This week on Behind the Curtain, we talk to Atlanta-based artistic director Amanda Farnsworth. Amanda talks about her community production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ and how digital projection backdrops brought the stage to life in ways she didn’t originally imagine.
Video Length: 3:52 (3 minutes, 52 seconds)
QUESTION: “How Did Projections Enhance Your Production of Joseph?”
AMANDA: “One of my favorite times we used projections was on ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.’ Which is a fun show, you use a large children’s choir. It’s a lot of different singers, it’s a lot of different styles of music. There’s so many great things about that show.
We decided to set it a little bit more modern in parts of it. Like modern day, to create a little bit more of a ‘relevancy connection’ with our young people that were in the show and came to see the show. And so we used projections to do that. We set Potiphar as the owner of a nightclub. And so in order to do that, (for) a night club you want to evoke a certain sort of lighting, neon, and blacklight. We wanted to create a little bit of a club sensibility on the stage. Not too intense, big enough that you got the picture. And I don’t know that there would have been any other way to do that besides a backdrop.
So the (projection) backdrop for the nightclub was so cool. It shed kind of a pink and blue light from the colors in the drop. Then that hit the actors in a certain kind of way. So without using a ton of lighting and gels, which we didn’t have access to in the theater space we were using, that backdrop created color and depth that I couldn’t have done another way. It was awesome! It created an atmosphere so quickly, it was beautiful.
That same show, we had a dungeon drop when Joseph gets thrown down into the dungeon. It was cool, it was fun. It was like a storybook dungeon. We also had set pieces on stage that were bars. Little separate bars where our kids were sitting all over the stage behind them. They could have stood up and walked behind the bars, but the suspension of disbelief…they were behind bars, so it looked like a bunch of cells in a dungeon if you didn’t think about it too hard.
What we didn’t expect is that when we projected onto our cyclorama, the scene bled down onto the stage. The backdrop projection bled down onto the stage. So instead of having stage up to the cyc and projection behind that, it started projecting almost at the front of the stage—and went all the way up. It was a problem that we later fixed as far as resolution and adjusting, but once I saw that and we went to the adjusted version, I wanted the other one back. And so we ‘unadjusted’ it. So that the projection, which had beautiful blues and purples and stone pattern worked into it—it was reflecting on all the faces of the actors. It was the most beautiful lighting effect ever! And it happened totally by accident. But I wouldn’t trade it because I absolutely wanted that lighting effect for that scene.
And on top of that the projection reflected onto the bars and it threw these really cool bar shadows all over the floor. It was the most beautiful lighting effect, that I had zero resources to create on my own. And it kind of happened by accident, but it was one of the most fun ways I’ve used a scenic projection to date. To create a dungeon feel with all of the shadows and light coming from random sources. And these really beautiful colors, deep cool colors. It evoked a very ‘dungeon sensibility.’ It was fun (laughs).