Act I and Act II of We’re Gonna Be Okay takes place in severely different places. One place is above ground, the other one is below. One place is a nice neighborhood highlighted with pastel colors and a lawn. The other is a self-constructed bomb shelter highlighted by dirt. It’s an extremely daunting task to change this set in 15 minutes but Lynnae Vana and her crew of interns and technicians get it done. In this blog, we’ll go over exactly how they do it.
Where do we start with Act I and where do we start in Act II?
VERONICA: Act One starts with the suburban houses after a backyard picnic. Act Two starts in the underground bunker that the characters have not even finished building yet.
How many set pieces from Act I are taken off for Act II and how many set pieces are added for Act II?
VERONICA: Roughly 17 pieces from Act One are completely struck (not counting near a dozen hand props) and 3 adjusted, while 24 pieces (not including handprops) are added for Act Two.
How long does it take to change the set?
LYNNAE: Originally it took 32 minutes, then after 3 hours of blocking and rehearsal and we trimmed it down to 12 minutes. By the time we opened we got the shift down to 8 minutes. We made it to 7 minutes once but mostly we sit at 8, 9 minutes if something goes wrong.
Is this the biggest set change you’ve ever done?
VERONICA: I’ve worked in opera where we do complete scenic changeovers during multiple intermissions (ranging from 5-20 minutes), but this is certainly the most intricate. Ian Wallace’s design is thought out to the smallest detail, which means that these two sets have a lot of pieces (ranging in size) that contribute to the overall change effect. Additionally, each of the larger pieces require several steps to move (attaching ratchet straps, taking out hinge pins, etc.)
LYNNAE: This is the biggest and most extensive change I’ve done at B street. We incorporate a lot of the new tech available to us here at The Sofia such as the trap space, fly system, rigging and the cat walks. The stage and backstage area are also much larger so we have the ability to create the depth you see in the houses in Act 1 – then we are able to store these large house units backstage while the rest of the play takes place in front of a large bunker wall flown in from the cat walks.
Has anything unexpected happened during this scene change?
LYNNAE: We have had a couple unexpected things happen during the scene shift, but thankfully only a couple. One performance, as one of our crew members turned to pass off a skate for the grass to another crew member, his right foot missed the stage as he stepped forward and he fell into the moat around the stage with the skate falling on top of him. Without hesitating, all crew adjusted their tracks to compensate. I jumped down to be sure he was fine and clear the skate from on top of him. The other crew members jumped onto the next required step of the change. After about 20 seconds, the fallen crew member jumped up onstage, dusted himself off and dove right back in. We still completed the shift in 8 minutes. The nice thing about this shift is all of the crew know what needs to be done so we are able to help each other out when something does go wrong. When equipment isn’t set right, rigging slows us down or something gets stuck we are all here to pick up the pieces. This shift is a true team effort and we are thankful that nothing more ‘exciting’ or ‘unexpected’ has happened.
How have audiences have reacted to this massive set change?
LYNNAE: The audiences really enjoy the shift. Lots of patrons stay during intermission just to watch. I have had quite a few patrons approach me after the show to ask how things work and all the logistics it requires. Patrons are excited to see all that we are able to do here in the new space.
VERONICA: They love it! When we take a bow after the changeover, the audience always gives us a big round of applause. Patrons come up to us after the show, saying how cool it was to watch what we do and thank us for doing a great job. Since we usually do these kind of changeovers behind a curtain or in the dark, it’s kind of fun to actually share this with the audience. They get to see what we do and the amount of work that goes into it. It really speaks to the relationship that B Street has with its patrons; they’re always a part of the show and part of our B Street family.
We’re Gonna Be Okay runs for one more week, with an added performance on September 9th at 6:30. Make sure you come and see this critically acclaimed play, the set change alone will blow you away.