With the new revival of Fiddler on the Roof gracing this month's cover, it seems appropriate that I speak to you today of tradition. Back when we were called Theatre Crafts, we were all about the How-To's — detailed stories explaining the various ways in which problems in the design and implementation of a show were solved. These stories tended to be rather rudimentary in nature, featuring everything from making sets out of refrigerator boxes to creating believable stab wounds. To this day, people still tell me they refer to How-To's they first read in the pages of the Theatre Crafts back in the day.
But of course times change, people change, magazines change, and traditions change. We got away from How-To's in the 90s, when we changed the book's name from Theatre Crafts to Theatre Crafts International (TCI) and made it too big to fit in your mailbox. There suddenly became other more immediate places to find that information, the Stagecraft Mailing List being the most noteworthy venue, not to mention the web and email in general.
But you know what? No matter how times change, one thing remains a given in this business: people are always looking for ways to do their jobs better. Maybe there's less of a need to make sets out of refrigerator boxes these days, but there are always new and interesting ways to research a show, build a set, sew a costume, design a light plot, program a console, configure a speaker, or project an image. Such innovation and problem solving are the very reasons many of you got into this business in the first place.
Which is why, beginning with this issue, we're beginning a new tradition: two new columns dedicated to the idea that there's still a need for How-To's in the 21st Century. The first, Re: Sources, will focus on the sources designers around the world have discovered to aid them in their work, be it a library, a quirky website, a rental shop in the middle of nowhere, or any other myriad lifelines and fonts of knowledge. This month, Hannah Kate Kinnersley talks to noted sound designer Tony Meola (Wicked, The Lion King); check out Tony's tips on page 9.
For those seeking to solve those inevitable pesky solutions to design and technical problems, we also bring you the debut of the appropriately named Problem/Solution. (Actually, careful readers might recall that we briefly ran a section called Problem/Solution back when we changed the name of the mag to ED back in ‘98, so this is technically a re-introduction). Speaking of stab wounds (talk about a segue!), our first installment features the design and construction of a particularly elegant blade for the recent CenterStage production of Sweeney Todd. If you have your own clever Problem/Solution to share with the world, contact Davi Napoleon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, if you like your How-To's to be a little more hands-on, don't forget the Broadway Lighting and Sound Master Classes, being held June 16-20 at John Jay College in beautiful New York City. This annual event offers the very latest in sound and lighting design solutions, but sadly, no refrigerator boxes.