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Old 05-30-2012, 05:03 AM   #1
darklord1967
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Default Costumes for a High School Stage Play

Greetings gang!

My name's Roberto, and I work as a High School Performing Arts instructor here in New York City.

I wanted to share some costumes and other production material that I've designed and put together for a stage play that I am writing and working to produce and direct with several of my student actors over the summer.

The play is semi biographical, focusing on the collaboration of young cartoonist / artist Bob Kane and his writing partner Bill Finger in 1939 as they created The Batman mythology. The play frequently shifts to the world of fiction as the creation of the two young men comes to life on other parts of the stage...

I hope you enjoy.


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Old 05-30-2012, 05:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

COSTUME DESIGN

My personal preference for the costume designs of Bat-characters leaned strongly toward the so-called classic “Bronze Age” of DC Comics (published between the early 1970’s through the early 1990’s.)



But as I already knew, there would still be a lot of room for personal interpretation of the costuming details once I got started on design and construction.

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Old 05-30-2012, 05:04 AM   #3
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THE BATMAN

Clearly, The Batman’s costume was going to be a very important aspect of this play. It had to immediately feel real, legitimate, and it had to illicit the proper mood when first glimpsed by the audience. It was going to need to accept stage lighting well, while not coming off as a cheap, garish Halloween costume. The costume’s textures were going to require special attention so that it would feel rich, elegant and organic.

My approach to the The Batman’s overall costuming philosophy was that Bruce Wayne intended to frighten criminals while striking at them from the dark shadows. The only touches of vibrant color on the uniform (chest emblem and utility belt) would be strategically intended to be seen even in low light. This gives the uniform some contrast and visual interest, rather than being monochromatic and dull.

Also, I wanted to approach the Batman’s costume with THREE basic prescriptions in mind:

1) Para-military survival gear, mixed with
2) Primitive, tribal natural organic textures, mixed with
3) Stately old-world gothic.

For the para-military side, I designed the all-important yellow Utility Belt to appear as a bulky, (but neatly organized) collection of ammunition pouches and high tech vials containing The Batman’s myriad of weapons and urban survival crime-fighting gear. I wanted it to look big, well-stocked, and slightly dangerous.

But it’s the primitive, tribal aspect of the costume that I think ultimately dominates. Certainly it is the part of the costume philosophy that appeals to me the most. When dealing with this costuming mind-set, I imagined the approach of a fierce, tribal warrior: A large BEAST has been vanquished, and the warrior now wears its outer hide as a symbol of his own fighting prowess. The cranium and upper jaw of the animal is worn as a head dress, with only the lower half of the warrior’s own face exposed. The warrior honors the spirit of the fallen creature by wearing it’s skin and fighting on...

This primitive approach made me look at the Batman’s costume mostly in terms of organic textures like leather. The bat-cowl, cape, gauntlets, trunks, and boots would ALL need to share an identical black leathery texture. By contrast, the accents of color on the uniform (chest emblem and utility belt) would need to feel manufactured and synthetic. The skin-tight GREY (middle ground) body suit bridges the two worlds by appearing not quite synthetic and not quite organic. I studiously AVOIDED fashioning this garment with typical lycra Spandex due to its glitzy synthetic sheen and instead went with a charcoal grey Supplex material with a matte finish. But my motivation was also firmly intended to stay true to the color scheme of the costume in the comics to preserve the visual contrasts. Going with a black armored body suit (as is typically done in live-action Batman films) was not an option for me since it would only make the character (unattractively) mono-chromatic in my eyes.

In order to lend the character the stately, old-world, gothic flavor that I thought was necessary, I paid special attention to the sillhouetted outer contour of the assembled costume. The figure’s lines would need to be razor straight, emphasizing a powerful vertical force that was bigger than life. The long ears of the Bat cowl and the fanned-out lines of the cape at rest were intended to give the character height, power, and a Dracula-like presence.

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Old 05-30-2012, 05:06 AM   #4
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COWL

Obviously, The Batman cowl has undergone numerous design changes in the comic books over the years. As it happens, I am a fan of the long-eared cowl design, since it appears most Bat-like and imposing to me. It also more accurately reflects the character’s appearance during his earliest years (late 1930’s – early 1940’s), and my preferred era, the Bronze Age of comics (early 1970’s – early 1990’s).

A licensed, store-bought cowl was not even an option for me since virtually all that was available were warped rubber cowls based on the designs from the recent Chris Nolan films or the early Tim Burton films.

What was called for was a clean, straight, and sharp rendition of the cowl as seen in the comic books.

Fortunately for me, premiere cowl sculptor (and all-around nice guy) Shawn Reevz produces a stunning cowl that was PERFECT for what I needed.


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Old 05-30-2012, 05:08 AM   #5
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BAT CAPE

Using a pattern of my own design, I fashioned a scalloped Bat-cape out of 4-way stretch dull black PVC that had the sheen, appearance, feel, and texture of soft leather. It also matched the color and texture of the Bat-cowl perfectly. The finished cape is capable of spreading to a full 16 foot wingspan, and looks elegant and stately when at rest as it hugs the wearer’s shoulder with a shaped seam.

I also made sure to create a pattern that would be long enough to drape the bat-scallops along the floor whenever the cape was at rest. This same fabric was used to create the shorts for the uniform.


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Old 05-30-2012, 05:09 AM   #6
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GLOVES

The gloves on this costume are tough, durable and custom made. I began with a simple pair of men’s XX-L leather winter gloves and removed the fleece lining from the inside to make them less cumbersome. I then attached an appropriately sized and shaped leather Bat-sleeve gauntlet cuff (with three large Bat-fins) to the wrist gloves. I took some creative license here and made the bat-fins slightly larger than usual to make them seem weapon-like and more dangerous. I also wanted them to have greater visibility during stage combat.


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Old 05-31-2012, 05:44 PM   #7
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

This is so awesome!

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Old 05-31-2012, 08:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

Thanks guys! I'm still actually working to cast a High School-aged actor to play The Joker for this play. But I must say, since I am trying to be as faithful and traditionalist as possible with the look and portrayals of these characters, The Clown Prince of Crime is going to be TOUGH AS HECK to cast! The manic energy, and acting ability required for that role is going to be off the chart!

I just found a terrific young High School Sophmore to play Edward The Riddler Nigma, and I am working to costume him within the next month.

But The Joker and The Penguin are both being saved for last because of how difficult they are going to be to cast.

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Old 06-07-2012, 05:09 AM   #9
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

As once as a kid reading the early 70:s and early 50:s Batman comics (from my father's old comics collection, I always liked that version of the Batmobile), I'm glad to see these classic and timeless designs.

Great job on the details of these costumes, and looking forward to see the villain's costumes later on. The story itself involving Kane and Finger of course sounds very interesting too.

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Old 07-06-2012, 01:36 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

Responding to an inquiry:

The next costume to be created for this stage play is going to be THE RIDDLER.

All items required to assemble together this costume have been ordered and have either been delivered or en-route.

This will be the green tights-wearing version of the Riddler, but wearing the bowler derby hat. Custom-made face mask, gauntlets and wide belt will be made in purple leather.

First Riddler costume fitting with High school actor scheduled for a few weeks from now. Photos to come. Stay tuned!


***UPDATE 8/27/12***

Months ago, when I first began to develop The Riddler’s costume, it was suggested to me that I could go with a simple, inexpensive Zentai unitard (from China) with basic silk-screened question marks for The Riddler's costume. But I quickly rejected that idea based on what I really imagined for this character's costume:

1) Firstly, I did NOT want The Riddler's tights to be a single piece, scoop neck unitard (as in Jim carrey's costume in "Batman Forever"). I felt that this would be overly plain an un-interesting.




In the tradition of Frank Gorshin's costume from the 1966 Batman TV series, I was of the opinion that the uniform would look better and richer as a two-piece ensemble with a turtle-neck. The mid-body break-up created by the seams around the leg openings and the big Purple waist belt give the costume visual interest. However, (unlike Gorshin's costume) I wanted question marks covering the entire costume... not just a single large mark on his chest and a line of marks down the sides of his legs.





2) Secondly, the tendency with a Zentai single piece unitard Riddler costume from China is that the question marks are all silk-screened in a random pattern... even upside down (just like the "Forever" costume). The graphics do NOT conform to any particular logic. It is almost as if the raw fabric is silkscreened with the random question marks PRIOR to the fabric being cut and sewn into the unitard garment. This was NOT the approach I wanted.




In the comics, The Riddler’s costume question marks are ALWAYS viewable as right-side-up... even if they are a bit skewed. This is the pattern I wanted to follow.

3) Thirdly, it was important to me that there be a single DOMINANT, larger question mark on the upper chest and back (just like in the comics).



4) Fourth, there was the consideration of the FONT of the question marks: I wanted the question marks (regardless of size) to all be ONE FONT, and I wanted a font that seemed classical and sophisticated... not just plain and basic. After some research, I selected a font known as “Tiffany” for this costume.


All of these guidelines meant that I had to select a suitable Kelly Green 4-way stretch spandex, and then fashion the plain green leotard and leggings garments through my local body suit supplier:

On Stage Dancewear
197 Madison Ave (bet 34 & 35 St)
New York, NY. 10016

Afterward, I ordered some special nylon-based iron-on question marks (in various sizes and in the font of my choice), and attached them one at a time to the garment.

It was long and tedious work. But in the end, the final effect on the finished costume was definitely worth the effort.








Last edited by darklord1967; 08-27-2012 at 05:52 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:33 AM   #11
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

Three of the student cast members of my upcoming School Stage Play Fathers of the Dark Knight met with me on a New York City rooftop this evening.

Our goal was to shoot a series of “glamor” stills to help promote our play and assist in our upcoming fund-raising efforts.

The kids had an AWESOME time, and we all walked away VERY proud of the images we captured . We feel they really represent the mood and tone of our intended noir stage play.

I hope you enjoy these images.


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Old 08-26-2012, 10:16 AM   #12
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

This is pretty darn cool! Good luck with this! I wish I could see it lol.

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Old 08-27-2012, 03:25 PM   #13
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

Good lord...this looks awesome! Whatever you do..defiantly make a Youtube vid for this. So far..costumes look better than the Batman Live ones lol.

When do you expect the show to be ready?

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Old 08-27-2012, 03:47 PM   #14
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Good lord...this looks awesome! Whatever you do..defiantly make a Youtube vid for this. So far..costumes look better than the Batman Live ones lol.

When do you expect the show to be ready?

Thanks for the props about the costumes. yes, I think they are quite strong too. And the students absolutely LOVE them! I'm biased, of course, but i think they are stronger than the Batman Live Arena Show costumes as well. As always, they felt the need to re-invent the looks of these classic characters. Where as I worked to do faithful interpretations of what worked in the comic books for over seven decades. I figure if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

With the proper shadowy lighting, atmosphere, and mood, I remain convinced that spandex heroes, heroines, (and villains) still work beautifully. And they will lend themselves splendidly to the heightened reality of stage.

Depending on how our fund-raising goes (for building sets and securing rehearsal space etc.) I hope to be ready before the winter with my students.

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Old 08-27-2012, 04:12 PM   #15
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Default Re: Bat-Character Costumes for a High School Stage Play

Ow a Christmas release!

I'm no expert but shouldn't you be able to get some sort of grant for this?

You could also make a pretty badass teaser trailer to drum up interest with just what you've got at the moment, imo.

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Old 08-27-2012, 05:33 PM   #16
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Ow a Christmas release!

I'm no expert but shouldn't you be able to get some sort of grant for this?

You could also make a pretty badass teaser trailer to drum up interest with just what you've got at the moment, imo.

The Performing Arts school that I work for has not offered to subsidize any of the cost of this play up until now. Since the subject matter is not Shakespearean or "classic" (read: old and boring), and since the subject matter makes partial reference to "juvenile" contemporary comic book characters, no "educational value" is seen by the Board of Education.

Furthermore, there is sometimes a bit of a hesitation to produce something like this within the school system because of the fear of lawsuit from parents. You see, these are comic book characters who wear form-fitting spandex costumes. And the climate in the D.O.E. is to be very wary of anything that could conceivably show kids in a sexual light.

Meanwhile the dance Department at our school still puts on recitals with other students who are wearing virtually the SAME TYPE OF (dance) GARMENTS that I am using to costume Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Riddler, Harley Quinn, etc. I know this because some of the costume body suits I commissioned for this play were purchased from a dance apparel manufacturer.

It is really dumb. THAT is how the Department of Education works. The main focus is NOT educating and inspiring these kids. It is avoiding lawsuit. The rooftop photo shoot I conducted this weekend with my students would be SO FROWNED UPON by administrators if the students I was working with were actually from my school... which they are NOT (one has graduated, one has transferred to another school, and the third is from a different school).

The reality is any financial contribution from the D.O.E toward this play gives them partial creative control over the final product, and I am NOT very comfortable with that. Before I knew it, I'd find myself "editing" my ideas and dialogue just to conform to the D.O.E.'s paranoia as I wrote the script. I'd suddenly find myself re-designing Robin's classic costume since his legs appear to be bare, and that might make someone uncomfortable or nervous... It just gets endlessly frustrating.

Meanwhile, the students who are working with me on this play are INFINITELY more engaged, motivated, excited, and hard-working than any of the other students working on any of the more "recognized" works of the school system.

Furthermore, since this is a play about the BRONX cartoonist and writer team of Bob Kane and Bill Finger, there is a significant connection to my students, most of whom are from The Bronx as well.

I am certainly going to do my best to push our Principal to write a grant proposal to secure some funds for this production, but if it doesn't happen I am certainly happy to do some grass-roots fund-raising instead. Our Principal is aware of this production and he is supportive, but he is also an Administrator who has other people higher up in the Board of Education to answer to.

This new series of "glamor" action photos that I shot this weekend are part of a portfolio of Production Stills that I plan to use for fund-raising and promotion. There will be more photos of this type in the coming weeks.

The idea of a promotional teaser trailer has been kicked around, and we are looking into that now. But admittedly that is going to be difficult. Even something as small as a teaser will cost me money that I simply do not have at the moment.

So far, I have funded EVERYTHING directly out of my own pocket for my students. These costumes have now cost me upwards of $8000 to design and create... and that's with ME doing most of the work personally. And we still have The Joker and The Penguin to cast and costume. And then we have to build our sets...

But I'm tenacious! And I'm plugging away. One way or other, this stage play will happen!

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Old 08-27-2012, 06:10 PM   #17
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Jesus, that's a nightmare of stupidity.

Seeing as you can now do comicbook studies in some universities..and as you say..they came from the Bronx..this is quite obv educational. Local famous public figures who made a massive impact on world culture, etc.

And the gymnast/ballet/dance school clothing is far more revealing! This is just silly lol.

Only other thing I can think of is going to local comicbook stores for abit of backup. They give abit of funding and you plug them on the night. I'm sure alot of fans would want in on this..free help!

You seem to have put a great deal of thought, effort, time and money into this..so I do hope it works out okay! I think it could be a hit on the night then on the net afterwards for sure. Cos its unique!

Oh so it was a real rooftop..that duo shot looks amazing.


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Old 08-27-2012, 07:15 PM   #18
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Great suggestions pal! i will certainly keep those in mind.

And yes, we went up on a real rooftop (the one of my own home) here in Brooklyn, NY.

The shoot required about a month's worth of coordination to establish safety parameters and procedures. Originally, Robin The Boy Wonder was supposed to have been part of this shoot as well, but at the last minute, he and his mother were ill and could not attend.

A funny story:

My wife and I own a 3-stroy brownstone in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Access to my roof is only possible through a steel ACCESS LADDER from the 3rd floor hallway of the building up to the roof hatch. It's not a bad climb, but if you're not used to climbing ladders, it can be a bit... intimidating.

The night before the shoot, I gathered my three former students (now in college) who would be serving as my production assistants, and I took them up to the roof to brief them as to the next evening's details. We discussed all of the equipment that would need to be brought up for the shoot (Re: the two cameras, tripod, lighting equipment, fog machine, slide projector for the Bat-signal, etc.)

At the end of the evening, My Production Assistants and I speculated that NONE of the attending parents would likely want to make the climb on that ladder.

As a result, my wife and I planned the evening so that she would entertain and serve refreshments to the waiting parents in our air conditioned first floor living space while the students and I would be doing the grunt work of the shooting up on the creepy, grimy night time roof.

For the three students who portrayed these characters for the shoot, five (5) PARENTS and two younger siblings attended.

At 5PM, my Production Assistants began carrying the shooting and SPFX equipment up to the roof . At 6:30 the students all began changing into their costume tights, sweat pants and sneakers for their climb up the ladder to the rooftop. The rest of their costume items (masks, capes, belts, gloves, boots) would be waiting for them up on the roof.

For safety reasons, I was NOT allowing any fully costumed students to climb the ladder.

Knowing that the ONLY chance to see their kids live in FULL costume would be up on the roof, EVERY SINGLE parent and sibling braved the ladder climb, and stayed up on the rooftop for the ENTIRE shoot just so they could check out their kid and the full costumes!

I was so amused. Naturally, they all "oohed" and "ahhed" when each character was fully dressed in costume.

At nearly 8PM on the button, when the sky was fully dark, I began to light my first shot. The entire operation ran like a well-oiled machine, and we wrapped at about 10PM.

It was a really awesome night for me, but MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY for those kids.

We had an audience of spectators from a bunch of the surrounding rooftops, and those kids felt like celebrities!! I was so happy for them!!



THE DUO SHOT:

This was the last shot of the night. Very difficult, but a LOT of fun to capture. I wanted to create the look of a "floating" camera, looking up at our heroes who are (supposedly) perched on the edge of a rooftop. In actuality, they were standing on one of the 18 inch tall dividers that separate my rooftop from the adjoining rooftop of my next door neighbor! The kids were actually perfectly safe, leaning out over the adjacent rooftop that was only 18 inches or so below them. I laid on my side, shooting up at the stone divider and the two kids perched on it, with my hand-held camera. I was able to create the illusion that this was the top-edge face of a tall building, when in fact it was not!

I knew I wanted to have the "moon" in the shot. I figured the moon is basically a glowing orb in the night sky, so I positioned the rim-light lighting fixture directly in the frame on the right side to double as the full moon. Later, using Photoshop, I super-imposed an image of the actual moon over the lighting fixture in the shot.

Like the other shots we took that night, the wind was NOT cooperating the way we wanted it to regarding our atmospheric steam / fog effects. In each instance, I had to wait veeeeeeeery patiently for the steam to rise to the position I wanted behind my actors... and then very quickly snap the photo. I am VERY proud of the fact that there is not a single bit of Photoshop trickery in ANY of these shots to create the steam. What you see here is actual, photographed steam / fog... positioned naturally by random wind, and lit by my colored lights!


Last edited by darklord1967; 08-27-2012 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 08-28-2012, 04:39 PM   #19
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Great suggestions pal! i will certainly keep those in mind.


The night shots are perfect, Batman under moonlight is always fantastic. Like I said..this will be a hit! If I lived close..or even in America lol..id help out.

Looking back on page one you say you've cast Nightwing too, any pics? Any of Harley?

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Old 08-28-2012, 10:43 AM   #20
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As I said on MegoMuseum, these are absolutely amazing! I cannot wait to see more updates. I would think fundraising for a production with this level of professionalism would go well! Keep up the unbelievable work!

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Old 08-28-2012, 10:52 AM   #21
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G'damn!

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Old 08-28-2012, 10:08 PM   #22
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If Nightwing is in this, I'd love to see your costume design for him. I'm a huge Dick Grayson/Nightwing fan.

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Old 07-13-2013, 01:55 AM   #23
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If Nightwing is in this, I'd love to see your costume design for him. I'm a huge Dick Grayson/Nightwing fan.

So sorry!! I forgot to respond to this.

Here ya go... Some images of our young student actor who will be playing NIGHTWING




















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Old 12-18-2013, 07:54 PM   #24
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If you're like me, you're tired of our young people having THE ARTS being cut... more and more each year... from their school curriculum! Each year, Performing Arts students and their teachers have less and less resources to put on really good quality shows!


That bothered me SO MUCH that I decided to do something about it!! I've written my OWN stage play (entitled "Fathers Of The Dark Knight"), and it will feature a cast made up primarily of middle school, high school, and college-age drama students!!


I'm giving these kids an ambitious, excellent show to call their OWN!! I want them to have the BEST sets, the BEST costumes, the BEST props!! I do this because they deserve the best. I do this because they deserve to have a top quality way to showcase their talent!

I do this because I love them.

But I really need help.

Please visit our official website at FATHERS OF THE DARK KNIGHT.com . Take your time visiting the site and get a good up-close look at all the props, costumes stage designs and top-notch production value that has been fabricated FROM SCRATCH for this student production.

Then, if you are so inclined, please come back to our GO FUND ME campaign and make a donation to our enterprise.Your dollars will help me make these students shine on stage like never before. You can help me give them an experience that they will carry with them for a lifetime! What could have more artistic value than that?












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Old 09-03-2012, 02:25 PM   #25
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This is fantastic! I'd love to see a vid of the finished product. Those are some lucky high schoolers to have a director as involved as you! Major props!

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