Q&A with Tech Director Ms. T

Q&A with Tech Director Ms. T

Lyn Stanley, Staff Writer

Finding someone who is not only qualified to be Tech Director for the Theater Department but who also meshes well with students and meets deadlines can be a difficult task.

Luckily, LFHS has been graced with the illustrious Ms. Mary Toledano. Not only is she incredibly efficient but she also has years of experience and a sense of creative genius that brings stages to life. In order to get inside her artistic mind and learn about her process, I reached out to see if she could enlighten us.

What inspires you as an artist? Are there any particular mediums of art or artists or media that get the creative juices flowing? 

I really enjoy a lot of fantasy and period dramas, along with a lot of animation as far as taking in media. When I feel stuck I will often paint with oils or do charcoal drawings to help get things moving, listen to music, which varies wildly, or even sit down and write some short stories.”

Do you have a favorite part of the set building process? 

“Painting. I love painting and love it when things come together with the artistic finish that painting a set provides.”

What would you say is the ratio between your ideas and the ideas of directors when it comes to building sets? How much of it is based on your imagination and how much of it is the demands of the director?

“I would say it’s about 80/20. The director gives me the must-haves and we go through the script to make sure that we have all the essential elements to make the production happen. From there, I go through and do some research on time periods, decide on a color scheme or theme for the set, and begin making sketches and floor plans. The director and I come up with ideas of what will and won’t work for movement, make adjustments, and then we agree on a finalized design. The director will often have elements they really want or need and I incorporate them into the overall vision of the set and scenery.”

Do you prefer having more creative freedom with a set, or a set that has a very specific set of needs and a clear cut idea? 

“I really like more creative freedom and I don’t reuse designs. Even if I do the same show over and over again, each production is unique and deserves it’s own standalone treatment. They are a different cast, directors and techs and deserve their own unique experience and expression. There will always be needs for a particular show, but it is definitely more fun to design something that is open-ended in terms of design.”

 When did you know this was something you wanted to pursue as a career? 

“I knew in high school that this was something I could really dig into and find myself doing for decades. When I went to college and then into the professional circuit, it really only reinforced how much I love this. It is hard, demanding work with very firm deadlines, requires a wide breadth of skills and there is always something new to engineer for every show. It is very unusual to be bored with my work, and I think I enjoy that most.”

What is the most interesting set you’ve ever built?

“Noises Off probably has the most incredibly fun set I have ever built–multiple times! It’s a  set that is two stories with a multitude of working doors and must flip to the other side during intermission, then flip back around during the next intermission. The most aesthetically pleasing set I have made I think would be And Then There Were None, which I also very much enjoyed.”

 Do you have a dream show you would like to see LFHS put on? 

“I would absolutely love to do Noises Off here at LFHS for a play. For a musical, I always, and will forever, hold Into The Woods near and dear to my heart. I would love to do both of these shows some time in my LFHS career.”

Are you happy to be back to a regular flow of set-work as opposed to last year’s attempt at online set-building and special effects? 

“Both I surprisingly enjoyed, but they are both very different. I am definitely very happy to be back into a normal rhythm of set building. There is definitely a unique feeling of ramping up a production from start to finish in a space that is hard to accomplish otherwise.”

When you are building a set how are you able to set apart different pieces and delegate to such a large workforce?

“Setting different tasks to different teams is probably the most essential thing. We have to build things and work on things in a certain order or else we start running into each other and over each other, running out of space. It’s been a unique challenge this year and we are still acclimating.”

How do you ensure sets are structurally sound when the brunt of your manpower is teenagers?

“I go around when students are finished with a project to do my own stress test on them sometimes when students are gone to ensure we’ve stabilized something correctly. I have been doing this for quite awhile and thus far we have not run into any major complications as we go through. Problems normally are obvious during the building process and we go to make sure something is stable. It will stand out.”

Before I let her go I wanted to ask her something about the current fall show Clue. Clue is a very demanding show set-wise and as someone who had been privy to the set building process this season, I wanted her opinion on what she found the most difficult part of constructing Boddy Manor (the house in which Clue takes place). 

What would you say has been the most challenging element of the Clue set to build? 

“The most challenging thing to do for Clue has been how many levels there are and how to make movement easy for the actors without being obstructive to the audience. We’ve captured that fairly well I think and had to make only one major adjustment, which was the overall height of the set. We had to redo it once and take it down two feet.