Friday, February 03, 2006

The Late Shift

Right now in the Shimberg Playhouse, audiences have a rare opportunity to see the room look two very different ways in one evening. As a black box theater, the Shimberg can really be used in countless ways. It's also not typically unusual to see two shows play in the room in one night, Jobsite has made a reputation for late night shows such as A Girl's Guide to Chaos and the blockbuster shows in the (abridged) series.

This year however Jobsite is completely testing the boundaries of what can be done in the room by doing two plays using two completely different setups. First, in the early position, Jobsite is producing Suzan-Lori Parks' 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner Topdog/Underdog. This play is performed in a "tennis court" style, meaning the audience is on both sides of the set which sits in the middle of the room.

Following performances of Topdog/Underdog on the weekends, Jobsite is offering another late night comedy, Phyro-Giants! That show is performed in the proscenium configuration, meaning the audience is directly facing the stage (what you'd normally expect when you go to a play) which is on the opposite side of the room from where you enter.

What makes this all the more interesting is that Topdog/Underdog ends about 20 minutes before the curtain goes up on Phyro-Giants! The shift between shows happens in 5 minutes with a crew of 6. First, the furniture for T/U is moved backstage, then the walls of the set are shifted back behind the curtains in the room. Next, the chairs on the secondary seating bank for T/U are moved to the floor (where the set was just a few minutes ago) facing that secondary bank, which then becomes the stage for Phyro-Giants! A ladder is brought out to hide the practical lighting for T/U, the table and chairs are set on what is now the stage for P-G! and then the house is opened for the second show while the final set dressing is going on for P-G! This all occurs while the T/U audience is exiting the theater.

This process only leaves about 15 minutes to get the Phyro-Giants! audience in the door and into their seats. Luckily, there have yet to be any problems. It's a testament to the planning on the part of the production team of Erica Porch (stage manager), Brian Smallheer (set design) and John Lott (light design) who have managed both shows with skill.

Both shows are getting excellent reviews, and are on stage now through Feb. 12.

- David J.

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