By Victoria Chatfield (Executive Director)
Our team (L to R): Lio Sigerson (director of Circuits), Lashun Coster (costume designer), Justin Tolbert (set designer), Ben Spinale (technical director), Benjamin Viertel (director of Clipped)
Our first design meeting started at Atlantic Stage 2, the theater where Circuits and Clipped will be performed this summer. We were given a tour by the production manager and the general manager who answered all of our questions. Every time I walk through that space, I cannot believe that we're going to have the opportunity to work there. It's the perfect Off-Broadway theater (right down to the fact that it's five floors underground -- no risk of cell phones going off during the performance!). After we finished gawking at the dressing rooms (which are larger than some of our apartments), we headed over to CAP 21 for a design meeting.
Lio Sigerson and Benjamin Viertel (our directors) discussed how they'll work together to create the world of the play -- the world that the actors will spend the next few months inhabiting, the world that the audience will have the opportunity to enter when they come to see the show. The designers' first assignment: to collect research images. The directors told them to find images online that match their first emotional responses to the scripts. What does each of the plays feel like? What are the first thoughts and feelings that you had when you read the each of the plays? When the directors and designers look at all of the research images together, they'll be able to see common threads and ideas. These are what they'll use to build the world of the play.
One of the things that the directors said that really resonated with me was that the difference between high school design and professional design was how you use the space. High school designers have a tendency to fight against the space, covering up inconvenient columns and putting plywood in front of oddly-placed doors. Professional designers use what's already there, considering how they can use the space to reflect the plays. Professional designers use all of the quirks of the space to their advantage. So next time you're designing for your gymacafetorium (we've all been there -- even the most prestigious Broadway designers), think about how you can use that metal serving counter or those rectangular tables to fit the play, as opposed to trying to hide them underneath clunky scenery. You might surprise yourself.