Lucky number seven: seven props students help deliver seven Directors’ and Designers’ Productions

1 December 2017

Lucky number seven: seven props students help deliver seven Directors’ and Designers’ Productions

BFA (Properties and Objects) year two students Nick Gregson and Siobhan Earley with their sculpture

Beavering away behind the scenes at this year’s Directors’ and Designers’ Productions are seven dedicated Bachelor of Fine Arts (Properties and Objects) year two students. Unlike the host of actors performing in these shows, their job isn’t to be seen or heard – but to create eye-catching pieces and disaster-proof stage props.

From flamboyant masks and a glorious crown, to a pink torture cross and curvaceous rock sculpture, the students have been hard at work these past few weeks to ensure everything is ready for the seven productions next week.

‘It’s definitely been a case of all hands on deck,’ said BFA (Properties and Objects) year two student Nick Gregson.

‘We only had a three-week build period from the time we received the design to the time we had to hand it off,’ added BFA (Properties and Objects) year two student Siobhan Earley. ‘There isn’t time to say, “That didn’t work, let’s try it again.” You really have to problem-solve and get it to work.’

In among the busy props workshops, the pair have been working together on a relatively large rock sculpture, which will form the centrepiece to the production Persona. Gregson handled the shaping and form, while Earley worked on the scenic elements.

‘It’s a very minimalist set with the rock in the centre of it,’ said Earley. ‘And there’s a lot of white drapes and space around it – so it’s very much the only piece that the actors interact with. The actors climb on it and they interact around it. It’s the centre of the set that they exist in.’

Because the actors aren’t only interacting with each other during the performance, but with the props and set as well, they – along with the Director, Master of Fine Arts (Directing) student Matthew Taylor – have had input on the duo’s work, with collaborative cross-disciplinary sessions to work out the finer details.

‘We did a lot of liaising with the actors and designers. We also had the Director come down and lie down on the sculpture and offer guidance about what he wanted from it and I’d make adjustments based on that,’ said Gregson.

‘The centre part of the rock’s wave was actually added during my initial discussions with Damien Egan, the Designer. The piece was changed again when we received some feedback from the actors about where and how they wanted to sit, to make it more comfortable and ergonomic for them.’

To achieve cohesiveness with the entire stage and set, Earley worked closely with the production’s Lighting Designer, BFA Technical Theatre and Stage Management year three student Veronique Benett, to ensure the colour of sculpture was right for the lighting that would be used during the show.

‘Because we knew early on it was going under blue light, we were talking to the Lighting Designer and rather than her changing her whole vision for the show, it was easier for me to take certain colours out of my paint so when it was hit with that blue light, it would look precisely how it should.’

By working on these productions, the students are reaching new levels in their training to prepare them for their third year at NIDA.

‘Next year, in our third year, we manage the props departments for each full-scale production during the student seasons. And for each show the first year BFA Properties and Objects students assist us in the making the pieces. This Directors’ and Designers’ project is sort of a hybrid in between this year and next, where we’re able to take a step up and start managing smaller shows as a workshop to prepare us for the year to come,’ said Earley.

‘This project is helping us get our heads around scheduling and budgeting and leading projects,’ added Gregson. ‘So when we get our first year assistant next year for the student production seasons, we’re able to organise them as well as ourselves.’

Catch some of the Properties and Objects students stunning work in the Directors’ and Designers’ Productions 6–9 December, https://www.nida.edu.au/productions/productions/nida-presents/nida-student-productions