How To: Light a Fire in a Crowded Theater
Posted by Adam Immerwahr on October 16th, 2009
Okay, not really. Lighting a fire in a crowded theater would be dangerous. Theaters are flammable. So are crowds. The whole thing would be a disaster.
So what do you do when the designer (the illustrious David Korins) designs a set that features a big old fireplace in a big old country mansion? Okay, the best thing to do is to build a propane fire. Propane fires tend to get hot and burn down sets, so you should make sure you build your set out of fireproof materials-things like concrete and heavy duty sheet rock. Also, you’ll need a very very friendly local Fire Marshall. And maybe some fire extinguishers on hand, just to be safe. If you don’t the time, money, or structural integrity in your stage floor to hold up all that concrete, then the next best thing is to have some of McCarter’s ingenious electricians (like Paul Kilsdonk and Todd Loyd) build you a home-made electric fireplace from materials they happen to have in stock. That’s what we did.
Paul and Todd started by thinking about all the places in a fireplace that generate light. There’s the ember bed below the logs (which is probably glowing red and orange), there are the logs themselves (which probably have some embers on them that are similarly colored), there are the flames (which flicker red, yellow, orange and blue), and then there is the light that all this casts on the fire box around it (the chimney is probably glowing, etc). All of these elements are probably flickering a bit and subtly changing colors, so you’ll need a lot of electrical channels to pull this off-the fireplace in She Stoops to Conquer uses about 20.
Here’s how they did it: