Hidden PVD

Under the Stage at Trinity Rep

Peek inside the secret world of special effects and backstage trickery hiding beneath the floor


“We haven’t done this show in the round in nearly a decade,” says Laura E. Smith, production director at Trinity Rep. “We used to do it all the time.” Every year, Trinity Rep mounts Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and each production is unique. A coal cart once levitated across the auditorium. Parachute fabric once covered the audience. When real flames burst from the stage, at least one person fainted. But without fail, every production uses trapdoors to keep the action moving, including a subterranean elevator. “It’s the simplest elevator there is,” says Karl Orrall, Trinity’s technical director. “But the platform is different for every show.”

Underneath the stage is a vast space, or “trap room,” where the elevator is based. The company has used as many as 16 elevators for a single production, plus innumerable trapdoors, to quickly move actors and set pieces into the limelight. Trinity’s A Christmas Carol has always thrived on special effects, and a 360-degree audience will enhance the performance’s intimate magic. So with revolving directors, cast members and even Scrooges, is there anything about the show that stays the same from year to year? “The snow,” declares Laura. “We always have to make it snow.”