I was a set designer for about 20 years (nope, never joined the union to work on Broadway, although I painted for a couple of Broadway designers, one nominated for a Tony award). As set designer for the Seacoast Repertory Company in Portsmouth, NH in the 90s, we sat down for our first production meeting for JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and the producer said, "We need something spectacular."
I stopped the meeting cold when I said, "We make Jesus walk on water."
After the chuckles died down, followed by a long pause, the producer said, "How're we going to do that?"
"Just imagine the scene," I said, "we have a small pool out of the way in an upstage corner. Jesus enters and walks about six feet across the top of the water, then an apostle who saw this happen tries to follow him, steps onto the pool and splashes down up to his waist."
"How would we do that?"
I was prepared with the answer. "We need a 4x8 foot sheet of clear plexiglass, one inch thick. The plexiglass sits in a slot one inch below the surface of the water. After Jesus walks across, we slide the plexiglass out of place, leaving a deep pool."
I had seen this movie--go to BEING THERE ending scene.:
"That would be fantastic," said the producer. So, we started the construction of the pool and started shopping for the plexiglass. Unfortunately, the plexiglass was too expensive for the producer, so we kept shrinking the pool until it came down to a 2x4 foot piece of plexiglass, about $500 worth. No can do.
The production was a notable success because we went with the producer's idea of embedding the cross in the surface of the stage floor, invisible to the audience until the crucifixion scene. Here's a composite photo of the set. A jagged cross is disguised in the floor as a dry, cracked riverbed.