The New London Barn Playhouse has been going strong since 1933 here in my home town of New London, New Hampshire. This summer I drew backstage props and costumes for each of the six shows. In addition I drew the sound and light equipment, scenery design, and the pit. I used my favorite iPad drawing app, and my art tool was my left index finger. This was an ideal setup for the project, as it worked well in the dim lighting, it afforded a wide choice of colors and textures, and it was fun!
I was given full access to the backstage area during times between performances, under the condition that I could look but not touch. Everything required for a performance is situated in its exact position, and moving it even a foot or so could utterly disrupt the high pressure action that takes place as actors scramble from one scene to the next, change costumes, grab new props, and the like.
I gained a lot of appreciation for the dedicated work that goes on behind the scenes, and of the number of highly skilled people, both on stage and off, that it takes to put on every performance. These include acting interns, backstage interns, apprentices, visiting professional actors, paid staff, and volunteers from the local community. The interns are generally college students or recent graduates just starting out on their careers. Many of them stay very close to The Barn, returning for guest appearances as their careers progress.
Over the course of the season I drew 45 images of the costumes, the props, the sets, and other behind-the-scenes aspects of putting on six shows in rapid succession with no time to breathe in between. Here are 16 of my favorites.
New London residents are very fond and supportive of their Barn. Well wishers and fans send bouquets of flowers which adorn the front porch next to the box office. The porch is a special part of The Barn’s tradition. After the final encore of each performance, the actors run down the aisles to the porch and set up a receiving line to greet the audience on its way out.
The Barn’s slogan is “See you on the porch.”
The first show of the season was Gypsy. Here we have four containers of fake Chinese food used as a prop. Even though it might never be seen from the audience, the quality of the fake food is just as good as that of the leading lady’s gown. It looked really tasty.
A cow costume is part of the story of Gypsy. The main characters are a stage family in the vaudeville era. Two of the daughters performed as a dancing cow.
The racks of costumes backstage, here from The Sound Of Music, were a delight to study and draw. The brown dress to the left was Maria’s, the ‘one the poor didn’t want’.
This fringed blue leather jacket, red belt, and red flouncy skirt are waiting for their big number in the play Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. A scheming American tourist (from Oklahoma) believes she has tricked a rich European prince into marrying her. He too is a scoundrel.
Lanterns were a prop used in the graveyard scene of the play The Mystery Of Edwin Drood.
The Victorian era clothing worn in The Mystery of Edwin Drood was gorgeous.
I especially loved this Chinese embroidered robe.
The Barn’s newly acquired sound board. The ushers have to guard it from children’s inquisitive fingers.
The light board sits high in the back of the balcony. There can be hundreds of light changes per show. The mind boggles.
See you on the porch!