In the Christmas planning stages we desired to celebrate middle eastern texture and Hebrew patterns. As planning progressed we settled on the idea of developing a live theatre inspired Bethlehem. We wanted to create a larger than life Bethlehem on a reasonably small stage. The conclusion was to build multistory buildings built with perspective in mind to try to give the illusion of distance. We also used light and texture to deepen the look and feel of the small town.
We started by building some simple structural frames out of pine that stood above the front buildings on three legs. Later these frames were pushed into the corner and screwed them to the walls to offer more stability.
We covered the frames in cardboard from large boxes and overlayed it with cheap calico by staple gunning the fabric back behind the timber.
We used some old small painting canvases as the window frames, removing the canvas and then wrapping the calico through the inside of the windows. Later we hung some patterned fabric in the windows as curtains.
We then painted the calico, using different colours to create texture. (We also used a sandstone textured paint but found the effect was so subtle that it was not worth the effort.)
To drive an additional illusion of flat roofs in the front buildings we suspended paper-mache pots and fake plants.
At the front of the arch we used gyprock with the intention of using plaster to build some 3D rocks onto the surface. We decided to instead paint the rocks onto the front. This meant we were left with a cumbersome structure that needed to be destroyed after the Christmas season.
We wanted the to look completely 3D and so we used long narrow sections of 3mm MDF to bend the inner edge of the arch. Small lengths of pine were used to create contact points for the MDF to be screwed to.
We used some stage flats that we had to create two walls. We wanted this room to be a place performers could enter the stage from so we created a doorway by building a timber frame with a timber box on top.
All the timber and flats were covered in calico and painted to texture like the other buildings.
We did not want to cut windows into our stage flats so we painted them on keeping perspective in mind.
We rolled out a large amount of aluminium foil and painted it a dark grey. We then folded and crunched it up to make brick work.
We put highlights on the brick with white paint, mostly just skimming over the raised areas on the textured bricks and a little highlight work on the top edge of each brick to separate each brick visually.
The door of the structure was a timber door we had in storage. It was stood on an angle so people could slip in and out past it without people being able to see in.
We added a few pot plants around the base of the structures, some fabric and fake vines hanging over the edges and some curtains in the windows. The lighting inside the houses were simple par lights clamped to the timber frame and pointed at the windows.
The Front Lean-tos
The outer two lean-tos are simple frame out the front using round garden logs for the uprights and structural pine across the top and up on an angle to the timber wall (Which had been previously made out of old wooden fence.) One we covered with fabric and the other with a brush privacy screen we bought from a hardware store. The market was then filled with every middle eastern style vase, jug, basket and lamp stand we could find as well as the rest of the paper-mache pottery that we had made. The table in the market worked as a puppet theatre that we used for a creative kids segment in our Christmas church service.