Originally Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007
Usually when a show ends the main question patrons ask is, "What will the actors be doing next?" In the case of King Hedley II the main question was, "What are you going to do with all that dirt!" We caught up with Ruthie Scarpino, the production intern here at Signature, to find out more about the dirt used in the production.
What is the dirt from King Hedley II made of?
The dirt is made out of four parts. Two parts concrete, one part top soil and one part saw dust. And some water to flavor.
How did you choose this particular dirt?
We experimented. We made samples of various mixtures and took them into rehearsal so the director and designers could look at them and feel them. We'd make batches, or tubs, of sample dirt, mixing different amounts of the same materials. One time we tried adding glue to the mix but that just made a mess. We didn't want the dirt too dusty or too healthy. The health of our actors and audience was also a concern when trying mixtures.
How did the actors react to the dirt?
The actors had to get used to walking on it, they rehearsed on a flat surface, so moving to something textured like dirt was a bit of an adjustment. Reggie, our costume designer, had the most trouble with it. He originally wanted Lynda, who played Ruby, to wear stiletto shoes in act two. But in the end he was not able to do this. He had to choose comfort and mobility over fashion.
How did you get the dirt on the ground?
We mixed our concoction in a five gallon tub, added a bit of water, and then slopped it on the stage. We had to be sure to cover the whole stage and spread it out evenly. The final step in the process was stomping on the dirt to even it out and help it settle. Watching the crew jumping around the stage was certainly a sight to see.
How are you getting the dirt out of the theatre?
Shovels and buckets. It's actually quite a tedious process. The dirt has gotten very hard throughout the run of the show. In order to get it up, before we can shovel it, we have to break through the compact dirt at the bottom. Once we find, or create, that break in the dirt we're using shovels to shovel it into buckets, which then goes into the dumpster.