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Building a New Book

posted by Karen McKevitt on Wed, Oct 5, 2011
in Our shows , Scene shop

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By Lisa Lazar, charge scenic artist

Bill Cain's How to Write a New Book for the Bible, directed by Kent Nicholson, begins performances on Friday. Get a glimpse behind-the-scenes and see how some of the set elements came together for this new play. 

The scene shop is in the middle of building How to Write a New Book for the Bible. We are delighted to work on any show designed by the Scott Bradley.


Carpenter Colin Babcock stands in front of one of the windows he built. This particular window will eventually feature faux stained glass. 


The late-afternoon light spills down on the set model and our custom-cut and custom-stained floorboards. We mix all of our own colors in-house. This allows us to closely match what the designer has specified.


Scenic Fellow Anya Kazimierski and Scenic Artist Margot Leonard (last year’s fellow) lay out stained boards. We put together a miniature version of the floor, so that everyone could visualize what we’d be installing onstage. Every board is carefully stained and sanded. The floor needs to hold up to the wear-and-tear of the show, and must be smooth and actor-friendly.


Carpenters Jamaica Montgomery-Glenn (last season’s properties fellow) and BJ Lipari pre-install the stained boards. Since this show is a co-production with Seattle Rep, the entire set needs to break apart for transport. Floor panels fit together like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. This way, the floor is modular, but the audiences will never notice the seams.


The zigzag lines indicate the edges of the under-flooring. We cut all these panels on our robotic computer numeric controlled router table.

These photos are a great illustration of the sort of things we do in the scene shop. We build architectural elements that integrate perfectly into the show. Hopefully, the floors and windows of our scenery look exactly right, as if they were always part of the world of the play.

I can’t tell you how many people have seen a show at Berkeley Rep, and then later spoken to me about the scenery and said something along the lines of, “Wait, you built that?” It always makes me smile when audiences don’t realize that a team of artisans engineered, built and painted what they saw onstage. 



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