Summer’s winding down which means we’re winding up at LWT. The first show of our season, Disgraced, doesn’t start performances until October 14th, but our scene shop has already completed building the first flats of the season for the show. They’re particularly excited about the set for this show because they’re trying out a new building material called finger jointed pine that they’re hopeful will solve a couple of problems they face each season.
Usually they use 1×4 pieces of lumber to construct the walls of our sets (or the flats). However, our Assistant Technical Director Dylan Callery explained to us that lumber today is commonly harvested from young trees and the younger the tree the less straight the lumber it produces ends up being. So the carpenters in our shop have been spending increasing amounts of time forcibly straightening pieces of lumber to make them work, or, for the boards that end up completely unusable, the shop loses money having to throw them out.
Even when regular lumber works out fine to build the sets, our shop still faces an environmental challenge many other theatres don’t necessarily have. Dylan told us with LWT so close to the waters of Long Island Sound the air here remains damp and humid most of the time. The moisture in the air can wreck havoc on our mostly wooden sets over a period of time. Flats often begin to bow throughout the run of a show or do something referred to as ‘potato chipping’, damaging around the corners. Our scene shop crew then has to battle to keep the sets in good enough condition throughout the run of a show so they will structurally and aesthetically last until closing.
The sets for most of our shows have to only last for the length of one production. So the set pieces built in August and September for Disgraced would under normal circumstances only have to make it to closing on November 8th. However, since Disgraced is a co-production with The Huntington Theatre Company this show’s set has to survive through not just LWT’s shows, but also a deconstruction, a move to Boston, a reconstruction, and another month long run at The Huntington. In terms of time, the set pieces built this month have to hold up until February 7th of next year when The Huntington finishes it’s performances.
Hence our scene shop crew is hoping that taking a chance on this new building material will pay off and it will resist the onslaught of LWT’s damp air. It’s already helped cut down on time and labor in the building process, but that’s not really the shop’s main concern. Our crew takes a lot of pride in the work that comes out of their shop. So in the spirit of Hallmark cards, they care enough to send the very best. When Disgraced moves on to Boston they want that city’s audience to learn what our audiences already know: only the highest quality art and craftsmanship make it onstage in an LWT production.