About Dyan Burlingame

Posts by Dyan Burlingame:

KCACTF Nationals at Washington DC by Kim Dai

It was a great honor to be chosen to represent region II in Set Design at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Nationals in Washington D.C.. I was chosen for my set design for Hedda Gabler, at the same time Tannis Kappell the lighting designer for the show had also been chose to go to Nationals. We headed to the Buffalo Niagara Airport Tuesday morning anxious of the few days ahead that is to come.

At our arrival at the Kennedy Center, we were instructed to set up our design presentation amongst other designers that were chose. There are 8 regions and therefore 8 set designers, lighting designers, sound designer and costume designers setting up.
For the scene designers, our respondent was Tony Cisek. After brief presentations from the student designers, Tony asked us questions about the design as well as gave us feed back.

The following three days was master classes with Skip (C.W. Mercier). Both the scene designers and the costume designers attended the session and it was set up so since Skip is both a scenic designer and costume designer. We did 3 small projects with him and also a lot of talking which was super helpful.
The first assignment was to draw our selves naked in the mirror as a homework assignment before we got to the festival. We pinned our drawings up on the wall and he pointed out to us scale and proportion issues with our drawing. He said the biggest present he could give us is to have us draw ourselves naked once a week (he does so).

The second assignment was also a pre-assignment where we had to read the script for Bacchae. We went over the script and did some scene sketching. He also shared with us his 12 step process for designing that I will list here.

Skip’s 12 Step Design Process:
1. Understand the Story (Before talking to the director). At the first meeting with the director, do not bring any visual image.
2. List what the play can’t do with out.
3. Answer the Who, What, Where of the story.
4. Identify 10 key moments in the play.
5. Find out what of the play you identify with.
6. Create an emotional response to the story.
7. Perspective sketching for the 10 scenes of the play.
8. Research to understand the time and place of the play.
9. Identify the themes of the story.
10. More research.
11. Create a visual response without worrying about the theatre space.
12. Learn about the space it’s happening in and understand your resources.

Skip said that he is never worried about being stuck in the design process because he follows his 12 steps. That must be nice! I think I might try this process out sometime. However, many of the design steps he takes can be identified with design lessons taught by Lynne.

The third assignment was to design a set for a script that Skip provided for us; Cap O’ Rushes, an English folktale. He wanted us to design the set with the mindset that our director was Tim Burton. Everyone had great ideas and did such a good job within the limited amount of time. For this assignment, the costume designers had to design costumes for all the characters. I was very jealous of each and every one of their quick sketching skills.  A costume designer, Michelle Ney, also participated in this exercise. Her sketches were so awesome and she did it in such a matter of 3 hours!

In addition for the workshops, I got to meet many awesome student designers. It was a great experience and allowed me to see what I need to work on as a theatre artist.

USITT National Conference by Matt Oliner

This past week I was in Long Beach, California attending the USITT National conference. This conference is for any one in the world of theater design and technology, and entertainment.

While at this conference I attended a lot of different sessions along with the trade show floor. Some of the sessions I attended where on the Prague Quadrennial, color, Disney, specific designers, and digital portfolios.  While theses are just some of the sessions I attended there where many more ranging for cruises, to architectural design and everything in between.

While in the session about Disney I was able to learn that Disney uses the same technologies, and process of design as I do. I found this very interesting because I always thought that they did stuff differently, but this is not true. The only main difference between the ways I do things and the way Disney does thing is that Disney has a lot more zeros on the checks they write. What I did also find out is that in creating Disney’s new attraction World of Color in California the lighting designer used a program called ESP Vision, which I have started to learn. So because of this I fell like I am on the right track to perfecting my craft and maybe working for Disney some day.

USITT National Conference by Joe Nasby

Over the past week, I was in Long Beach, California, attending the annual United States Institute for Theatre Technology’s conference. My initial intent for going was to learn more about combining electrical components, such as Electroluminescent Wire (or EL-Wire), with costume design to create self-illuminating garments. While I did glean some pertinent information, such as different fabrics that will be useful and different control options, the information learned overall were things I had already taught myself through research and hands-on experimentation.

One session that I was looking forward to was Cyber Costumes, and was seemingly focused on how to integrate lighting systems into clothing. While that was the case, I did not learn anything new, and actually am questioning some of the information that was given. The session focused on different lighting tools, such as EL-Wire and EL-Tape (similar to EL-Wire, but was wider and only illuminated on one side), and showed various costumes that implemented those tools. In addition to the different lighting accessories available, the session also talked about various methods of control, specifically an Arduino designed for costume implementation called a Lily Pad Arduino. The Lily Pad is a microprocessor that allows the user to program various effects into the tiny processing chip, and operate the attachment, such as EL-Wire, accordingly. In essence, a user can program the Lily Pad to cycle through several different EL-Wires and light them up in a user-determined pattern (similar to a chase effect). One interesting thing I had taken away from the session, besides the Lily Pad (prior to the session, I had done research into using PIC microcontrollers to implement various effects using EL-Wire. While possibly, the Lily Pad seems a more beneficial route, as it is specifically designed for costumes), is that the Lily Pad can be controlled wirelessly using a device called an X-Bee. While not much information was given, it has become obvious that I will need to do research into Arduinos and the X-Bee to further my research project.

 One of the experts on the panel had previously worked for Barnum and Bailey Circus using EL-Wire and EL-Tape to create self-illuminating garments. For those of you who are unaware, EL-Wire is a copper wire covered in powdered phosphorous. When an electrical charge is carried through the wire, the phosphorous emits a glow. The color is determined by the color of the outer neon sheath surrounding the wire. Another questioner asked if it was possible to change the color of the light emitted by the EL-Wire using paint. One of the panel members had said no, but I almost wonder if it is in fact possible. I will concede, using standard flat paint you can buy at any hardware store would not work (light would not be able to emit through the paint), but what about the cheap arts and crafts stained glass paint you can buy at any Arts and Crafts store? That, theoretically, would be able to emit light through it and alter the color of the light. However, until I actually sit down and experiment with it, I cannot say for certain.

The session also introduced me to conductive fabrics. While the notion of conductive fabric seems counterintuitive and unsafe from a physics based stand-point (insulated fabric made from rubber fibers makes more sense in terms of safety), its use is actually quite interesting. Conductive fabrics’ initial purpose is to spread a charge throughout the fabric, preventing a charge from entering the body at one concentrated point. It’s predominately used in creation of electrically safe gloves and other electrically safety clothing pieces. But what interested me is its application as a sort of switch that can be sewn into costumes. Imagine two lead wires connected to two separate pieces of conductive fabrics. Apart, the circuit is not complete. But when brought together, say by pressing the two pieces together, the circuit is complete and the accessory lights up. This ultimately would allow user controlled garments to exist on stage without the need to press or manipulate a hard plastic switch attached to a battery pack. In essence, the soft switch (soft because it is made from two pieces of fabric), can be created into the costume, allowing for more interesting designs.

In essence, the conference had given me some new information to consider when creating self-illuminating garments, such as different types of processors and the notion of soft switches, but much of the information covered I had already learned through self-exploration and research. If the conference has taught me anything, it is that I need to stop gathering research for some aspects, and start putting my knowledge to use.

What does it mean to be a Student Production Manager by Allison Kesselring

At the University at Buffalo, the students request design/production assignments. Seeing as I have a background in stage management I decided that it would be a great experience to serve as a production stage manager this semester. But then came the thought, what does that actually entail? Our department already has an equity production stage manager hired by the department who mentors the student stage managers.

After speaking with the production stage manager and the student stage managers I began to make a list of questions that the student stage managers had and responsibilities that the production stage manager had. After creating that list I sat down with the production stage manager and made a syllabus. This meeting resulting in the decision that my main job would be to help the student stage managers on track, especially with their paperwork.

After the meeting I sat down and created a “Stage Manager Master Task Sheet.” I then had a meeting with the stage managers individually and gave them a copy of the task list that I created. They went through the task list, asked questions and I reformatted the task list. Listed below is what the final task list became.

I was told by the stage managers that this was a very helpful list and helped keep them stress-free and ahead of the game. I am showing this with you, fellow stage managers that might be reading this, hopefully this list will help you in your productions or you might even add to your own list.





Make copies of the script and distribute

Read the script….again…again…again

Create Prompt Book


Rehearsal script


Cueing script


Dividers (label)

Contact Sheets


Create Rehearsal and Performance Report Templates

Create Rehearsal and Performance Report E-mail Lists

Have a Meeting with the Director

First Day Business

Rehearsal Edict

Code of Conduct

Late Policy


Rehearsal Schedule

Scene Breakdown

First Day Business Packets

Contact Sheets

Cast List

Director’s Note

Scene Breakdown

Production Schedule

Rehearsal Schedule

Data Sheet


ASM Responsibilities/Checklists

Rehearsal Schedules w/ Director Deadlines (off-book, etc.)

Master Production Calendar (with tech deadlines)

Scene Breakdown

Emergency Contact Info.

Rehearsal Report Template

Performance Report Template

Pre-Cue Sheets (get from Melinda if using post-it method)

Prop Lists/Track Sheets

Costume Plot/Lists


Blocking Key

Cast List

Sheet

Meet with ASMs

Scheduling and Responsibilities

Call Board

Scene Breakdown

Cast List

Sheet

Production Calendar

Rehearsal Calendar

Tape floor



First Day Business

Set up Rehearsal Space

Get Rehearsal Props and Organize Prop Cabinet

Keep Rehearsal Time – Keep on Track

Keep Track of Breaks

Keep Track of Actor Absences/Lates

Keep Notes for Production Meetings/Rehearsal Reports

Send out Rehearsal Reports

Prop Tracking

Time Run

Help Schedule Fittings

Breakdown Rehearsal Space



God Mic

Determine Calling Area


Run Sheets

Updated Costume Plot

Preset Checklists

Tech/Performance Sign-In Sheets

ASM Checklists

SM Checklists

Preliminary Cue Sheets

Paper Tech (if need be)

Meet with Crew

Call Times

Dress Code

Late Policy




HM Notes

Late Seating

Total Run Time

Per Act Run Time

Intermission Time




Loud Sound Effects

Introduce Crew to Actors

Talk to Actors about Go/Hold

Remain calm and remember to breath!



Performance Reports

Sheets




Strike List (if needed)

Final Space Walk Through

Archive Prompt Book


USITT National Conference by Courtney Ricigliano

During USITT in Long Beach, CA I had the opportunity to go to a workshop run by Steven Norman Lee, the costume designer for the reality television show, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). In this workshop he explained how DWTS differs from theatre and how it is alike.

His week starts Tuesday night after the DWTS results show. As this is live television he does not know who will be around for the next week and therefore cannot start ideas/build until results are in. Tuesday night he meets with all the remaining Dancer/Celebrity Duos and they talk about ideas for the next week. At this point they only have a theme. They will get their music for the first time usually the Monday of the show. There is no time for rendering, no time for research, no time for ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’. Steven Norman Lee and the Dancer/Celebrity duo’s must come up with their concept in that meeting. Also not only is he dealing with the dancer and the celebrity’s ideas, but also the producers. In regards to the design team, there is no time to collaborate. So for lighting in particular, everything is sequined and bedazzled to be seen no matter what the lighting is.

Wednesday they buy fabric. All fabric must be purchased Wednesday to start build immediately.  Every item, shirt, skirt, suit, pants, EVERYTHING is built for this show. This can mean sometimes 40 costumes for one show! And this is just the Monday show. On the Tuesday results show you can have guest dancers that need costumes, which brings an additional 20-40 costumes that need built!  Also, everything is built with stretch. This makes it easier when you only have two fittings (if you’re lucky). (…Did I mention that there is a separate costume designer for the judges? That build is also going on too…)

Thursday they start to cut the fabric and build.  Friday is first fittings. Saturday is another day devoted to build and Sunday is their last fitting. (Only 3-4 days to build!)

Monday an hour before the show the dancer’s and celebrities see their finished costumes for the first time. There is no time for error. This is a live show, very much like theatre so if something goes wrong they need to think fast and fix it. After they get into their costumes they go to hair and makeup where they do makeup and hair completely independent from the costume designer.

DWTS costuming unlike theatre is a very fast paced environment. There is no time for character analysis, research, renderings, pulling, swatching etc. You need to be able to think fast and go with it. With DWTS you are working with a range of people with different body shapes, and insecurities- you’re not just working with actors.

Designer Debut by Chelsea Bath

This semester I designed a show for the first time. I accepted a position as the sound designer of a play called “Fen” by Caryl Churchill, performed in our black box theatre. I had never planned in any kind of sound designing, but after being thrown into the deep end of sound technology, I managed to learn a lot and actually enjoy myself. Exploring the design of a show from the inside is a new experience for me, but an entirely thrilling and exhausting one. I spent days of my life listening to tractor engines starting up and crickets chirping in the night. I arranged music and composed pieces. I was pushed as an artist and my creative mind learned every step of the way. While all of this was brand new, I was able to use skills that I had acquired from other jobs to accomplish my goals and duties as a sound designer.

Arranging music and rehearsing with actors a year ago would have been intimidating beyond belief. But, after two semesters of music theory, I managed to get three actors with little to no musical experience to sing a song together, on tempo, and even harmonize with each other. I also composed underscoring for several scenes after spending countless hours pounding away at the piano like Beethoven after he lost his hearing, except that what I came up with is hardly a 5th symphony. These things at first seemed like impossible tasks, until I collected my thoughts and realized that I had these skills all along. And thanks to my experience as a Stage Manager and Director, I know the importance of self-imposed deadlines and communication among everyone on the team. I also learned just how valuable other designers can be. After all, they’re working on the same show, maybe they have some similar ideas and opinions. Overall, my advice to all new designers is to remember that you already have all the skills you need to succeed; you just have to figure out how to use them to your advantage. And if there happens to be a skill you haven’t yet acquired, there is always someone nears you who knows how to do it and is more than willing to help you; all you have to do is ask.

The 10-Act Play: The Ten Crucial Steps to Going from Undergrad to Grad Seamlessly by Ryan Gleason

Deciding on the next steps after undergraduate studies can be can be a bit tough. However, if there is even some inclination to go to graduate school then URTA (University/Resident Theatre Association) would be a perfect next step. I have composed a sequence of steps to aid any theatre undergraduate student in the graduate search based on my own recent experience. One thing to remember is that there are many options for a future in theatre, graduate school is only one of them.

  1. 1.      Reflect

Take your time. Deciding to go to graduate school takes the same amount of time and dedication as actually completing grad school. The best way to find out if grad school is for you to ask yourself, “What would I like to do for the rest of my life even if I didn’t get paid to do it?” If the answer is unanimously theatre then grad school is a great future where you will continue to develop your theatre design/ technical skills as well as learn new methods hands –on with professionals in the field. While you are at it, you might want to answer a few other questions on if grad school will be right for you.

-What do I expect to get out of grad school?

-What area or areas do I want to study? Do I want to study an area outside of theatre also?

-What locations would be best for me in terms of education and opportunities?

-Is teaching a crucial component of my graduate career?

-What would I do if I didn’t get into grad school? Or couldn’t do theatre anymore?

This list of questions will both help to talk to a mentor to the full extent and prepare you mentally in order to own your decision.

  1. 2.      Discuss

Talking with an instructor or anyone that has been through this process will be a great help. They will be able to generate a list of credible schools as well as a list of schools that gear more to your own studies and interests. Make sure you write all of these schools down and star all the ones that really interest you. This step will get you on your way to grad school. A good mentor will also help you throughout the process in answering any questions that you may have.

  1. 3.      Research

Look into all of the schools your mentor mentions to you. Find out:

-Their location

-The tuition

-Their scholarships/assistantships and any financial aid

-Their courses

-What jobs past graduates obtained

-Who the faculty are

-Nearby apartments

-The amount of shows you will get to work on

Determine what makes each school unique to set them apart from other schools. Then narrow your list to about five.

  1. 4.      Prepare

When it comes to preparation there are two main aspects to prepare: your portfolio and your interviews. Since URTA is a combination of portfolio review and college interview, most of the work that will have to be done will be for this step. For URTA there are three types of “portfolios” to create: hard copy form, a website, and a display. While putting together these displays of your work just remember to be yourself. Anyone can create a portfolio that is beautiful, but few can create one that captures the essence of who you are and what you can bring to any school. Putting these together will in the end prepare you for your interviews at URTA. As with your portfolios answer all questions truthfully and allow the interviewer to feel a connection with you. This will help you and them in finding the best future company.

  1. 5.      Attend

Make sure you make all the plans to attend URTA, meaning paying all the fees, deciding how you will spend your weekend, and making sure you have everything that you need to impress. URTA will be the most strenuous interview process ever and visiting the URTA website will prepare you for this journey (www.urta.com). Just remember to dress your best, bring a notebook to take down notes, and be personable. The day will fly by and schools will soon begin to merge together. Above all, be honest and be yourself.

  1. 6.      Contact

After URTA be sure to thank everyone that took the time to interview you. These people obviously saw something that they liked in you and reminding them of what sets you apart from the remaining applicants and of your unique traits which may be what they base their decision on.

  1. 7.      Visit

Make sure you make all the plans to take a visit of a campus or two, especially the ones that you are most interested in. There are many great schools in the Midwest and due to their proximity to each other a devoted weekend to college visits may yield visits to at least three schools, which was my case. At each campus that I visited there were four major parts for each visit. The first part was a tour. This is a great way to take in the full experience and ask any questions if something doesn’t look as promised. This may also include the attendance to a class or two. The next component is a lunch with the current grad students. This is the time to impress the current students as well as ask anything about the student experience. Just remember that the lunch is another informal interview that may or may not affect the school’s decision. The third component is a portfolio review with faculty that have not seen your work yet. This is a time to pretend you are at URTA again and remember everything that you have learned up until this point. Remember that you are in control of the situation and focus even more time on the projects that you feel the best about. The last component will be a wrap-up. This is a great time to ask any final questions and to leave the school with a great final impression of yourself on them.

  1. 8.      Inform

Many schools that you visit and that are interested in you will want to know how the remainder of your visits went. Keep them informed and remember to include any information on current work you are working on to show that you are a well-rounded candidate that has a lot of experience under their belt.

  1. 9.      Hope

Just remember that whatever happens is for the best. If you do not receive any offers there is always next year and maybe you will receive a better offer. Just take in all the criticism that you may have received from the different schools and you can return to URTA the following year at full force.

  1. 10.  Decide

As all the offers come in, make sure you find the best one for you. You are the only person at that point that can make any type of decision. Just remember your entire journey and you will make the best decision for you.

Hopefully these steps allowed for an insight into your future or at least gave you something to think about. No matter what happens, good luck and always remember your passion for theatre.

Danceable Bubbles by Caitlin McLeod

Currently at the University at Buffalo we are creating the world of “Grease” the musical. I am working in the costume shop this semester and have been assigned the task of creating the bubble headdresses for “Beauty School Drop Out”!
There are four dancers that are going to be wearing these headpieces. So not only do the bubbles need to be extremely durable during the dance, but they also need to be secure on their head. To top it all off the headpiece needs to be put on during a quick change – don’t they always…
My project has taken on many forms so far in its development. I created a few prototypes, but now we finally have a concrete plan which I am in the midst of executing.
The original plan involved plastic canvas, as a foundation, plastic play balls, spray painted and covered in glittery fabric, Easter eggs, spray painted, clear Christmas ornaments, and finally spray foam to hold me all together.
I began by patterning out a hat-like base, then sewing some of the play bills and ornaments to it, and en adding in spray foam. While the spray foam was still soft i placed the bottoms of the easter eggs into the foam to give it some bubble dimension. I probably made 4 layers like this, working upwards until the headpiece was around 9″ above the dancers forehead.
The end result looked more like a cake than a pile of bubbles, so revisions were made.
It was decided that the opaque nature of the foam and playbills and Easter eggs were not giving the right effect. So we put those aside and focused on the plastic ornaments.
After testing a few options we case to afix our plastic ornament bubbles to plastic sheeting. The sheeting is the same shatterproof plastic used in hockey masks. I then used scissors to cut out a cone-like pattern. This plastic cone became the base of the headpiece. To hold in the dancers hair we have a head wrap that is spandex, allowing them to easily slip in and grip their head and create a snug fit. The cone base will the be sewn to the head wrap, along with a chin strap for extra stability.
I am the using a stencil cutter, a hot utensil which melts plastic, to create holes in the plastic cone to push the hook of the ornament through. The end look is a collection of transparent bubbles, the exact look we wanted.
Today I even dyed some of the plastic bubbles pinks and purples using rit due at high concentrations. The effect gives us more of the colorful nature of bubbles that we see in real life.
I am looking forward to the end result of all of them together!