Magazine article Stage Directions

Design That Carries Water

Magazine article Stage Directions

Design That Carries Water

Article excerpt

Making a moving grist mill water wheel for Theatre In The Park

Briarpatch is a family musical brainchild of Theatre In The Park's founder and Executive Director Ira David Wood III. Based on the wonderful stories of Joel Chandler Harris, the show features Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, Brer Turtle and all the critters from the forest in a high-energy musical with everything from Dixieland Jazz to rousing gospel singing. Written in the 1970s and featured periodically during the past 25 years, it has been a summer mainstay of Theatre In The Park in Raleigh, N.C., for the past three years. Theatre In The Park is a not-forprofit theatre with volunteers from the local community making up the majority of the actors. They come from middle or high schools, universities, or their jobs to rehearse for four weeks. The experienced volunteer technical crew has been with the theatre group for several years working a variety of productions from original script productions to Shakespeare.

Last year, a new set of steel frames and wooden tops and sides was constructed for Briarpatch. The modular set travels in a 53-foot trailer back and forth from theatre to warehouse.

This year, the technical staff was tasked with building a large grist mill water wheel for the set that would sit upstage left. Though the mill house is a hinged-flat unit, it was requested that the water wheel be built as a threedimensional object and be able to turn throughout the performance. The unit was built by Master Carpenter Jeff Nugent and myself in three days.

The wheel itself was constructed from 2 × 2s, 2 × 4s, 1 × 6s and plywood. …

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