Eric and I decided to try something new a few months back. We agreed to work on set design for Swamp Meadow Community Theater’s upcoming play based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Our kids were going to be in the play, so we’d be pretty involved anyway. We both figured it would be a fun, non-work diversion. We both like making and designing stuff, after all. And it’s nice to get away from the computer sometimes!
So, the first thing we did was collaborate on the production logo, which has been used for the playbill, t-shirts, ads, and what-have-you.
We tried to get as many of the wacky elements in there as was graphically feasible- the Grail, the Holy Hand Grenade, killer rabbit, coconuts, French taunters, a shubbery, and the Black Knight!
Set-wise, we started by making some of the bigger props. Here’s the Cave of Caer Bannog (where lives the Killer Rabbit), and the Trojan Bunny. Eric built it out of a humidifier box, and I painted it in faux bois. The cave is made out of a foam insulation panel.
Here’s me painting the Black Beast of Arrrggghhh, which is sort of a giant puppet operated by one person dressed in black.
We have never made a cloud for God before. But we have now!
We decided to make a curtain backdrop, painted to look like a forest. I had the idea to give it an Eyvind Earle look (inasmuch as can be done while painting on a giant piece of floppy fabric). Eric worked out the details in miniature, then we transferred it to the fabric. It was the biggest thing I have ever sewed in my life!
We had some volunteers on a cold day in November to help paint the backdrop.
We worked on the 2 castles simultaneously. One was a castle exterior, and one was an arrangement of panels that would look like 2 castle interiors, depending on how you arranged them. The castle exterior:
And the castle interior, being worked on the exterior of our house! We did end up doing detail work inside on them.
Eric’s doing some detail work.
The castle panels had to be assembled on-site at the school where the plays play out:
Bob and Eric assemble castle walls while a kid “supervises”!
Here’s how things look in the real production!
God rides his cloud and tells Arthur about his new quest!
Swamp Castle exterior, complete with confused guards.
Herbert waits to be rescued from the castle.
The Knights Who Say Ni are in the forest…you can see the backdrop well here.
The castle interior, set up for the tragic wedding scene.
The castle interior, this time rearranged to look like the Castle Anthrax.
There’s the killer rabbit in his cave!
Another prop- the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. The pin is removable so it can be hurled at the killer bunny. I hope it survives the last 3 shows!
The Legendary Black Beast of Aaaarrrggghhh! In action!
It’s been a lot of work, but also great fun to watch this all come together. This being our first attempt at stage design, we’ve learned a lot.
That’s good, because we’ll be helping out with the next show, too- Alice in Wonderland!
If you’re in Rhode Island, there’s still time to see Swamp Meadow’s Quest For The Holy Grail.
Click right over here for tickets!
Shows are Dec. 11 and 12, at 7pm, and Dec. 13 at 3pm.