Simply Christmas Set Design

As our theme for Christmas this year was Simply Christmas, it stood to reason that we should make the set fairly simple. Last time, I wrote up our plan for the hanging lighting. This time, we’ll take a look at the rest of the set. 

Last year for Gunch!, we built a wall upstage, and cut a cool shape in it. We decided we liked the wall enough to keep it, so in March, we squared it off and painted it black. For Simply Christmas, we wanted to go a little more rustic. So we took a field trip to Home Depot to see what they had for siding options. We settled on 1/2” OSB for two reasons; first it had a nice warm, woodsy look to it, and second, it was cheap. We sided the wall with the OSB, running the sheets long ways to give us a 24’ wide upstage wall. To save material, we did the first 8’ completely, then did 2’ up each side of the wall.

We wanted to use some muslin for a screen. The idea was to create a setting that looked like some kids found a big sheet in a barn, then tacked it up to show movies on or something. To help create that allusion, we tacked some 2x6 and 2x4s to tie the screen off to. The screen was tied in the corners, then pulled taught to the 2x with clothesline. To finish it off, we strung some globe lights along the top. 

The screen has some natural low and high points in it, we didn’t want it completely flat. In the end, it looked pretty much like we wanted; simple, homemade and warm. 

As we had 8 people lined up to read the prophecy and birth stories of Jesus during the program, we needed something for them to read from. I had in mind a really simple, rustic podium, that would again looked like it was tacked together from some spare pieces of wood found in a barn.

It's almost done; I eventually used cable staples to clean up the wiring.

I used a 4x4 piece of redwood for the main upright, and a simple 2x4 wooden base. The top was a scrap of the OSB we used for the wall. I found a cool porcelain lamp socket at a hardware store in Palm Springs while I was there with my wife for our anniversary (that’s a long story…), and planned on mounting an old-looking Shure 55SH mic to the podium.

The 55SH is a fine mic, but would make a terrible podium mic. So I gaff taped a DPA 4098 to the upstage side and used that. The 55 just looks cool. The old-fashioned bare bulb in the porcelain socket completed the look.

This was the first cable groove. I soon cut another on the other side for power for the light. The hole held the short mic pole.

I could have let the cables hang out the back, but that seemed crude (I was going for rustic, not sloppy). So I took a chunk of the redwood 4x4, plumb cut it, then routed a few grooves in it for the cable to chase through. The cables came out on the upstage side of the main upright, and I cable-stapled them in place. When it was done, the audience didn’t see any cables, and the light was a great touch.

The four of these created a crazy amount of fake snow.

The final piece of the puzzle was to make it snow. My boss has this idea that we needed to make it snow for the program, so I rented four Little Blizzards from our local rental house. After playing around with hang points, we decided to hang them from our backlight pipe, which is pretty far downstage in the center, right below our main valance. 

We backed it off a little bit for the actual service.

We pointed them toward the audience in a fan pattern and fired them up. The name “Little Blizzard” is an apt one, it snowed like crazy! When I posted pictures on Twitter, everyone commented that they didn’t want to clean all that up. But that’s the great news; you don’t have to! It uses a special, extra-dry fluid that simply evaporates after about 3-5 minutes. 

The machines are loud, however, so we had to time the cue carefully. We made it snow during the build of The Earth Stood Still, and it worked just wonderfully. There was an audible gasp from the audience every time and everyone loved it.

Did you try any cool special effects for Christmas this year?

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