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Friday, October 28, 2011

The Central City Side of WEST SIDE STORY

Do you remember Central City Opera's dynamic West Side Story in 2008? The creative team who brought us that fabulous production, as well as 2011's Triple Bill of one-act operas (Director Ken Cazan, Scenic Designer Cameron Anderson, Lighting Designer David Martin Jacques and Costume Designer Alice Marie Kugler Bristow), have reunited for Vancouver Opera's West Side Story. A recent review proclaimed, "this co-production of Vancouver Opera and Colorado’s Central City Opera can even be said to outshine the mostly brilliant movie version."

The Vancouver West Side Story is artistically based on our 2008 production and indeed uses many of the scenic elements featured previously on the Central City Opera stage. This week, I caught up with Cindy Maupin, Central City Opera's assistant carpenter, who traveled to Canada to assist with the scenic transfer and load-in to the theatre.
Cindy Maupin, Central City Opera's assistant carpenter, enjoying the sights in Vancouver.
Prior to arriving in Canada, Cindy spent several weeks pouring over blueprints, refreshing herself on the intricate details of the scenery and consulting with David "Mick" Jackson, Central City Opera's head carpenter, on what to anticipate during the tech process.
The Colorado scenery was shipped by truck to Vancouver.
Vancouver Opera has a much larger stage than ours in Central City, so Scenic Designer Cameron Anderson expanded the design. The "working" pieces of scenery - like Maria's entrance and Doc's door - are generally pieces from the original Colorado set, but additional elements have been added to fill out the stage.
The original Central City Opera production used one arch; the design has been expanded here.

The tip of this wall came from Central City, but the rest of the diagonal was added for Vancouver.
"Working" parts of the scenery, like the door above, were installed from the Colorado production, but the rolling wagons on which they were placed were increased in size. The pieces roll so smoothly, however, that the crew remains essentially the same size as the one used in Central City.
With Cindy's guidance, the second wall was smoothly assembled in roughly half an hour. (It still took a lot of teamwork to get it in the air!)

Compare the photo above to the first design shown in the following video of preliminary designs from Scenic Designer Cameron Anderson. Note the original red paint on the wall and how the design has been extended to our left.

A few mementos of the Central City Opera production remain, including this playful message from crew members regarding a certain performer's offstage ritual before entering the scene.
This was Cindy's first real experience in Canada, other than the brief memory of a trip when she was four years old. She took advantage of her free time away from the opera house, spending time exploring Granville Island and other sights, as well as checking out the local karaoke bars (a favorite pasttime). This original "Gulf Coast gal" particularly enjoyed eating fresh seafood every day, from salmon to raw oysters - a treat she's missed while living in the Rocky Mountains. However, if you ask her what her favorite part was about the experience, it was simply the opportunity to travel for Central City Opera in this position. In a heartfelt moment, Cindy expressed her complete gratitude towards Festival Production Manager Karen T. Federing and Technical Director Nathan E. Thompson for choosing her. "I cried when I was given this opportunity - overwhelmed that they trusted me."

Cindy considers this trip the pinnacle of her career - so far. Calling herself "just a girl," Cindy first worked with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (Denver Local 7) in January of 1999, straight from being a stay-at-home mom. On Father's Day of the same year she was assigned to Central City Opera. New to the business then, she credits guidance from Mick and her fellow union brothers and sisters for making her a familiar face backstage now in venues throughout the Denver metro area. She has held the title of Assistant Carpenter at Central City Opera for the last four years.

Cindy can't say enough about her fellow union members on the Vancouver Opera crew (Local 118), either. "They were great - very nice," she said. "I went straight to the crew room the night of rehearsal and told them so, to which Scott, their head carpenter, replied, 'Well, we're Canadian - we're supposed to be nice!'"

Vancouver Opera's West Side Story runs through this Saturday, October 29th. Video of the production, showing the completed scenery, can be found on the Vancouver Opera website. Compare the finished product with Cameron Anderson's preliminary designs.
All photos courtesy of Cindy Maupin.

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