I have been working with Cardinal Stritch’s Theatre Department set crew for three years now. I have seen every show I have worked on, twelve altogether. I have helped to plan twelve sets, helped to build twelve sets and helped paint twelve sets. Among my favorites have been Urinetown, Rumplestiltskin, Drowsy Chaperone and now Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. Each of these shows had a different cast, different crew and a different atmosphere. Scenes from these shows included rusty sewers, magical woods, in-flight airplanes, and now steam-punk London.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was released in theatres in December of 2011 and we were creating the same storyline, except Live and on stage. Some differences between the shows would be the availability of funding, the locations and the well-known actors. One major difference between these types of performances would be that on stage you only get one shot. This became very evident when the fog machines set off the fire alarms and the entire audience had to be evacuated out of the building. This has only happened twice before to my knowledge during a performance of Rumplestiltskin and The Drowsy Chaperone, when the fog was just too abundant.
Our version of Sherlock Holmes, subtracting the minor fire alarm, was very successful. The actors pulled off their roles convincingly well, especially Sean Jackson as ‘Sherlock’ and Austin Gomez as ‘Dr. Watson’. Another favorite character of mine, though a minor character was Christen Lee as ‘James Norton’s Sister’, her character played a character in a character. The acting was all right, no one character really far outshined another and the dynamics of the script allowed for characters roles to be highlighted at different point throughout the show.
I got to see the progression of the set from start to finish as I have with many other sets. This one was a bit more detail oriented than the others. We painted seven-color rust detail on windows, doors, gears and other metal pieces to embellish the set. We painted four-layer ‘dirt’ washes and mud on brick walls and the stage floor. We had added two different colors of ‘pipe leakage’ at every connection of pipes and where the waterfall ran. I personally didn’t work on the curtain waterfall as I would have had some suggestions for changing it so it had the same amount of detail as the rest of the set. The lighting on the set pieces and the embellishments on the costumes worked really well with the ‘steam-punk’ theme that they designers were going for. Where the lights landed on the sets, they had hard edges and inorganic designs in the gobos used to create lit shapes by shining light through a piece of metal with the shape cut out of it. The costumes were embellished with small gears and grommets to support the ‘steam –punk’ image.
This cultural experience was both had by working with the unique set of set crew workers and seeing a live-preformed piece of art. Theatre people, at least at Stritch, are unique in the way that they are both a bit theatrically nerdy and don’t have a problem with speaking what is on their minds. Working with them for an hour will tell you so much about a particular person, but after having worked with some of them for almost three years, they are pretty close. Seeing the show live is also a cultural experience because you are in the action, as it happens. It is pre-scripted and rehearsed, yes, but one instance would be when the characters are smoking real cigarettes on stage, after a few moments, the audience can smell the cigarettes being smoked. I highly recommend going to see a live performance of any show as it is such a rewarding and thrilling event, if you pay attention to the details.