Durham Drama Festival 2016 Black Box

Durham Drama Festival (DDF) 2016 was the 41st annual showcase of the best new student writing at Durham University. It took place during 6-13th February and the festival featured performances, workshops and socials. DDF 2016 showcased 9 original, student-written plays in 5 venues across Durham, including The Assembly Rooms Theatre, a specially built Black Box, and carefully chosen non-standard performance venues for the Site-Specific night.

I was co-Technical Director for the Black Box, focussing on the design aspects of the project, and I was ably assisted by co-TD Sam Humphriss, who was responsible for our tech crew.

I designed the Black Box to fit in the venue (Leech Hall, St. John’s College) and organised the necessary hire. I also designed the lighting for each of the 3 shows performing in the Black Box, which helped shape the truss design. The available power was quite limited, so using LED fixtures alongside conventionals helped keep power requirements down whilst also adding colour mixing capabilities to a small rig. Sam designed and operated the sound for the show, and the venue’s speakers were the only existing technical infrastructure that we could make use of during the show. He also recruited our build team and Light Op, Cat. We were also supported by the Black Box Productions’ Liason, Suzy Hawes, who did a great job of keeping us on task and in the loop.

The Get-In and Tech were easily the longest I’ve ever had for a show, but after 18 hours we had a beautiful theatre built from scratch, and fully programmed lighting and sound. After an hour’s sleep we were back for the Dress, and I relinquished operation of the lighting to Cat so I could step backstage and assume position as Stage Manager. I managed the set and props for the 3 shows, as well as the transitions both between scenes and between shows. There was a lot to fit into the very limited space, but it all worked out very smoothly. At the end of the run, the Get-Out was surprisingly one of the shortest I’ve ever had, and after 2 hours all truss, staging and lights were neatly stacked ready for collection the next day.

The Black Box was home to Small Hours, written and directed by Anna Jeary; Brand Flakes, written by Kate Lipson and directed by Kate Lipson & Suzy Hawes; and The Lizards, written and directed by Nikhil Vyas. The shows were very different, covering everything from cereal to attempted suicide, but they all benefited from the very intimate performance space.

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