The Set-saving Hairpin

A Night at the Opera: The Monkey King Subdues the White Bone Demon opened yesterday, which meant my set and lighting design for this production is close to being finished. Speaking of the set design, most part of the plot took place on stage during a Chinese opera performance, so it is literally a play within a play. To reinforce that idea, my original set design had this cloth portal aimed to look like a stylised representation of a classical Chinese opera stage, complete with Chinese beams, pillars, and panels consisting of the characters “Generals Out” and “Primeres In”.

Original set with pillars touching the ground

However, during the spacing rehearsal on Thursday, the production team realised that the pillars created sightlines issues, as well as making the stage smaller, and wanted to scrap the portal. To me, however, this portal is the only set piece on stage that can bring out the notion of a play within a play, and I do not want to cancel it unless absolutely necessary. After much consideration, I thought of “trimming” the pillars so that it would be floating high up, so that they will not hinder performance on the ground. My plan is to flip the excess lengths of the pillars over the flybar, hence shortening the pillars without damaging them (since all the soft goods were rented). However, I did not know exactly how make the adjustments secure enough to not fall off by accident. Fortunately, the tech crew came out with a brilliant idea of pinning the extra fabric together with hair pins.

Pinning in progress
The set-saving hairpin in action
Pillars trimmed
Lighting emphasis on the Chinese characters, which is crucial in bringing out the feel of traditional Chinese opera stages

With this hack, my set was “saved” from elimination, and to be honest, I think they look good too!

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