage?

I am the Resident Sound Designer and Audio Engineer at Charleston Stage. This position encompasses two jobs, one of which is primarily creative and the other primarily technical. As the Sound Designer, I am responsible for everything you hear in a show. I find, create, and arrange sound effects. I compose incidental music for most of our non-musical plays. I am also responsible for designing the physical sound system – what microphones are used, how they are used, where speakers are placed, etc. As Audio Engineer, I implement that design. I program the computer that plays back the sound effects. I prepare, set up, and maintain all of the microphones and speakers. And I set up, program, and operate the mixing board. I also teach a sound design class for high school students as part of our TheatreWings program.

 

Q: Charleston Stage has officially moved into the West Ashley Theatre Center. What are you most excited about that this new facility offers?

I am excited that we are able to bring a performance and rehearsal space of this size and capability to West Ashley. We are able to provide the space and technical capabilities for community groups of all types to present performances that they may not have been able to do before, at least not easily or affordably. More than that, I am excited for the opportunities this space gives us to expand our educational offerings. The education program is one of the main things that distinguished Charleston Stage for me during the job search that brought me here. In this building, not only do we simply have more space for everything, we have a fully functional theatre space that will allow me to give my students direct, hands-on experience with the kinds of theatrical sound equipment that is in use throughout the professional theatre world.

As a Sound Designer, this new space has allowed me to have my own office/studio where I can compose and create sound effects in a comfortable, professional environment without bothering my coworkers! In the past, all of my work had to be either at home or in the office using headphones. Now I have all my equipment, including keyboards, microphones, and high-quality monitoring speakers, in one place with a door I can close.

 

Q: You are also the Original Music and Sound Designer for The Curious Incident. Please discuss your process and what is involved with writing music for a production such as The Curious Incident.

My main goal with the sound design and music for The Curious Incident is to help the audience understand how Christopher, the main character, experiences the world. The first challenge with this, of course, is that I personally don’t have the same experiences that someone like Christopher would. Fortunately, the script and the novel both give ample clues in their descriptions and writing styles.

Christopher is very talented in math, and in large part he uses math to interpret the world around him. When he begins to get overwhelmed, he calms himself by reciting complex sets of numbers like primes or “the cubes of the cardinal numbers.” As a composer this gives me the opportunity to highlight the math that is inherent in music, in particular through complex rhythms created from many simpler patterns set against one another.

Christopher is also very interested in science, technology, and computers. To reflect this, not only am I using largely electronic instruments but there will also be certain aspects of some of the music that are computer generated. In particular, I have created a computer program that converts text into chord progressions. I can give the program a line or two from the script and it will convert the letters into numbers. From there, the numbers are fed through an algorithm, or set of rules, that generates a series of chords that follow traditional Western compositional guidelines. I can then use those chords as a base to build upon. For all of this I am also drawing on inspiration from a number of artists such as Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Olafur Arnalds, and Boards of Canada.

The sound effects design for The Curious Incident will be integrated tightly with the music. It mainly consists of atmospheric sound that will give the audience a sense of what Christopher’s surroundings are. The realism of the surroundings will be slightly heightened to reflect Christopher’s hyper-awareness of everything around him. When Christopher gets overwhelmed, I want the audience to experience the same thing. To achieve this, there will be speakers placed all around the theatre for true immersion in Christopher’s world.

 

Performances of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continue running Feb. 14 – 24 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

 

 

 

 

February 5, 2019

Designing the Set for “The Curious Incident”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:12 pm


Putting the Mind of a Brilliant and Challenging 15 Year Old On the Stage

By Director and Scenic Designer, Julian Wiles

 

The wonder of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is that the story is told from the perspective of Christopher Boone, a brilliant, but socially challenged 15 year old. He loves order, numbers, math, (or maths as the Brit’s say) and yet, he finds the ordinary everyday world chaotic and difficult to navigate. Showing this order and confusion became the first issue to consider when I began work on the set design. And in many ways, the set is a representation of Christopher’s mind and how it works in the most interesting and curious ways.

 

 

Often a design begins with a really rough pencil sketch. Above is what I sketched out for The Curious Incident. The floor is an ordered grid and as you will see. The grid lines light up. The set pieces are mostly cubes and are rearranged by the cast to represent everything from chairs to seats on the London tube to a spaceship! One of the real challenges of this script is that often, within seconds, we jump from one location to another. This precluded the use of realistic furniture and set pieces. In the end however, this design mirrored the ordered but often imaginative and abstract way in which Christopher’s mind works.

 

Though Christopher is at home in the world of numbers, but often lost in verbal and written communication, I surrounded the set with a sea of floating numbers and letters—generously created by Southern Lumber and Millwork Corp, one of the show’s sponsors. Interspersed among the letters are dozens and dozens of bare light bulbs representing stars. Christopher loves astronomy, and of course, the show begins with a curious incident in the night-time so these seem to make sense. They also will be used later to show how Christopher sometimes experiences anxiety and meltdowns from sensory overload. The sensory overload comes from crowds, too much noise at train stations, or just from a simple touch of someone. At that point, these and other lights become a firestorm, much like neurons firing in the brain.

 

 

And so from a simple sketch, we have this completed design. Making this sketch into a reality fell to our terrific production crew. Cody Rutledge, our scenic artist created a scale model of the set, did all the drafting, and supervised the actual construction. All of the wooden blocks and cubes and a wonderful desk were created by Courtney Gomez Odom, our Properties Master. Many elements were finished by Alex Odom, our new Master Carpenter. Jamie-Brooke Ruggio took charge of creating the “star lights” as well as the floor lighting for the grid. And Joshua Bristow assisted in creating the projections that appear on the screen upstage throughout the show.

 

 

In the end, we have a wonderfully realized, imaginative set. Contrary to popular belief, we’re not given the set design from the playwright nor the producers in New York. But that makes it fun to create our own inventive take on each show we produce. The Curious Incident was a challenge, but in the end, one of the most rewarding sets I’ve had the privilege to design.

 

Performances of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time run Feb. 6 – 24 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For ticket, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

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