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Les Miserables for high school?

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Set Design and Construction
Forum Discription: Post your questions or suggestions about designing or building a set here.
URL: http://www.communitytheater.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2209
Printed Date: 6/19/24 at 1:32pm
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Topic: Les Miserables for high school?
Posted By: Thespian_4_ever
Subject: Les Miserables for high school?
Date Posted: 1/12/07 at 9:50pm
Hey everyone,
I was wondering, has anyone designed sets/lights for Les Miserables? If so please post pictures so we can all see them. I'm not designing for the show or anything just seeing what people come up with is intresting to me.
 
Thanks!



Replies:
Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 8/19/08 at 10:27am

I need any input on this show as well. 


I'm designing "Les Miserable School Edition" for November, 2008.  I especially need your war stories about building and operating your barricade, bridge, and turntable.  Thanks, Dana



-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: TonyDi
Date Posted: 8/20/08 at 7:14am
Might I suggest you E-Mail MARK ECCLESTON from Huntsville High School.  This is an incredible group of people here.  They are the folks that hired me to do the makeup work on the beast for Beauty And The Beast last year.  And we became good friends with the director and lots of extremely nice folks there.  BUT MARK designed and built this show complete with huge turntable, and cool barricade - as well as all the other elements of this incredible show.  You can go to THIS LINK  http://www.hhspanthertheater.com/Tech.htm - http://www.hhspanthertheater.com/Tech.htm
 
and there you will find Mark's E-Mail contacts as well as a video of the assembly they did in time-lapse slide show - I think pictures taken every mintue or something crazy like that.  ALSO if you go to YouTube and do a search on HUNTSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL LES MIS you will find a number of videos posted by someone (looks like from a cell phone) and see and hear these incredibly talented young people.  There are about 7 videos or so.  Great stuff.  We drove almost 400 miles to go see the show.  I fell in love with the kids last year and the director and I have become GREAT friends who I wish I was there and could work more with.  Awesome guy, great energy and love for teaching and putting things like this together.
 
Check with Mark Eccleston though - the guy is phenomenal.
 
TonyDi
 


-------------
"Almost famous"


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 8/20/08 at 11:53am
That time-lapse video of the turntable construction is very cool!!!

-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: techdirector
Date Posted: 9/03/08 at 1:06pm
I am a production designer and I work mainly with high schools and community theaters.  Here is a link to a set I recently designed for the school version of "Les Miserables". 
 
The stage had a proscenium opening of 60' wide and only 16' high.  The stage was only 24' deep so it did not lend itself to using a revolve.
The barricade was three peices, a center unit that could turn so you could see both sides, and two side sections that retracted offstage as well as up into the air.  It was very impressive and even though it looked like we used hydrolics or some other type of automation, it was actually achieved in a very lo-tech manner.
 
When working with high schools, I design the sets and lights and then teach students how to build, paint, hang, focus and run the show.  Everything you see is done by the kids.  By the end of the run, the tech kids are just as involved and proud of their accomplishments as anyone who might appear on the stage.
 
http://www.11thourdesign.com/lesmis/index.html - http://www.11thourdesign.com/lesmis/index.html


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 9/04/08 at 11:32am
Outstanding scenic artwork.  And I like the abstract ground row across the back with the cyc in Act II.  Very moody!
 

Your crew should be proud of their hard work.

-Dana


-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 11/11/08 at 12:07am
We just finished the 7 hour Tech Rehearsal for "Les Miserables School Edition"!  Pinch
 

My technical stuff has lots of potential for "Murphy's Law" incidents...the motorized turntable, the flying bridge, the trap door, the gigantic barricade units, the rolling carts, the smoke and hazers, the starter pistol, the sound effects, the lighting effects, the wireless body mics...plus my crew of 23 teenagers. 

 

But it's going to be great.  I will try to post some production photos and behind-the-scenes video clips once it opens and I recover from these 16 hour days...  Dead

 

-Dana


-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: Ramrebel
Date Posted: 11/12/08 at 8:18am
The Sceneographics set works well if you know how to do the shading.

-------------
Ed Adams
Newfield HS
Selden NY
eadams@mccsd.net
631-285-8357


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 11/14/08 at 11:48am

Wow.  An amazing show.  We had our opening night last night.  It was very nearly sold out, and by the end there was hardly a dry eye in the house.  Very powerful.  The standing ovation began before the main drape even hit the floor!

I was proud of the cast and crew.  It was the most seamless and flawless production we have ever done.  As the Tech Director, there were no nail-biting moments for me last night.  All the set changes and effects went perfectly.  And as the designer, I finally got a chance to just sit back and absorb the show...(instead of rushing to the booth to tweek a light cue or taking notes on my never-ending scenic to-do list).  Ah...what a relief to have this one done...!
 
The local TV news station came to film the first dress last Monday, so I have included a link to it below.  On the righthand side of the news page is a "Flash" video of a two minute long news report.  They show a few scenes from the top of Act I. 
http://www.digtriad.com/news/GMS/article.aspx?storyid=114001&catid=67 - http://www.digtriad.com/news/GMS/article.aspx?storyid=114001&catid=67
 
And here is a school news report that includes the behind the scenes audio from the stage manager's headset.  Be sure to click on "HQ" to watch it in high quality: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462smwE9osY - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462smwE9osY
 
 


-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: Pamw
Date Posted: 11/16/08 at 9:35am
Wish I could be there!!!! I have my One Acts this afternoon (after three weeks of bizarre personal stresses) that were supposed to be Nov. 1st. I hate that I am going to miss this one.Unhappy

-------------
Pam


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 12/03/08 at 10:39pm
Fellow designers, I must admit, "Les Mis" was a fairly easy show to design the set and lights for at the high school level. It's not the epic monster that some might fear. Actually, it's a "bare stage show", much like "Pippin", "Joseph", "Fantastics" and the like. So that means there is very little scenery to build. It's mostly areas of light on a bare stage.

There are only a few major things you must have. A bridge to jump from. A cart to crash. A fence to climb over. Some inn tables to dance on. Candlesticks to steal. And some muskets to shoot.   That's it, really...

The turntable is not required, (it's just the preferred convention...it adds motion to songs and it speeds up set changes since there are no black outs in the show). The bridge does not have to fly out. There are tons of ways to stage the suicide. You could do it with lighting or have him jump into some "pole vaulting mats" in the orchestra pit or something.

I rented backdrops for the Inn and the Paris alley. But you don't have to. Those scenes could be played against black curtains just like so many other scenes in the show.

And as far as lighting design goes, this was the "darkest" show I've ever done on the main stage. I used 1/3 the front light as I would for a musical comedy such as "Dolly" or "Music Man". In fact, I left 40 Source4 Lekos standing in a closet during this show! So it's a relatively straightforward hang.

My design recap: Here are a few pictures that I took during the show. They are a little blurry, but I hope to get more shots from the professional photographer soon. Click on each title to see my pic:

1) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3327.JPG - The Factory Scene It opens with amber backlight, and gobos on the upstage black scrim in front of the city street flats, (which are attached to the back wall of the stage).

2) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3337.JPG - Cart Crash The cart spins in on the turntable under strobelight only...giving the audience a stunning illusion of actual movement. When it runs over the kid, the lights bump full again. (Trivia: This 20 year old community theatre cart was originally built as the surrey for Oklahoma, later converted to the Welles Fargo Wagon for Music Man, and Tevye's cart for Fiddler, and I once converted it into a giant pumpkin for Cinderella).

3) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3347.JPG - The Inn With a beautiful rustic interior backdrop from Kenmark. The kitchen staircase is later used as half of the bridge, and then in Act II it becomes a portion of the barricade.

4) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3358.JPG - The Beggars In front of the Kenmark Paris drop. The two bridge wagons roll onto the turntable and pin into the floor for safety. The the 10' long steel bridge flies in on double fly lines to instantly mate with the two towers. Very safe and very stable. (I had the turntable operator kill the power during this scene...just for my own peace of mind).

5) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3364.JPG - The Antagonist For Javert's solo on the bridge, I had two followspot operators on 25' high Genie lifts, up-left and up-right. The back-spots were highly effective because they did not cast circles of light on the drops or set. By the way, I ran a DMX water-based hazer throughout the entire 2-1/4 hour show! It never set off the smoke alarms, and I never heard a single <cough> from the actors!

6) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3368.JPG - The Bridge Another shot of Javert's solo. You can't even see the 8 aircraft cables that fly in the bridge element. For safety and peace of mind, I used the redundancy of 8 cables...when 4 or 6 could have easily held the 150 pound weight.

7) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3379.JPG - Revolution! The crowd scenes were very powerful and loud. The 48 member cast was very experienced at projection, so I only needed two PCC floor mics to overcome the 22 piece pit orchestra. Travia: A second cart is used here...it's a 2-wheel version from yet another production of "Fiddler".

8) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3383.JPG - Romance at the Gate This "fence" wagon is double-sided so it can rotate on the turntable numerous times during love scenes by this trio. I recycled these stone columns from my middle school production of http://www.lowell.to/posters/Beast06.jpg - Beast a few years ago. That black iron gate? Well, I made that one evening using tall candle staffs that were used in the director's wedding 20 years ago!

9) http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3386.JPG - The Voices This show is all about the voices. Period. So it didn't bother me much when the director suggested using obligatory "pools of light" for this song. All four of these kids could easily major in theatre in college.

 


-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 12/08/08 at 8:49pm

ACT II

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3413.JPG - Enter The Barricade! I have to include one picture of my awesome crew in action. They assembled 3 huge barricade wagons during the 15 seconds of "bridge music" provided...in full view of the audience! The stagehands wore period beggar costumes, by the way. Center in this photo, you can see the hustle by a Senior assistant stage manager. I think she is on the ball enough to pursue stage management in college.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisBarricadeFist.jpg - Barricade    I made the barricade one evening out of crap from prop storage. Look near the top and you'll see an old desk from "Deathtrap" and a door from "Noises Off". (I joked with the crew that after strike we would, "just burn the whole darn thing as a homecoming bonfire!")   It was the most fun thing to build for this show.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisBlackbeard.jpg - Eponine A nice photo of Eponine's return to the barricade to see Marius. Lighting designers: Notice again here the effective light-blue sidelight from the offstage Genie Lift followspots. It draws focus to the actors with a nice halo of light, without casting on the set behind them like front followspots would. Trivia: The interesting "wooden grate" ramp behind her is actually a "pirate ship's hatch" from a professional production of "Bloody Blackbeard" the musical! I thought it looked so cool I just had to find a place for it on the set somewhere!

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisFirstToFall.jpg - First to Fall Wow, I hope we get to use this photo on the archival poster! Very cool.   A somber moment at Eponine's death.   By the way, in this photo you can get a good look at my 16' tall "city flats" across the back wall. Just two weeks earlier these flats were used in a professional production of "Night of the Iguana"!   Yes Paris may not look much like the coast of Mexico, but these flats were just too cool to pass up!  I think these walls worked really well for "Les Mis".

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3436.JPG - Calm Before the Storm A dramatic solo as the students sleep. The director said this was her favorite light cue. Try to imagine the haze in the air, flowing right to left upstage, through all that blue backlight.   I used an amber pool (Lux 21) to simulate "campfire" illumination down-left by Valjean; then a blue-green wash of break-up gobos center on those sleeping people; then some Lux 383 nighttime blue from beyond the barricade. This song is the show's quiet, lump-in-the-throat solo, before all hell breaks loose...

Here's a http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisValjean.jpg - professional photo of that same scene.   The blue backlight is just too cool! You can see why I took the trouble to move all 24 of my 1000 watt Sky Cyc floods from the 4th electric down to the booms hidden inside the windows and doors of the city flats. That Roscolux 383 is just "plum sexy" coming through all the hazer fog behind that barricade!

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3447.JPG - Ammo A sniper hits that kid down-left as he collects ammunition. The gunshot sound effects were done live using an offstage starter pistol from the track team. The dead soldiers are stagehands in costume.

Here's a better http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisAmmo.jpg - professional picture of that scene. The students watch in horror as the wounded kid struggles in the open. Set Designers: Notice here the 2' gap between the barricade and the giant staircases on either side. This is intentional. I did it as an artistic compromise for the sake of safety. There were "dead kids" laying all over that barricade and I feared that an actor would loose an arm, or head, as the turntable spun past those stationary staircases at 100% speed. So I forgave those gaps in my set...in order to sleep well at night.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisTowers.jpg - The Sentries Here's another good shot of the barricade scene. Javert is tied up stage-left. But notice how I used the two staircases from the bridge scene in Act I to complete the look of the barricade. We put two sentry guards up there. The tricky illusion for them was to slowly aim their guns towards the audience as the turntable rotated between them!

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisRope.jpg - Forgiven Valjean releases Javert in an important thematic moment. Notice the nice effect from the hazer and Lux 383 blue gel upstage! Trivia: See that open-top barrel that we used to hold all our muskets? Well that was previously seen full of brooms in Vandergelder's store in "Hello, Dolly!" The white fence behind the red flag was from "Picnic", and hemp rope used to tie up Javert was once part of the ship in "HMS Pinafore"! Yes, I'm Mr. Recycle around here...

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisBattleStarts.jpg - Rotation The turntable is in mid-rotation here for the final conflict. To simulate battle, I used a Rosco Fog machine upstage; the "battle sound effects" from the CD provided; and the light board operator manually flash several PAR cans that I hung on light trees inside the windows of the "city flats" upstage. Yes, aiming lights at the audience is generally a "no-no", but sorry, this scene, and this show, scream out for it...!

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3462.JPG - The Survivors The turntable rotates continually during the battle scenes as the actors continue to fire their guns. Shown here, the smoke settles and the students all die...as Valjean drags Marius off the turntable toward the sewer.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3466.JPG - The Escape My down-stage black scrim slowly flies in as the barricade full of dead kids continues to slowly rotate in the red backlight. A dramatic moment. Valjean drags Marius to the down-right trapdoor. Meanwhile, the crew quickly and quietly strikes the 3 barricade wagons...under the cover of canned sound effects of "sewer dripping", (on the SF/X CD provided with the School Edition scripts).

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisManhole.jpg - Manhole Valjean drops him in the hole. Notice the chuck securing the wagon on the spinning turntable. I added this chuck as a safety precaution before Final Dress for piece of mind...to prevent the possibility of the barricade shifting off the turntable at full speed. (Traditional wagon locks would not work here). The chuck and the casters are not painted...but I didn't fret about it...they were 30 feet from the audience and with so much going on, even I didn't notice them!

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisSewerDead.jpg - Robber Thenardier robs the dead in the sewers. The audience is at least 20 feet away...hopefully far enough that they didn't notice the sneakers on my stagehand playing the "dead body". Totally forgivable, I feel, considering just seconds earlier he was rapidly striking a heavy barricade wagon!

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3473.JPG - The Sewers For years I've used these old Rosco "Les Mis" grate gobos in a number of other shows. FINALLY I get to use them in Les Mis!   The turntable is used once again now as Valjean carries Marius to safety.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3478.JPG - Javert's Angst The 150 pound steel bridge flies to the floor and Javert is isolated in a pool of light to give the illusion that he is once again singing from the top of the two previous staircases. This sets up the next theatrical trick...

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3481.JPG - Suicide! Here is an action photo of Javert's death scene. The split second after he jumps: my fly crew pulls the bridge out - the turntable rotates - and the lights bump to a motorized gobo rotator with a spiral gobo. It looks like he is falling...in a Hitchcockesque style, that is. On opening night this cue got a combined "gasp" from the audience...but on following nights it got a hardy applause break. (Frankly, I didn't hope for this, because applauding for an effect constitutes a momentary lapse in the suspension of disbelief, in my book).

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3483.JPG - The Pivotal Moment My turntable operator, (who is hidden in a cubbyhole within the upstage wall of flats), cranks up the turntable to 100% speed as Javert "goes down the drain", as I call it.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisTurning.jpg - "Turning..." The girls immediately rotate onto the stage in one of the few scenes where I used much color in the lighting. It is a very somber and abstract moment.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3489.JPG - Alone As Marius sings his haunting solo at the street cafe, he rapidly rotates past ghostly comrades from the barricade battle.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisWeddingMoment.jpg - A Little Levity An upbeat moment near the end of the show is the wedding scene.   Our Thenardiers return in foppish costumes to lighten the mood, and ultimately, to give Marius the ring from the sewers. (Costumers: Notice the dresses of the party guests...we altered old bridesmaids dresses that we priviously used in a production of http://www.lowell.to/Studio/smile01.jpg - Smile! several years ago).

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3492.JPG - The Wedding This was the only time I used my stock white cyclorama. I broke up the plainness of it with a border swag of white scrim fabric.   Lighting designers: notice the artsy-fartsy backlight "doorway" effects on the cyc. I simply used my red boom-mounted Sky Cyc floodlights to cast doorway shadows from my city flats! (By the way, I took this pic from the balcony, so that is the sound board in the foreground).

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisWeddingEnd.jpg - Blackout! The second of only two blackouts in the entire musical comes at the end of this comical exit by the Thenardiers. And this is only the second time I go with no color from the Super Trouper followspot as well. (The other time was at the top of the wedding scene when the emcee introduces the Thenardiers). The rest of the show I go with a muted blue-green gel in the Trouper.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3494.JPG - Epilogue Another favorite light cue is Fontine's ghost. I had a typical amber down-pool on Valjean's desk as he reads a letter. And once again, my backstage Genie lift followspots used a light-blue gel to hit her in such a way that she appears to be "floating" here.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3499.JPG - Finale After Valjean dies, all the dead people slowly appear behind the upstage black scrim. Then we slowly bring up all the blue and white 1000 watt floods from the back wall. Yes, in any other show I would be punishing the audience with these, but in this particular case, it creates abstract silhouettes, not unlike the final scene in the movie "Ghost".

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/IMG_3503.JPG - Ramping it up The scrim flies and the cast slowly moves downstage. As the music builds in intensity, all the lights slowly build in a series of 40 second follow-cues.

http://www.lowell.to/DesignLesMis/LMisFinale.jpg - Powerful Finish All 48 voices ring the rafters and the main drape falls. Before it hits the floor, they get a standing ovation - every night! (And like the pros they are, they always refrained from doing that tacky cheer from behind the drape, which has always been one of my pet peeves).

*Here is a school news report that includes the behind the scenes audio from the stage manager's headset.  Be sure to click on "HQ" to watch it in high quality: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462smwE9osY - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=462smwE9osY
 
I was proud of my 23 high school technicians.  The sound crew ran four flawless shows with their 12 wireless body mics...now that's a first!  And as a designer, I was able to get a lot of bang for the buck on my set budget by recycling lots and lots of old crap.  I only spent about $3,000 on the set...including the 4 rented drops, some rented furniture, and the lumber and paint.  The 20' wide remote control turntable was a freebie, as was the metal spiral staircase, the set of 16 replica muskets, and all the barrels and wagon wheels used on the barricade.

It was a memorable production.  Boy, I hated to strike this one.......

This show is not available to community/professional theaters.  But maybe your local high school can do "Les Miserables School Edition" next season!  For more details about booking this show, go to:  http://www.lesmizschooledition.com - www.lesmizschooledition.com
 
 
Break a leg, Dana
 




-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School


Posted By: stagekat
Date Posted: 1/02/09 at 11:38pm
Mr Lowell,
  You mentioned a spiral staircase.  Did you build one from scratch, or were you able to find a reasonably priced kit one somewhere?  We are staging Guilty Conscience, and would really like to use a spiral staircase but don't want to break the bank.  Any suggestions?
 


Posted By: Mr. Lowell
Date Posted: 1/17/09 at 11:41pm

Regarding the excellent spiral staircase that I borrow for this production, please refer to the new forum thread called "Spiral Staircase" for pictures and description:  http://www.communitytheater.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=3708 - http://www.communitytheater.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=3708

 


-------------
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School



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