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We hit the Arts Office hard this weekend to put in place some of our set but mostly, we focused on building the stage for Smitten.

Yes, the stage! The residency has enabled us to afford to build our own staging, something which will stand in good stead to us for the next few years! It’s the first time we’ve done anything approximating a proper stage in the Arts Office for any of the shows and we’re hoping that it really adds to the bigger theatrical vibe in Smitten.

We’ve deliberated over the past few weeks as to what we’d use as a floor. We wanted a bit more variety than the carpet of the Arts Office (which in fairness has done us proud in Scratcher and Shifting) but we’re also well aware that the dancing mightn’t work as well on a wooden stage… lots of unwanted noise as 10 actors hop, leap and tap around the place. We’ve done some basic dance tests that seem to indicate we should be okay. But we’re not going to know until we do the testing the week before the show.

We’ve put it in place and it looks really well and hopefully it will set this play apart from the other two productions. Eddie Brennan, our set designer of many years, put the plan in place for the floor and assisted by an army of our crack team of theatre professionals, the staging was built and (slightly) fitted on Saturday. The pictures here will give you some idea as to how it’s looking.

This past weekend we spent many hours turning the Arts Office into one big production factory as set building, rehearsals, costume fittings, dressing room buildings, prop design and a whole bunch of singing and dancing.

And of course, there’s the above picture of what the finished product is going to be like. Designed by Eddie, with some help on the visual presentation front here by Paddy Dunne, it doesn’t stray too far from our initial Smitten set design of 2008. It’s framed by the familiar arch of the Butterslip (which as you can see here is perfectly created by the arch in No. 76). The rest of the set is a magic realism version of various Kilkenny attractions like the Tholsel, Canice’s Tower and obviously Kilkenny Castle. They’re all quite colourful, like the rest of the play really and keeps with our general rainbow aesthetic that we’ve got going on with Smitten.

The basic idea with the set was to do a classic Hollywood musical designed by Michel Gondry and then run from there. So that’s what we’re aiming for… will we achieve it? Fingers crossed!

Whilst we’re dashing off to Cork for Solstice, the set will be put in place in the Arts Office for the Kilkenny run. Obviously the plan is that it looks something like what you see in the above picture.We want to create a fully immersive experience for the audience in as much as we can and we’re quietly confident that it’s really going to transform the space for what will be our third and final time!

As for Cork? We’re bringing 2 plinths, 6 chairs and 2 boxes of props. We could call it downscaled but that’s an argument for another day.

Smitten plays No. 76 John Street from June 26th – July 2nd. Tickets are available from the Arts Office and on 056 – 7794138.

From yellow to black.

For the first time since we’ve started our residency here in No. 76, we’ve decided to try and make the space look like a proper black box theatre. So this time we’re going to black out the walls, install a proper lighting rig and even go as far as building a stage. Yes, we’re going all out theatrical on this one. (Well, in as much as we can in a space that’s not a theatre. There won’t be a balcony or anything)

Which makes sense considering how theatrical Smitten is in itself. In fact, anything less probably wouldn’t have worked so well. The play is all about magical realism so we’re working overtime to make sure that the experience is properly magical for the audience and not too real. It’s a 70/30 balance we’re hoping… (they say optimistically)

Set building begins proper in here tomorrow morning and goes on all weekend so pop in if you want to look at us transforming this place beyond some form of recognition! Or else, a lot of people covered in black paint and cursing at each other. Once we’ve made a few more movements on the set itself, we’ll show you our initial design and we’ve gone about transforming the space. But for now, here’s a look at the lovely white walls and open space of No. 76 being transformed into a dark, black box type space. And you’ll also probably find a few little clues as to how we’re transforming the space for Smitten. Watch this space… we’re painting it black.

The dawning realisation that we’re nearly halfway through Shifting hit  us during this weekend. Time certainly flies. And when you’re on residency here in No. 76 and you’ve got a production every 2 months, then time really flies an awful lot quicker.

This weekend we arrived at the stage where the play is pretty much blocked (give or take a few entrances and exits) so now we have another 3 weeks to knock it all into shape, tighten it up, throw things out, throw new things back in and generally make the best play that we possibly can. The actors on this one have taken to a Devious Theatre production like fish to water and I’m already confident that they’re going to really establish themselves as some of the best young actors in Kilkenny once the play opens. It’s been great to get so many talented young people into the Arts Office and have them making theatre.

One of our big areas of focus on this production is going to be turning No. 76 into the sitting room location that Shifting takes place in. I think people might well think that the formation we used for Scratcher is going to be the one we’ll use here but there’s a big difference between having an abstract dole office set up and a fully functional sitting room for a house party.

Our set designer Eddie Brennan came up with the idea of building a sitting room into the corner of the Arts Office where there’s already existant windows and doors. Then we had the idea that because the play happens in real time that we can use a certain amount of natural lighting which hopefully will look quite nice if the sun comes onside with us! We’ve put out a call for couches (which was kindly answered) and we’re slowly but surely starting to move in everything that will turn the space into a sitting room. The toughest part is going to be the walls. We know we want them to be yellow (like the colour scheme in the poster) but we’re not sure if wallpaper or paint is going to be our best bet yet. What we do know is that we want to have a really well laid out, immersive, detailed set that will give the actors plenty to interact with and can really thrust the audience into the world of the play. At least that’s the idea!

Turning No. 76 into different theatrical spaces has been one of the most exciting parts of the residency. We really enjoyed giving audiences a completely unique experience for Scratcher and we’re equally excited about doing it for Shifting. Audiences like to walk into new spaces and see something that they haven’t before. For us, we get to take our blank canvas of a room and turn it into something else altogether. We hope it’s going to make for an exciting theatrical experience when the play opens in 3 weeks time.

So make sure you come along between April 18th and 23rd and see what we’ve done with the place!

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Art at No. 76

The aim and focus of the Art Residency at No. 76 is to enable the successful applicant to research and develop their practice. Other aims of the residency are to: give insights into how and why artists create their work, build relationships and further promote the Arts, provide an awareness and further appreciation of the Arts, cultivate and develop new audiences. The Kilkenny Arts Office is part of ArtLinks.ie

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February 2017
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