Way back when I served as Vice-President of Theatre Huntsville, the only position I’d ever accept on the board of directors for that organization again, I had the chance to work on a great play. It was “Same Time Next Year” and I got the chance to do some really great things as the Technical Director. For one, the set build was fun and exciting, as I had a very condensed timeframe, uncooperative weather, and since it wasn’t performed in our usual venue, some serious drawbacks. The biggest hurdle was building a 24 foot wall, with windows and a door in the center, and the door had to slam. But I could, in no way, attach the wall to the floor. A little ingenuity and about a quarter ton of steel weights and sandbags worked wonders, and the wall was rock solid for the run of the show.
I also got to do some creative stuff for the show. Since this play was a “special addition” to the regular season, the main stage show was already rehearsing in our scene shop and rehearsal space. So I had to build our set around the build of another set, and I had to come up with some fairly technical solutions to real problems. One of those problems was that the actor had to play piano, but he didn’t know how to play. So I built a false grand piano, put speakers in it, and on his iPod Touch, he had control of the sound files of the songs he had to play. It worked beautifully, with the sound coming out of the piano, every night people went up to Carlos, the actor, and commented that they didn’t know he played piano so well. Okay, Carlos gets some of the credit, he did act it out quite well.
Another problem was the Director didn’t really like the way the play opened. For those familiar with the movie, the play doesn’t start at the restaurant, it starts the very first time the couple walked into their hotel suite. The director really liked the setup at the restaurant, but we couldn’t add words to the play, and having a scene change was out of the question. So what we did instead was open the play with a silent film, that I got to shoot and direct, that set up the play the same as the movie. The play opened in darkness, and we projected the opening movie onto a screen lowered from the ceiling. Additionally, we used the screen during the scene changes, since each act was separated by five years. Our producer was a talented piano player, so he recorded a 3 minutes of music from that 5 year period, and I created a video of images from the same time. It worked beautifully.
Another thing I started with this play and continued for the next several plays was introducing movie style trailers for the shows. We heavily used the trailers as television commercials and on social media, and we tracked ticket sales, and releasing a trailer seriously drove ticket sales. After a year, I burnt out on being the only person available to shoot and edit the trailers, so they aren’t done anymore. And that’s a shame. I think they really helped drive sales.
I was reviewing all these trailers last night, and was surprised to learn that the trailer for Same Time Next Year was significantly more popular than the others. So I thought it might be fun to start a weekly series on the trailers I shot that year, with a little background on my involvement on each of the shows. I’m not sure what happened to the scene change videos or the opening video, but if I can track those down, I’ll add them at a future date. But here now is the very first Theatre Huntsville trailer ever shot, and the first play based trailer we could find anywhere in the southeast. (Many theaters around us started doing them after that first year.)