How To: Create the Music Man Train Scene Progression

Here’s our latest how to- the progression of the Music Man Train Scene, contributed by CYT Houston Set Designer Cindy Johnson:

First, [get] your basic tan wall. Tape and frame the windows out for the future ‘salesmen train.’ We’ve got it in two big pieces here, for ease of quick on-and-off movement during the show.

We’ve learned a lot about sets weight, and now are trying to go as lightweight as possible for ease of moving from where we build it to the theater. I remember when we did Aladdin, we moved some sets from my driveway (in the rain,) and they literally fell apart when the truck and trailer went over the curb. Wow! We’ve come a long way!

Here’s one side of the train [above] complete with wonderful salesmen, and Professor Harold Hill hiding behind the newspaper. Since the show took place in Iowa, paint only cornfields. It took about 45 minutes to tape up and measure the windows and paint them red, and probably a half hour to paint the sky and fields. It got slapped up really fast, and for the corn, we simply laid down yellows, blues and greens and took a ruined 6″ brush and smeared ’em for motion. It was fun.

The thing that took the longest was taping… waiting for the paint to dry… taping. Suitcases were easy and fun, too, and of course paint[ing] on some of those cool travel stickers that I wish we still used.

[We] had YARDS of gorgeous red velvet stapled up around [the] windows. At first, [we] stapled only the end curtains on each side, but had a little trouble because of a minor fault in my personality – (I HATE to measure!) The curtains ended up a little higher and a little lower in places. That was the first night of full run-through in the theater. The second night I found more velvet and stapled up the swags across the top. I think it added an extra richness, AND it hid my un-measured side-curtain tops!

Contributed by: Cindy Johnson, Color Cat Studios
Edited by: Jessica Cortez

How To: Building the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Car

I had just finished typing the Music Man synopsis on our website when I received the email that the rights to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had just been released. It was literally the day before we were to announce our 2010-2011 show season and, as much as I love Harold Hill, I was sure that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a better choice for this season. Within the hour I had a contract and it was decided that we would be one of the first amateur theaters to present Chitty. Now all that we had left to do was to build a flying car. Yikes.

So “Team Chitty” was born. The group was complete with a visionary, a carpenter, a welder, a mechanic, an artist, a seamstress and an engineer. The team’s only goal was to bring the car from the movie to life and make it float and fly on stage. A daunting task to say the least but if we’ve learned anything from CYT it’s to dream big. And frankly, if there is no flying car, there is no show.

So, step one, buy a 14” model of the original car on EBay. Step two, decide that it should make a statement onstage and be 14’ long. And step three, agree that the car doesn’t have to actually “fly” like Peter Pan but should lift like a ride at Universal using pneumatics. Three months and several sleepless nights later, Chitty was unveiled with it’s “floaty fly feature” (quote from the Baron of Vulgaria in Chitty) and stole the show for 12 sold out audiences!

“One of the biggest challenges was making the pneumatics work with the frame,” says Team Chitty. “It took three attempts before the car would lift properly.” But once it did it was magic. Controlled by multiple pneumatic joysticks offstage, Chitty sprouts wings and rises and falls before your eyes.
The cost of materials for Chitty was $7000 – the most expensive set piece CYT Richmond has built to date. But theaters are lined up to rent the car for their upcoming performances and are helping to offset the cost. For now, Chitty is sleeping soundly in our new warehouse for the holidays, waiting for its next adventure.

~Brooke Abrahamsen

How to: Finding a Quality Teacher

As CYT continues to grow, so do the number of blog topics we cover. Many of you already network with other CYT’s around the nation and/or scour our National Resource Library to find the secrets of the CYT trade- only to find yourself wanting more of CYT! Because of this need, we look forward to sharing our “How to” interviews with you on a consistent basis.

Linda Wolfe is CYT San Diego’s Artistic Associate of Curriculum. I sat down with her one late afternoon, and gave her a penny for her thoughts on how to find a “Quality Teacher.”

Explain Quantity vs Quality.

When you start an area, you want to grow and offer a wide variety of classes to kids, but it’s best to have quality over quantity. Sometimes it isn’t feasible to offer all of the classes we would like- due to enrollment numbers and teacher availability- but you should always look at quality first because there’s always that danger of growing too big too fast, without the quality.

Do you recommend any web resources?

We put an ad on Craigslist one time, and had some teachers that ended up being great from there. Some of our better teachers have been actual teachers in our own community, such as parents of CYT kids that have teaching experience that we just stumble upon. It helps a lot when they are already familiar with CYT.

Describe a “Quality Teacher” in 5 adjectives or less…

  • Passionate- for what they are teaching. It has to be about the kid, and not about them. It’s about passing on the love of what you’re teaching to the student- it’s a trickledown effect. There are students that myself as well as others have taught who are now CYT Teachers and on artistic teams- specifically Meagan Flint, Ashley Melton, and Michael Sanchez. It’s cool to see what they’ve learned throughout their years of CYT and see them passing it on.
  • Organized- have a great lesson plan with good curriculum to back it up, and be punctual and dependable!
  • Loving- love all of the students and remember everyone learns differently at a different pace, look for the best in each one and help bring that out.
  • Knowledgeable- know what you are teaching and always continue to learn more right along with the students- the learning should never end.

Do you have a checklist prior to hiring?

There are questions we ask in interviews, like: what would you do in certain situations or how do you handle disciplining kids or what age group are you most comfortable working with…. usually they bring along a resume so we can see their theater experience and teaching experience.

…Any red flags in the interview process?

Sometimes I think it’s more of a personality issue. We want to hire teachers that have a passion for teaching, a love for kids and the arts. If you run across a teacher that seems like they don’t enjoy the kids and the process as well as the being able to follow through with a great lesson plan, then this probably isn’t a good fit for them. If someone is overly strict in discipline and doesn’t seem to have any fun with the kids and seems a little more about themselves, then that would be a red flag. Every teacher needs to be kind, compassionate and loving, and realize this is a learning process . Everyone deserves a chance. We do have our CYT Behavioral contract that teachers and students need to follow.

Linda Wolfe has been teaching and directing with CYT since 1990. She is married, and has three children, who are involved in CYT and have a blast participating!

How To Become A Graphic Designer: Q & A With Travis Russell

Travis Russell is the Communications Director here at CYT National. He sat down (from fear of writing) and answered my questions on how to become a graphic designer.

Great job on the CYT Fashion designs. Can you tell me how your designs were inspired?

They were inspired by how I see kids wanting to wear what they are apart of. And CYT doesn’t have anything but show shirts. I wanted them to be like how bikers wear tattoos, how they wear their jackets…. You associate who you are by what you put on most of the time. Also, it was a good way to raise money for CYT.

In 15 words or less, how does someone become a graphic designer?
You need to learn how to SEE.

Where did you go to school?
I learned everything I know at Grossmont College when I was still in high school. I would take design classes. I also went to NYU for a year, the graduate program, for set and lighting design.

Do you recommend school?
No. This is my honest opinion and I know everyone is going to be mad at me. Colleges are not what they started out as – they used to be a fellowship of people who would come together. That’s how the idea started, and then people found out they could make a lot of money off of people going to school. It wasn’t one “talking head” talking to their students; it was people working on a project. So now we have “the system”. They were able to hold the power. However, since technology came out, you can get the knowledge elsewhere. But nowadays school is a place where kids go to find themselves (whatever that means). I recommend going and doing what you want to do. Anyone can be a graphic designer. There are free Photoshop programs out there. Do it. (Google free Photoshop Apps. Phoenix is pretty good…)

What jobs helped you grow as an artist and really gain experience?
Every job.

Any mishaps or downfalls?
I don’t have any downfalls. I’m perfect.

How do you find inspiration? Does it come to you or do you look for it?
When it comes it comes. Going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is always inspiring.

What if you don’t have $500 dollars to fly across the country?
Then it’s a miserable in between time. Basically. Anyway, I also find inspiration in music. Like when I paint I put on an album- the painting comes out like that album.

What steps must a CYT Kid do to become a Graphic Designer? Any advice?
Learn Photoshop and Illustrator and just make stuff all the time.

What stuff?
Whatever. Try to duplicate a poster you see. The Starsky & Hutch posters- I wanted CYT Posters to look like that. I thought it would be rad if Starksy was Robin Hood, and Hutch was Little John. Try making your own CYT posters. I don’t care what any artist says, nothing is original, nothing in history is. The earth is here and everything is derived from that. Don’t copy, but copy. Be original. If something looks good, figure out why. So, COPY. Originally copy.

Purchase CYT Fashion here.