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Stage props: a tale of two chairs, part two

Scenic designer Sean Fanning has been on the lookout for matching chairs for Intrepid Shakespeare's Hamlet. As he wrote on Facebook, January 9, they had to be "late 19th/early 20th century Scandinavian or Danish high-backed chairs...in gray or black, or that you are open to having painted." And had to look like thrones.

Fanning shot requests to contacts all over San Diego.

"Finding rustic items is easier [than more elegant ones]. People always seem to have access to old, mismatched furniture. Finding a matched set's a bit more challenging."

He asked Angelica Ynfante from Cygnet Theatre/San Diego Rep to check their stock. Nothing. But she sent a link to Craigslist for a dining set. "They had the perfect set of chairs," says Fanning, "but way too expensive; we would've had to purchase the whole set just to get two chairs."

Other possibilities dried up. Did he panic?

"Years ago, I used to get nervous/edgy about this stuff as days passed. part of that beginner's paranoia: 'if I don't solve this thing, the world will come crumbling down on top of me.'"

Not anymore. "My ability to experience stress has been incapacitated in recent years. It comes from having some confidence, and taking on many productions and not really having time to worry."

Working on another production, Mark Acito's Birds of a Feather at Diversionary, provided an unexpected solution.

In the upstairs rehearsal room, Fanning was was drawing a stylized Fifth Avenue, NYC skyline on stock flats with a marker pen. To rest his eyes he watched how the fading sunlight made shadows stretch across "random piles of furniture they keep stacked up high and out of the way."

"Of course!" he says - half voila!/half wry irony - "there they were: two high-backed carver-style dining chairs with turned front legs and caning on the back splats. They were painted a bright red over gaudy gold, with polka dot upholstery, but the silhouettes were, to my eyes, right."

He asked Bret Young, Producing Director of Diversionary, if he could borrow them and got an immediate okay.

"I went back to work, and later piled the chairs into the back of my car. They'll soon be on a journey to get sanded down and painted a glossy gray, and upholstered with something slick and elegant. A fitting and typical ending, thanks to local connections."

But what if the chairs were hard to find and your deadline started clicking like an egg-timer?

"As a theater company, we're all in it together. If things went too long without panning out, the usual panic bells would be sounded, and we'd have to solve the issue as a collaborative group. Usually it gets solved - small theaters locally have the remarkable ability to be resourceful at the last minute; that's how they survive.

"However nothing quite compares to the heroic feeling of being able to bring in pieces that solve the problem before panic can set in."

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Scenic designer Sean Fanning has been on the lookout for matching chairs for Intrepid Shakespeare's Hamlet. As he wrote on Facebook, January 9, they had to be "late 19th/early 20th century Scandinavian or Danish high-backed chairs...in gray or black, or that you are open to having painted." And had to look like thrones.

Fanning shot requests to contacts all over San Diego.

"Finding rustic items is easier [than more elegant ones]. People always seem to have access to old, mismatched furniture. Finding a matched set's a bit more challenging."

He asked Angelica Ynfante from Cygnet Theatre/San Diego Rep to check their stock. Nothing. But she sent a link to Craigslist for a dining set. "They had the perfect set of chairs," says Fanning, "but way too expensive; we would've had to purchase the whole set just to get two chairs."

Other possibilities dried up. Did he panic?

"Years ago, I used to get nervous/edgy about this stuff as days passed. part of that beginner's paranoia: 'if I don't solve this thing, the world will come crumbling down on top of me.'"

Not anymore. "My ability to experience stress has been incapacitated in recent years. It comes from having some confidence, and taking on many productions and not really having time to worry."

Working on another production, Mark Acito's Birds of a Feather at Diversionary, provided an unexpected solution.

In the upstairs rehearsal room, Fanning was was drawing a stylized Fifth Avenue, NYC skyline on stock flats with a marker pen. To rest his eyes he watched how the fading sunlight made shadows stretch across "random piles of furniture they keep stacked up high and out of the way."

"Of course!" he says - half voila!/half wry irony - "there they were: two high-backed carver-style dining chairs with turned front legs and caning on the back splats. They were painted a bright red over gaudy gold, with polka dot upholstery, but the silhouettes were, to my eyes, right."

He asked Bret Young, Producing Director of Diversionary, if he could borrow them and got an immediate okay.

"I went back to work, and later piled the chairs into the back of my car. They'll soon be on a journey to get sanded down and painted a glossy gray, and upholstered with something slick and elegant. A fitting and typical ending, thanks to local connections."

But what if the chairs were hard to find and your deadline started clicking like an egg-timer?

"As a theater company, we're all in it together. If things went too long without panning out, the usual panic bells would be sounded, and we'd have to solve the issue as a collaborative group. Usually it gets solved - small theaters locally have the remarkable ability to be resourceful at the last minute; that's how they survive.

"However nothing quite compares to the heroic feeling of being able to bring in pieces that solve the problem before panic can set in."

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