Behind the Scenes...The Set

Behind the Scenes...The Set

The set for Barter's production of Les Mis is one like you've never seen before. The set is designed by Dale F. Jordan, and was constructed by Barter Technical Director Mitchell L. Critel and his team.

This photo shows the scale of this beast. But you may ask, why a giant head?

"Rick and I spent a lot of time playing with some basic ideas—one basic notion it that this is an opera just as much as it is a musical, which means that we won't need all the details that we normally need to locate our scenes. Opera is very image oriented. I love imagery. So this has been a lot of fun.  
One of the simple images that Rick offered was a very simple white room. Nothing but a white room. I loved this because it allowed me to go anywhere I wanted to go.   
Without any real obligation, I plowed into thousands of images—literally on Google. I just went where the images took me with no goal in mind. After a few day and thousands of images collected I hit a closeup photo of this guys head. I researched it—the more I found out about this image the more it touched my heart. That's really it—it touched my heart.  I didn't know then how to ever use it. 

First, this particular piece of French sculpture, marking the grave of 19th century
French republican Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Baudin served as an inspiration for Dale Jordan's the set design. 

"Just as a wild gesture, I sent Rick a little sketch of this huge head taking up a large portion of the stage. I told him that this head might move and become the barricade, etc.  He would possibly laugh and hate it; I didn't know. Well, he loved the idea. It touched his heart as well."  —Dale F. Jordan, set designer

Dale F. Jordan then designed this set rendering.

Scenic Artist Stacey Storrie then sculpts a clay mold, to scale, of what the 19 foot, 7.5 feet high centerpiece will look like.
It took two semis to deliver all the foam we needed. 

"Through this show we've worked though every major material—steel, foam, wood, roofing compound." —Mitchell L. Critel

Phase 1: The guys in the scene shop then make the iron frame of the head.
Phase 2: The wood is applied because actors will stand on this.

Then blocks of foam are applied. The scenic artist will carve the face and hair out of the foam.
This is the final stage before the artist takes control.

The plans for the scenic artist.

If you look closely, you can see the model, which is exactly to scale in the foreground. 

Finally, the set is complete! The final sculpture is 16 feet long, 10 feet deep and more than 7 feet tall, weights more than 1,200 pounds.  

When you walk in the theatre, you will not see the whole thing, it will be revealed as the show progresses. It's epic when you do see it in person!

Set designed by Dale F. Jordan.

Read the front page story that appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier here.


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