Backstage at San Francisco Opera > October 2011 > Doing Justice to the Day
Doing Justice to the Day
We know that Heart of a Soldier closed its run last month, but we can't resist adding a couple of additional blog posts submitted by people involved in the show. There were just so many creative contributions! This first one is from projection designer S. Katy Tucker.

On September 11th, 2001 I was about to start my second day of work as a studio assistant for an artist in Soho. I'd moved to New York City one week before, taking a semester away from college.
September 11 was an exceptionally beautiful day, I walked out the door of my Chelsea apartment and was listening to Lou Reed's song "Perfect Day" on repeat. I got off the train downtown at Spring Street, about 3 minutes after, the first plane hit. A little while later, I saw the second plane hit and witnessed the subsequent events first hand.

As the video designer for Heart of a Soldier, I felt my biggest challenge would be the ending. How do I visually support what that day looked like and do justice to the magnitude of the event? I immediately revisited my saved journals and clippings from that time. I watched countless news coverage of the day and felt what I saw on TV looked nothing like what I remember seeing. The painter I worked with, Diana Kurz, was a holocaust survivor and spent many years painting about that subject and her relatives lost. While her paintings displayed a depressing subject matter, they were executed beautifully. Her layers of colors and glazes proudly portrayed fallen relatives and touched upon the beauty that exists in even the most depressing times. I periodically think about this theme in art, and when I reflect on September 11, this is what I remember most. On one of the most tragic days in American history, it was absolutely beautiful. 
When designing the end of Heart of a Soldier, I wanted to focus the majority of my energy on giving this incredible story an appropriate ending. Though I typically shoot my own footage, I knew I needed help from an expert to recreate an emotional interpretation of this moment. Steve Condiotti, a San Francisco-based director of photography, has worked as a DP and gaffer on many films, and his work is beautiful. His wife, Maria Mendoza, has worked at the San Francisco Opera for many years and is the projection coordinator. Steve and I spoke frequently about how we should shoot the papers. What would they look like? How would we do it? How do we light it? Thankfully, he took the lead along with Lisa Tesone, our producer. Together they arranged for us to shoot at Kerner Optical in San Rafael, CA. In one of their large studios where films like War of the Worlds, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean were shot; Steve and his crew set up a proper movie shoot. We worked with a Special Effects team from Kerner, including Geoff Heron and Scott McNamara, who worked out how we would laser cut the papers and blow them with large fans to capture their fall. For all you technical nerds out there like myself, we used a Red One camera with a wide range of Zeiss lenses. We shot for a solid 8 hours and I’ve never seen papers look so gorgeous. Take after take, the result was exactly what I’d imagined. 
Please visit my vimeo site to look at Steve and our fantastic crew’s beautiful work.
Posted: 10/22/2011 1:43:04 PM by S. Katy Tucker (Projection Designer, Heart of a Soldier)
Filed under: HeartOfASoldier, production


Backstage at San Francisco Opera is a fascinating, fast-moving, mysterious and sacred space for the Company’s singers, musicians, dancers, technicians and production crews. Musical and staging rehearsals are on-going, scenery is loaded in and taken out, lighting cues are set, costumes and wigs are moved around and everything is made ready to receive the audience. From the principal singers, chorus and orchestra musicians to the creative teams for each opera, in addition to the many talented folks who don’t take a bow on stage, this blog offers unique insight, both thought-provoking and light-hearted, into the life backstage at San Francisco Opera.


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