Making it Rain (on stage)

Posted on October 18, 2013


Getting the sounds and sight of water perfect for Mixed Blood’s current run of Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy was a technical feat for the Theatre’s production team. The Chronicles of Kalki requires half of the cast to get wet and the title character to be completely drenched onstage. With wires and lights and a smoke machine, such logistics can get a little hairy. Don’t try this at home, kids.

The stage itself was custom-built for the Trilogy with a giant 10×3 foot water tank under the stage. The tank’s plastic shell is designed to save everything else under the stage from getting wet, keeping the play’s lightning storm imagined instead of actualized. Think of it like a giant fountain. The water tank is fashioned with a sump pump system with three outlets that lead up and around the three rectangle structures on the stage. The water comes out of little holes and is guided down and onto the actors by strategically placed rings. Once it’s curtains for the water scenes, the rain returns into the same tank from whence it came through holes in the stage floor. Yes, we change the water. Don’t be gross.

Kalki LOVES the rain! Come check her and the rest of the #DisplacedHinduGods!

Kalki LOVES the rain! Come see her and the rest of the #DisplacedHinduGods!

Keeping the actors comfortable in such a wet show is paramount. The water is room temperature and a production assistant adjusts the pressure of the rain so no one gets fire-hosed. Actors are given foot warmers to keep in their shoes so their body temperatures remain at safe levels and towels are used back stage in abundance. To keep actors from sliding all over stage, a special treatment was applied to the stage, akin to what you might use on your garage floor in the winter. The hot lights above the stage help to dry the stage for the next show.

Actor Lipica Shah, who plays “Kalki”, alternates between two wigs so that her head isn’t always wet. She wears a waterproof makeup sealer that keeps her makeup from running in the downpour. Lucky for her, on multiple show days she bows for Kalki, then rushes off to play the title character in Shiv fifteen minutes later… wherein her hair starts off wet at the top of the show. It’s almost as if a playwright intended for the shows to run in repertoire (wink).