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Somewhere in your experience as a TD a rogue set designer may come up to you and say, “This set will have a WATER, with real water in it”, where WATER here stands in for words that may include, but are not limited to “pool, river, waterfall, ocean, fountain, stream, lake, pond, lagoon, bay, channel, swamp, etc.” Depending on who you are, you may have different answers to this. If you are wise and value your time, you will probably say no, and that's a reasonable answer. You may, however, be intrigued and say, hmm…that could be interesting…or awesome. To which I, this PWikipedia article, say, yes! It can be interesting AND awesome. However, here are some tips and warnings:

  • Many people you contact for tips may tell you that it's a bad or dangerous idea. They may be right. Trinity suffered some pretty serious and costly water damage when a set leaked.
  • The set leaking, especially on a PW budget, is almost inevitable, so be extra vigilant if you have water standing or running in the space. Karaoke Kid used two layers of plastic, which held water quite well at first. Problems developed once the cast started rehearsing on it, through no fault of their own, really. Leaks manifested themselves in three ways:
    1. Tears in the plastic from being pulled.
    2. Tiny specks of dirt and very very small rocks on the bottoms of boots gradually bore through the plastic.
    3. Imperfections in the floor made holes in the plastic from below when stepped on.
  • Plastic is very slippery, especially when wet, so take precautions to make sure the actors don't hurt themselves walking on it.
  • Have a good, efficient system to get the water out of the space quickly. Karaoke Kid using a wet vac and trash buckets to drain about 3 inches of water took over an hour. This was neither a good, nor an efficient system. Using gravity to drain the water would be an excellent idea if you can figure out how. You also might want to try seeing if you can get a heavy duty pump–Facilities might have one.
  • If you have standing water in the space, expect to fill it before every rehearsal and drain it after every rehearsal. Even if it's not leaking, it's nerve wracking to go to sleep leaving a pool of water in the space, knowing that you can go to sleep and wake up to a frantic phone call telling you that the space has been flooded. However:
  • The PW floor is pretty resilient. Water damage is something you should definitely be cautious of and take every precaution against–don't leave water sitting on the ground any longer than it has to be. However, it bears saying that the floor of PW came away from Karaoke Kid no worse than it had been at the start, despite nearly constant leakage, and a great deal of contact with water. But while the floor is one thing, there are a great deal of things that must be kept out of the water, such as duvetyn and electrics. All this being said, in the summer of 2001 a significant amount of water leaked into the space and sat for long enough that almost all the floor boards warped. So water is not a particularly good thing for PW's floor.
  • Keep in mind if your paint is water soluble–that on the floor almost definitely is.
  • Make sure you have a way for the LD to hang lights without tearing up the bottom of your water body.

All of this being said, water in the space presents some great opportunities in transporting audiences to another world, giving actors and directors something exciting and fun to play with, creating cool lighting effects, getting to splash the audience, and presenting an interesting, fun, and potentially life-changing experience for TDs and set designers. So don't be discouraged just because people think it's a bad idea and are scared of water! In fact, take that as a challenge to show them what you can do! Just know what you're getting yourself into first. 8-)

from sam kusnetz '02: the best methods of containing water have already been invented by someone else. consider them closely before you try inventing your own.

stories/water_in_the_space.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/21 02:00 (external edit)
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