Category: Set Design
Interview with Set Designer Matt Saunders - Part 3
In the final installment of his interview, Matt Saunders describes the impact of the Yale School of Drama on his development as a designer, why he returned to Philadelphia, looking forward to Perestroika, and the impact Angels in America had on him as a high school student.
Walter Bilderback: Many of our audiences have seen your previous work at the Wilma as well as at other Philadelphia theaters, especially New Paradise Laboratories and Theater Exile, may also have seen you act in the past, too – a couple of years ago you left Philadelphia to earn an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, but you moved back here. What additional tools did Yale give you as a designer, and then second,
Interview with Set Designer Matt Saunders - Part 2
In this second installment, Matt Saunders describes the challenges of designing Angels in America and what he learned from the technical rehearsals and preview period about the set.
Walter Bilderback: what are the particular problems that Angels in America presents for a scenic designer?
Matt Saunders: I think one of the biggest challenges is the multitude of locations that the play calls for and that are inherent in the script. I mean, the scenes are relatively short, and they move, there are like nineteen or twenty different locations in Part One. I think the sort of conventional, illusionistic designer impulse is to think, “Whoa. I need a turntable, I need to be able to have all these walls, and how am I going to show all of these different places?” That impulse is in me, just because I’m a designer, but I really believe in the direction that we went – the stripped-down rehearsal room aesthetic. And the other challenges with this play are of course the magic moments, and the special effects. This play has a supernatural quality to it, and the trick is trying to figure out how to balance the pedestrian world with the sort of magical realism that Kushner writes in. What we’ve landed on - I hope - does that in a sophisticated way, because we’ve done is, we’ve kept everything in the pedestrian world, very earth-bound. Nothing flies in and out, all of the scenic pieces, they roll on, and they’re very connected to the earth, and to this world. Magic, and stage magic, I feel like, there’s a relativity involved with that. So you know, you don’t want to play your hand too early – it’s six hours worth of play here, and I hope we’ve been very selective and judicious and sort of careful with when we introduce the magic.
WB: That sense of making sure the magic is connected to the earth feels kind of important to Kushner’s metaphysics as well.
On the set of Macbeth: MIMI LIEN
Set designer Mimi Lien was asked to share a few thoughts about the development of her scenic ideas and the influence of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space: I was struck by Bachelard’s notion that the different physical localities of the house are imbued with particular psychologies/memories/fears/desires...in our first conversations, Blanka mentioned that she was interested in making this a very visceral production of Macbeth – one that makes the text really palpable, and the actors' physicality totally present. I immediately thought of the spatial equivalent, which is when a space actually makes you feel something. There’s a wonderful quote in the book: "Great images have both a history and a prehistory: they are always a blend of memory and legend, with the result that we never experience an image directly." There are localities that are more heavily imbued with these feelings than others – hallways, closets, attics, basements. These spaces are somehow repositories for memories, physical memories, and this makes them particularly potent for a play about fear. There’s another quote about the impact of a poem that’s very appropriate to this play, as well, in terms of the relationship of language to space: "The resonances are dispersed on the different planes of our life in the world, while the repercussions invite us to give greater depth to our own existence.
An Interview with LEAVING Set Designer Klara Zieglerova
Richard W. Kotulski, Wilma Literary Programming Assistant and Casting Director: The set for Leaving is quite non-realistic: a vast array of doors everywhere the eye looks. Yet I understand that each door was meticulously researched. Could you tell us a little bit about how you and Jiri Zizka arrived at this design?
Klara Zieglevora, Set Designer: Jiri and I started our meetings in Prague this past December. We were talking about the metaphysical nature of the play and drew a number of different sketches and ideas on the proverbial napkin. Somehow the idea of multiple doors of various sizes and characters was present in most of these sketches. It just felt right.