Thursday, October 29, 2009


Thanks to a rockin' "Homie help day" on Sunday, I can now officially declare victory over carpentry and painting for Spooktacular X! Thanks to the artistic talents of Scott and Alan, the Kraken was was tamed without too much bloodshed. The S.S. Spooktacular was made ship-shape by Elizabeth, Blair, Gwen, Jei, Jim, Jaya and Mike. It has all come together nicely, and it could not have been done without the zeal and talents of these Homies...when you see them at the party, let them cut in the Margarita line, wont ya?

So, I don't want to spoil the event by posting the photos of the completed scenery too early (considering that this blog has a readership of about 45, and we have 100+ planning to attend, I think it wont be spoiled for about half of the attendees...) but I am so excited that I will post them anyway!

Kraken Attacking the S.S. Spooktacular X
Backyard installation, Mixed Media

So, there it is! Cool, right? the idea is that party-goers will walk up the shipwreck and fish off of the bow for prizes. You cant tell from the photo here, but also the eye will glow... Whew, now I just need to move the whole thing to the backyard! (my fingers are still crossed that we wont have rain on Saturday!)

The other big accomplishment was the completion of the "Karaoke Cavern" backdrop...We decided that the basement needed to have an underwater theme. So, I thought that it'd be cool if you were singing Karaoke in front of a submarine's observation's the sketch:

Karaoke Cavern backdrop sketch
Color Pencil on Black Paper, 8.5 x 11

I decided that we could be looking at a really deep part of the what better than an giant angler fish to light up the depths? Unfortunately, the bastards at Disney had a really great scene in Finding Nemo where Nemo's dad and Dory go down really deep and encounter an angler fish...and there are only so many ways to do a menacing fish like that...I don't think we can call this outright theft (because I have added the portal and other things to the composition) but it is definitely heavy borrowing...I suppose that they ruined clown fish for every artist too...and it'd be really nice if they didn't get all litigious on people, so I didn't have to be looking over my shoulder whenever I am influenced by their gorgeous designs...Anyway, I think that the scale of the thing is also what sets it apart (which you don't get from the sketch...the fish could definitely eat you, its so big) which translates best in the final product:

Karaoke Cavern backdrop
Acrylic on Velour, 12' x 6.5'

Pretty wicked eh? The velour is really great for this type of painting...I changed the composition around a bit in the final product. I decided not to go with a hint of Atlantis in the background, and simply go with a small fish that is the next intended meal for our Angler...I also had room to add some other spooky goodies, like a Moai, a depth gauge, and a crack in the glass...

Hopefully I will have the energy next week to post pictures from the the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Below are the designs for the the Kraken that will devour the S.S. Spooktacular X on Halloween Night:

You don't need to be scared, it's only going to be a series of cut luan flats...I am also going to try to make the eye light up...Hopefully by the end of Sunday, upon the conclusion of the second "homie help day", I will have photos to share of the completed monster.

I need to dash off to the grand opening of Longview Gallery tonight, but before I go, I wanted to share the mini review for Evil Dead in today's Express!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The official mascot for this year's Spooktacular X!

The build for Spooktacular 2009 X Marks the Spot, kicked into high gear this past Sunday! We had a really great turnout, and I was able to keep most everyone busy for the whole evening. The spooky fish painting brigade turned out some really awesome fruit of the sea!It may not look it, but this is three 4'x8' sheets of black foamcore's worth of spooky fish! Special thanks to Kirstra, Sara, Allan, Q, Deb, KT, and Jaya!
The other half of the Sunday build goes to the two hardcore carpenters, James and Todd. They really threw their backs into making all of the platforming for the Boat/Kraken experience! What they did really moved the ball down the field, and enabled me to knock out some significant progress:

This is a photo of the Boat/Kraken Experience as it stands on Thursday 10/15 night. Its a bit confusing in the photo, but essentially its a shipwreck. There are three platforms, that people need to navigate in order to fish from the bow of the ship. I will be working on the Kraken next week, but I dont know if I will have pictures much better than this by next Thursday...

Thanks to everyone who came out to last Friday's Evil Dead the Musical Scenery Apprecation Night! We had a blast, even though I didnt get hit with any blood!?

Vern, KT and Jared prepared to get blood spilled on them! came out with some interviews of the Evil Dead Crew. Yours truly was can follow the link below for the full article containing interviews with Andrew Baughman, Melissa Baughman, Karissa Swanigan, Jen Tonon, and Eli Reeves...or you can read the interview with me, pasted below:

Jared Davis (Set Design/Construction & Painting):

Joel: Tell us a little about yourself.

Jared: Well, my day job is scene shop manager for Arlington County Cultural Affairs. I have the best job in the world. I get to work with all levels of theater, professional, semi-pro and amateur, which is really great, because I often have to switch from being mentor to student on a dime. One of the fringe benefits is that I get clandestine access to the scene shop, where I can work on non-county related shows, like the things I design for Landless (please don’t tell my boss). As far as my designer training is concerned, I have a degree in painting from Wayne State University, in Detroit, but I don’t have a degree in theater; its just something I have always done. My most formal training in scenic design was a masterclass with Ming Cho Lee in 2002, which really broke it wide open for me. I realized that design for the stage involved a collaborative process that the designer(s) and director have to go through, and the masterclass really gave me the proper tools to make that work effectively.

Since I am trained as a painter, I try to design (and paint) every set with an eye towards painting. I love painting big. I love painting backdrops. I haven’t been a fan of designs where it’s all painting textures, which is all the big name designers seem to want these days (I’m talkin’ to YOU Tony Cisek!) I find that boring for everyone involved. I’m an artist (as most scenic artists are), and I feel that it is a waste not to use the artistic talents of people who can paint stunning backdrops. Of course, I wind up painting almost everything I design, which is great because I don’t have to dumb down any of the painting. My painting bias has worked particularly well for Landless. You may not know this, but every show at the DCAC (well, every show before Evil Dead) that Landless produces – needs to pack up in 15 minutes, into a 6 foot high by 4 foot wide space, usually by two female stagehands. With those kinds of constraints, I have been forced to rely on painted scenery!

Joel: Tell us about your contribution to the design of the show.

Jared: Design, Build, Paint, Install. I have been quite intimate with this set. Landless doesn’t have a lot of stock scenery because of the limitations of the DCAC space, so I had to build (with the help of a few “all hands on deck” nights at the shop) almost everything you see on stage. I also painted all of it; largely single handedly (primer coat shout-outs to Amanda Williams and Brittney McLean). I was able to work with Melissa on the design, but really, lots of things were determined by the size of the DCAC space. There are only so many ways that this show can be configured in such a small area. It really became about giving the SFX people (Jen, Steven and Amanda) places to work their magic, and how small a space does an actor need to safely walk behind (or under) the set.

Joel: What was the most challenging thing for you to design?

Jared: Where is all of the blood going to go? We realized that it was going to be a messy show, and we couldn’t have the actors slipping on pools of blood during the dance numbers. We knew that the audience would only be able to absorb a fraction of what was going to be, er, spilled… The solution was to try to capture as much as we could underneath the deck. So, that’s why the “cabin in the woods” has a planked deck for its flooring; to allow the blood to run-off between the planks. The blood gets collected every night by removing one of the planks and sucking it out with a shop vac.

Joel: What scene was the hardest for you to design, and which scene was the most fun to design?

Jared: That’s a hard question because I didn’t approach the design from a “scene by scene” basis. I was looking at it as a whole most of the time. Because of the number of things that have to happen in any given scene, its hard to separate “hardests and favorites” because I was thinking about the big picture…It’s like a clock…when the whole thing is set in motion and works, that’s the best part. A clockmaker wouldn’t say that the minute hand was his favorite part of the clock…

If I were pressed, I might say that the basement trap door was the most difficult part to design. It absolutely needed to look like the movie…but there is no trappable space at the DCAC. So, I needed to find a height that was as level with the floor as possible, but still tall enough for an actress to be underneath, while still maintaining room for the SFX equipment, and safe enough for two people to be “pulled in”, and capable of being opened by itself…every one of those conditions needed to harmonize with the others. What we got isn’t perfect, but it is pretty close.

Joel: Tell us about creating the Splash Zone.

Jared: I wanted to remove the seats. I thought that if the DCAC was willing to let us do the show, we could have made the whole thing a lot cleaner and easier to deal with, if we removed the seats and rented plastic folding chairs, which can be hosed off after each show (we might have been able to get a few more tickets out of each show too) But, instead we are going to put down plastic, which is fine, because I think that people, in the end, are rather absorbent, and we won’t have to sacrifice comfort for cleanliness.

The Splash Zone is essential to the show. The original movies were over the top, silly, and in-your-face. Spurting blood on the audience is the live theater way of honoring that. It’s like a GWAR show, that kinda humor…but we are only using blood, not alien semen…

Joel: Where is your favorite seat in the house?

Jared: There isn’t a bad seat at the DCAC (there isn’t any room for one! *rimshot*)

Joel: What do you want audiences to take with them?

Jared: The obvious answer is fake blood… But really, I want them to take away a sense that theater doesn’t need to be limited. That is, part of Landless’ mission statement is to bring theater to the theater challenged. Well, this is the type of show that many will look down their nose at, but really, it’s the best kind of theater because it engages directly and viscerally with its audience. I hope that they take away a broadened sense of what theater can be, and the notion that “hey, there are folks in DC doing really cool stuff, and I was, just now, a part of that…and I have the bloodstains on my clothes to prove it!”

Friday, October 02, 2009


Evil Dead the Musical is finally open at the DCAC! If you don't have tickets for tonight's scenery appreciation night, too bad for can still get tickets for next weekend, but you should hurry, because they are going fast!

The previews and reviews have been pouring in steadily. Check out this extraordinarily good review from a commenter on even took a pic of his bloody shirt! Also kudos from Express Night Out, Daily Candy weekend guide and DCist's listing of Evil Dead...Next week should be the banner week for reviews, so I'll post them as they come along.

Okay, as promised, I can now release the final designs and some limited photos of the set, but only for you loyal BTT readers...

Evil Dead the Musical Set Design
Landless Theater Co. DCAC
Pencil and Photoshop

So, this set design actually wound up being very close to the final product. The major difference is that the set wound up considerably taller looking in the space (I did not do a precise perspective rendering, this was mostly eyeballed)

Evil Dead the Musical set photo

Not too shabby...well, cabin in the woods shabby, on purpose! The final product really dominates the DCAC space, which is good because it really adds a foreboding quality to the show...Of course, half of that foreboding feeling is centered around trying to predict when you are going to get spattered with blood next...

This is a photo of the set with actors on it...Ash and Cheryl are a really fun part of this script. I particularly like this photo because it should be titled "Get back into your hole, you filthy Candarian demon!"

If you cant make it to see Evil Dead on the weekends, then you clear your schedule for the next four Monday nights in order to see Hope Operas! They had a really great opening week, and they promise to do recaps of previous episodes every week. You can visit this great post about the show 20 Million Breast Strokes to Earth to get more info...

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Evil Dead opens for previews in Frederick MD this weekend...Three Performances, one Friday and two Saturday...get your info here

The challenge of this past week was getting the painting done for Evil Dead. I wasn't able to get a shot of the paint job with the set fully assembled, but you can get the idea from the photo below (if you want to see the complete paint job, you will just have to come see the show!)

"Rustic cabin" enough for ya?
After painting was complete, we needed to load the thing up into three pickup trucks and a small lawn mower trailer, and cart it up to Frederick. Aside for a little rain that melted some of the paint, the load in went pretty smoothly. I haven't been back for dress rehearsals yet, but I hear that all of the SFX work is coming along smoothly...I'll post some pics once they become available.

I am working on a last minute addition to the set for the finale...any aficionado of the Evil Dead trilogy will recognize this:

Press has been ramping up steadily, as have ticket sales. We received a preemptive shout out from (what's more unusual is that Jared and the set get a shout out too!) Check it Here UPDATE: Evil Dead was also mentioned by the Washington Post's Going out Gurus

I will likely have photos of Evil Dead in the DCAC next week...I want to get good photos of it during dress rehearsals, before its covered in a months worth of blood!

The other big development this week is that we are exactly ONE MONTH away from Spooktacular X: X Marks the Spot! Which means for a lucky few of you, you will be receiving an Evite invitation. One of the special things that we are doing this year is making T-shirts to commemorate the occasion (the original 2003 spooktacular shirts with the Ouija board were wildly popular, and you can occasionally see some OG's wearing them...Holla!) So, I have been working on the new design this week...

Design for Spooktacular X: X Marks the Spot (2009)
Pencil and Photoshop 8.5"x11"

I wanted to follow the original Ouija design and feel. So, its going to be white printed on the back of a black tee with all of the elements of the party incorporated...this time as a pirate map...I'm not finished with the design 100% because I am going to be adding some secrets that will only be revealed at the party...but if you would like to order one for yourself, you can go Here (just be sure you order before October 12th!)