I've never staged a scene with a 26' dragon before.
Oh, there have been lots of other unique challenges in my career. I can tell stories about a man-eating plant, an Egyptian tomb, a magical transformation in mid-air, a vintage 1912 Ford driving across the stage--which should not to be confused with the vintage English roadster that drove across the Solon stage last year--but those are all stories for another time. Because this week, I blocked a dragon.
Ok, so the actual dragon wasn't available just yet. Our girl DeeDee is still under construction, though we've made progress since the last pictures posted here. But in theatre, we learn to make due until the prop is found or the set piece completed--so, armed with a 26' length of clothesline and three enthusiastic stage managers, we staged the song "This is How a Dream Comes True."
"Dream" is the simpler of the two dragon songs. DeeDee is on stage for less time than in her feature number, "Forever," so it made sense to get our scales wet with this one. Fiona sings the bulk of the number downstage center, while DeeDee chases Shrek and Donkey around her keep (castle). So while Fiona held position, I directed the largest scale cat-and-mouse chase I've ever attempted. The stage managers used the aforementioned clothesline to provide a full-length stand-in for the dragon, allowing me to set spacing with the actors. We played with several variations, most of which involved DeeDee playing with her potential dinner, before settling on the sequence you'll see in the show.
In performance, DeeDee will be controlled by four puppeteers who will manipulate the head, wings, body and tail via 6' rods; the dragon will "fly" above their heads, gliding through her scenes. She will be voiced by an actress on an off-stage microphone with line-of-sight to the action, and I anticipate extensive rehearsal time to coordinate the mouth movements with the lyrics.
She'll be stored in the fly tower (the upper part of the stage) stage left. We'll make use of this rig to keep her aloft during construction as well, as she's now too big to be supported by music stands.
Credit parent volunteer Jim Gough and his daughter Kayla (Drama Club senior and Assistant Stage Manager for the show) for DeeDee's engineering and design. While her exterior appearance is meant to be true to the original look of the animated movie, her functionality is intended to be best-suited to our stage and student puppeteers. I can't wait to (literally) put her in the puppeteers' hands and bring her to life!
Kristina J. Ferencie has directed the SHS Drama Club since 2001.