Canvas-Falcons live at the Orpheum


Fifteen years ago a young theatre arts student rifting through a compilation of WWI flyboy vignettes recognized a voice, that of his father, a Vietnam veteran, coming through the words. Inspired by this resonance, Troy Gleeson wrote a one act play, Canvas Falcons, which he produced once, then began to develop into a classic two act story. It was at this point his theatre director encouraged him to have his actors ‘sing’ the lines and a deeper, more powerful dimension emerged. The production was very well received and over the next fifteen years Troy refined the scri pt and polished the musical score, along with running a camera support business and starting a family, and presented it at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.

Canvas Falcons is about four American volunteers in World War One. Three of them are accepted into the Royal Canadian Flying Corps. The other, a lovely young woman of high social standing becomes a Red Cross volunteer, signing on to serve donuts and coffee to the men.

Each of them has their own journey from what they expected War to be to what it really is – the story is about how they cope.

There are things in this play that only veterans will understand. Things buried deep in the structure and words – and then there is a song about bedpans – a tango actually.

Canvas Falcons live at the Orpheum communicates the timeless essence of the tragedy of war in a sparse, elegant, deeply textured multi-media environment.

In order to accomplish this level of production value at 25% of the projected cost, Troy, assisted by his brother, Brock, has the following comments:

“The technology in the mid 1990’s just wasn’t capable of giving us what we were looking for. Last year at this time things had changed substantially, this is what I used:

Cameras: 3 Sony HDR HC1 hi def captured in 1080i mounted on Weaver/Steadman video pro 3 axis heads with a prototype of the Weaver/Steadman 10 axis crane on stage. (Weaver/Steadman equipment designed and manufactured by Troy Gleeson)

Editing suite: Final Cut HD, on a Macintosh dual processor G5, running 2gigs of ram and 500gigs installed Hard Drive space, plus 125 external Laci hard drive – 2 hours of musical coverage filled this configuration to the maximum – The music is the timeline. Render time was a problem, could have used a rack of 5 servers – would not have been practical in another environment.

Music software: Started in Cubase, moved to Pro Tools and finished the entire work in
Apple Logic – mainly because I had to print sheet music for chorus numbers in which I had to break the chorus music out into Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Base.

The orchestra sounds were a sample tank product: Miroslav Philharmonic Orchestra, which is the MPS sampled at 32 bits. The sounds it generated were incredible – it is one of the enabling technologies that made it possible to achieve this at this price point and to allow two individuals to build this whole thing out of their garage and den, the others being the Weaver/Steadman video Pro 3 axis head and 10 axis crane.

We utilized a 3000 Lumin Projector to display images on the back cyclorama during a live performance as an analog for textural reference for the time period (WWI) and to cover one of the more daunting challenges of this piece – How do you display aerial combat onstage with a limited budget?

I bought the rights to stock footage from the time period and of period aircraft that was taken in the mid-60’s by Talmantz (Frank Talman and Paul Mantz who are the fathers of Hollywood aviation and operated a fleet of original WWI aircraft for a period of time.)

I also bought the rights to the posters from the era and built them into a montage. I used things to add an emotional and historical subtext to the piece that turned out to be rather brutally effective.

One of the biggest challenges we had in a big house was mikeing 20 people, so we invested in wireless vocal mikes that operated from the back of the house by the union sound engineer who juggled all of them while dialing each one in for their specific feedback signatures. Using a Sure software package running on a PC laptop was able to monitor each mike and performer for their specific frequencies and adjust them for maximum gain and minimum feedback.

The lighting was handled with the house lights installed in the Orpheum Theatre and put to masterful use by the house lighting director, Karen Seifried, who wielded the entire array of about 300 instruments with the ease of a skilled painter wielding a brush.

The initial Pre-release copies of the DVD’s were mastered in iDVD, the art compiled in photoshop and illustrator, as was all the print media. For more pictures, video and audio:

Winner: 2006 New York Independent Film Festival for Best Feature Length Musical – Los Angeles
Written, Produced and Directed by Troy Gleeson
100 minutes


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Constanse Pharr

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