In 2010 I served as Technical Director for North Carolina School of the Arts' production of Tracers. I translated designer drafts into shop drawings, created schedules, organized the budget, managed a crew of four that built the set, and then led the installation as well as the load-out of the production.
When my assistant and I received the drawings for the main set piece, a large wall that would serve as a re-imagining of the Vietnam War Memorial Monument in Washington D.C., we quickly understood that it would be impossible to buy materials with the budget we were given. Although an exceedingly tight budget is often a difficulty in building a large-scale production, this factor turned out to be a gift and an opportunity to solve problems in an unprecedented way and led to a production I am most proud of.
While brainstorming, one of the seemingly impossible ideas suggested by my assistant, Bridget Van Dyke, was constructing the wall using bamboo—a material the school did not normally use nor had any official access to. To make this possible, we decided all of our choices were going to have to be a bit out of the ordinary. Searching on Craigslist, we found a homeowner living 2 hours away from the school trying to get rid of an acre of bamboo in order to redo her backyard.
Along with Bridget and some good friends, we secured a truck, some machetes and sawzalls from the school, and went to pick up our materials (with some excess supply to build a large teepee in my backyard).
The second part of the set was creating a lettered facade on the bamboo wall that would spell out the names of the veterans. Using scrap materials from past theatrical productions and a CNC router, I drew out and programmed cut files from the designer drawings.
Some of the name plaques were removable and were added on by the performers throughout the show as they emotionally portrayed their experiences before, during, and after the Vietnam War.
This show was a great exercise in breaking rules and established habits, and evidence that working with people of different backgrounds could be truly mind-altering!