Behind the design: a portfolio Essay

Published: 2021-09-11 19:25:05
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Category: Art

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In these pages, nine of America’s busiest designers exhibit some of their recent work and describe the artistic impulse behind it. “Designers have proved not only among the most creative figures in the theatre,” Robert Brustein has observed, “but also among the most intelligent and broad-ranging.
” This astonishing collection of images, selected by the designers themselves, proves Brustein’s point admirably, and gives an idea of the extraordinary range of the many designers working in the American theatre today. “When Joel Grey first read the play, he felt as id he were on a window ledge kind of hanging, swinging, so Graciela said maybe we should have a little window on the set. Then I was on a plane – it was a terrible flight, there was a horrible storm, and I was sketching and writing things like ~panic. ‘ As we were coming into LaGuardia the plane kind of tilted, and I felt like I was falling out the window.
Later, I looked back at my sketches and though, That’s it – we should feel like we’re actually falling out of the window. ‘ That’s how the design evolved. “Christopher Barreca”We have attempted here to heighten the presentational effect by layering the lighting, with wash for color and highlights on the soldiers and the ballerina and picking out Jacqueline Kim. We wanted this to feel kind of like a fairy tale, and breaking up the pattern on the floor – this cloud-like effect – gives it, for me, an airy feel.
“Allen Lee Hughes”The Flower Garden of My Heart’ number opens Act 2 of Pal Joey, and it’s a little on the tacky side. I had looked at photographs of the original production, and it looked like a whole topiary, the women coming out like floats of flowers. They really exaggerated the comic side of it, but we also wanted to have a little more elegance. “Toni Leslie-James”I knew at the beginning that we were really interested in playing with the idea of facades, manipulations of the surface, people hiding behind layers, distortion.
A really interesting and dangerous part of what we did was transforming the actors physically. I felt that it needed to be really bold, very graphic, because I was dealing with distorted shapes and with big silhouettes. “Susan Hilferty”We wanted a very vibrant base palette, so that the combination of the yellow and the line work, in the context of the house-of-cards effect, completely scrambles the eye and is very satisfying. That it looks like yellow legal paper gives a sense that it’s not just pure design, but a reference to something in the world we live in. Garland was explicit that this was about extreme behavior, and there was a complete commitment to finding that in the design process.
“Douglas Stein”Using Dali as my beginning point, I was trying to use surreal colors that take you past reality. The moon became a very strong image of Yerma’s isolation. She’s alone and isolated in the evening and in the daylight she’s under the spolight, in the harsh brightness of sun. “Nancy Schertler”I was intrigued with the idea if doing a variation of Georgia O’Keeffe’s bone paintings, using that sort of tunnel effect.
So I created two planes using the idea of paper, crumpled paper, with the edges singed and ripped part. I think much of Lorca is about ripped emotions, blood. The moon is also central to Lorna’s pieces for me personally, so I designed a moon which Nancy could light as a sculpture – she could create the idea of a crescent moon, an eclipse or even a full moon. “Loy Arcenas”I did definitely go for a sensual look. It was a love story, a dream, a fairy tale.
It was also a fantasy, so the colors were bright and the patterns were large – a little bit larger than life. There was a lot of really wonderful movement in the piece, and I tried to accentuate that. “Judy Dearing”We felt that restricting the visual vocabulary just made the show better. It was extremely exciting what you could do with these elements: the people in space, the idea of shadows (which suggest a lot of thing symbolically, of course) and the text. We realized looking at the text that part of the experience really was literary.
So we projected it, so you could read it. It is a black and white show. Not literally black and white, because people aren’t literally black and white – but the light was all white, sort of a cool white.”Stephen Strawbridge

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