The Thumbnail Sketch Series: Sean Fanning and the Courage to Remain Incomplete

Set Designers are known for creating beautiful, finished renderings of scenic environments, however, most begin their process with a quick, abbreviated drawing called a thumbnail sketch. Perhaps more like graffiti than a sketch, the Set Designer uses the thumbnail as a way to jot down an initial idea in their own handwriting. Scenic Designer Sean Fanning shared with me his thumbnail sketch for a production of Brownsville Song (B-side for Tray) at Moxie Theatre in San Diego, CA. He had some intriguing thoughts about how a set design is incomplete without an audience and how it should remain unfinished...

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The Thumbnail Sketch Series: Paige Hathaway And The Impulse For Scenic Design

Set Designers are known for creating beautiful, finished renderings of scenic environments, however, most begin their process with a quick, abbreviated drawing called a thumbnail sketch. Perhaps more like graffiti than a sketch, the Set Designer uses the thumbnail as a way to jot down an initial idea in their own handwriting. Because of its informality (most are scribbled on a bit of stray tracing paper and hidden away in the back of a notebook or a drawer), the thumbnail sketch is usually meant to be seen by the Designer and the Designer alone. I have become fascinated with...

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Finding Common Language: Paul Tate DePoo III Brings His Set Design For “Titanic” To Seoul, South Korea

I love Titanic, the sweeping Broadway musical with a book by Peter Stone and a score by Maury Yeston that originally opened on April 23, 1997, at The Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York. I also spent the better part of 2015 designing musicals in South Korea, an experience that I found to be both fascinating and daunting. So when I learned that Scenic Designer Paul Tate DePoo III had transferred his set design for Titanic at The Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia to Seoul, South Korea, I was eager to discuss the experience with him. How did he reimagine Titanic for a new generation and how did he go about moving...

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Behind the Scenes of “Uncommon Sense”: An Interview with John Coyne From Tectonic Theater Company

Tectonic Theater Company’s latest production at the Sheen Center in New York, Uncommon Sense, follows Moose, Dan, Jess, and Lali–four individuals living on the autism spectrum. Moose’s parents struggle to keep him safe. Jess must navigate through college, while Dan begins a new relationship. Lali’s mother takes her to yet another speech therapist, always hopeful that someday, she will be able to communicate with her daughter. As we watch the character’s face day to day challenges, the set itself seems to come to life with mesmerizing movements and projections, often revealing the characters’ points of view. Uncommon Sense had...

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From “Tarantella” To Theatre Design: Prampolini And Polish Futurism At The Łódź Museum Of Art

Three gramophones affixed to angular wooden boxes stood tall, almost animal-like, on wiry metal legs. Nearby, colorful patches of outrageous, yet sleek costumes nearly lept off the stark white mannequins they adorned. Angular theatrical models, small, but magnificent, could easily be imagined to contain the large-scale, black-and-white photos of theatre productions that loomed from the walls. The inspiration for Enrico Prampolini. Futurism, Stage Design, And The Polish Avant-Garde Theatre, an exhibition curated by Przemysław Strożek at the Łódź Museum of Art (Łódź Muzeum Sztuki), was a painting: Tarantella, by the pioneering Italian Futurist of the show’s title. This bright, dynamic,...

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Impact From Trivia–Jan Versweyveld And “What Is Stage–Dynamics Of Seeing”

In early September, around 20 participants, including I, have ended a magical month as theatre practitioners. The world-renowned theatre scenographer Jan Versweyveld, whose work is always related to productions directed by the acclaimed director Ivo van Hove, came to Hong Kong to run a four-day workshop on his works. Versweyveld was in the city for only four days, but the whole journey started back in late July when the workshop of What Is Stage: Dynamics Of Seeing, co-presented by West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and Edward Lam Dance Theatre, intensively requires participants to study 11 works in Versweyveld’s experienced résumé....

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“Awareness Of Light:” Uncovering The Magic Of Light Behind The Curtain From An Asian Female Lighting Design Perspective

There are many theatre lighting design textbooks in the world; however, few female Asian lighting designers have published their life experience in designing lights yet. Shoko Matsumoto just finished her brilliant book, Awareness Of Light, in April 2017, from the University of the Philippines Press, and we cannot afford to miss this rare jewel of design books for its rich Asian perspectives and contexts. Shoko Matsumoto is a lighting designer who emerged from the backstage so called as “a man’s dominated world” in 1987 and has become an active female lighting designer internationally. This book of hers gave us...

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Hazem Shebl Appointed Vice President Of Prestigious International Theatre Organization

The International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians (OISTAT) has appointed Egyptian scenographer Hazem Shebl as vice president and a member of its board of directors till 2021. The announcement was made at the current World Stage Design (WSD) 2017 event in Taipei, Taiwan, where Shebl’s set design for the Egyptian play El-Selem Wel Teaban (Snakes and Ladders) was exhibited. The OISTAT was founded in Prague in 1968 as a global network for “specialist practitioners, educators, and researchers who shape, challenge, and imagine elements, events, and environments for the live performing arts,” as stated on their website. Sharing...

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Audience Gets Closer to the Action in New London Theatre

A new theatre which can adapt its auditorium to suit each play is to open this autumn with a performance of Young Marx. The modular auditorium of London’s first large, commercial and custom-built theatre since 1973 will mean the audience gets even closer to the action. According to its creators Sir Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, formerly of the National Theatre, The Bridge Theatre will be an arena for “the shows that people make in the 21st century.” New theatre for Capital Among its other initial productions is Julius Caesar next January, starring David Calder as Caesar, Ben Whishaw...

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Samurai Drama to Put Unique Spin On Evolution of Theater

Japanese audiences will soon join those in Holland as the only people in the world with access to a theater whose seating area rotates to face a ring of multiple stages. So when Kazuki Nakashima’s acclaimed samurai drama Dokurojo no Shichinin (Seven Souls in the Skull Castle) opens on March 30 at the brand-new, 1,300-capacity IHI Stage Around Tokyo theater in Koto Ward’s Toyosu district, its director, Hidenori Inoue, told The Japan Times with obvious delight, “I’m sure people will feel the sort of excitement they do at an amusement park.” Keiji Matsumura, the theater’s manager who also works...

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“Dark Matter”: An Interview With Lighting Designer Martyn Roberts

The light fades to a darkness more intense than a starless night on a country road. As the eyes slowly adjust, two barely discernible figures appear in a vast void, vanishing as mysteriously as they appeared. Over the next 40 minutes, the space before us shifts and changes, through a series of seven “visual haiku,” re-configuring the space so that at times we seem to be looking into an infinite space, at others closing it off so that there is a solid wall of light directly before the front row. Like a haiku, each sequence is brief, exploring one...

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The Magic Theatre of Emanuele Luzzati: A Documentary Exhibition at the Filatoio Rosso in Caraglio

Ten years ago, on 26 January 2007, Emanuele Luzzati died, in Genua. He was one of Italian theatre’s most important illustrators and designers of theatre sets and costumes. He was a magician of figurative arts: his work was characterized by a special fantastic style, winning the admiration of international audiences. The documentary exhibition Gli incantesimi di Emanuele Luzzati. Fiaba e magia nell’illustrazione e nel costume (The Enchantments of Emanuele Luzzati: Fairy-tale and Magic in Illustration and Costume Design), which runs from 22 October 2016 to 26 February 2017 at the Filatoio Rosso, in Caraglio (curators Dr. Roberta Orsi Landini...

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“The Tempest Reimagined” at The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) lives up to its vision of “mounting out-of-the-box, cutting-edge productions that mainstreams relevant issues.” This year is no different as they enamor us with a beautiful masterpiece, combining a Shakespearean classic, The Tempest, with a familiar Filipino experience that happened almost 3 years ago, the typhoon Haiyan. The Tempest Reimagined is a co-production between the British Council and PETA.  Other partners include the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and Japan Foundation. It is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set on a Philippine island hit by super typhoon Haiyan, and incorporates...

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Behind the Scenes at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre

Housed inside a stunning Grade II listed building, Manchester’s Royal Exchange is the country’s largest theatre-in-the-round, with a 360 degree performance space that allows every audience member to see the performance from their own perspective. Since 1976, the Royal Exchange has welcomed some of the greatest names in British theatre, film and television, including Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Maxine Peake. This year the famous theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary, a grand age that seems to have been reached predominantly thanks to the adaptability and innovation of both the building and its staff. Finding a new lease of life The theatre’s Great...

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Alternative Worlds and Dream Worlds

Katrin Brack and Barbara Ehnes, two set designers, have influenced and even changed the theatre. The publisher Theater der Zeit has brought out well-designed picture books about each of them. In the theatre, we first experience the happiness of seeing a new world, or the happiness of seeing the world very differently, through the set design. Its effect is present not only during the performance; when we remember the production we also, first of all, see images. ART SPACE Jeff Koons by Rainald Goetz at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, 1999 was simply overwhelming. Furiously modern, gaudy, spaces within space....

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Abhishek Majumdar’s Workshop at The 23rd Cairo International Fes­tival for Contemporary and Experi­mental Theatre

As a special treat for the attendees of The 23rd Cairo International Fes­tival for Contemporary and Experi­mental Theatre was a design worship by Abhishek Majumdar, an Indian scenographer, whose vision brought to mind colors, creativity, and daz­zling possibilities. The workshop trainees ranged from setting and costume students to professional scenographers or set design­ers, to assistant directors, to independent writers and directors. Abhishek Majumdar is the artistic director of Bangalore based theatre company, Indian Ensemble. He is a playwright, scenographer and director and been part of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab 2012 and the Young Vic Director’s network. His plays have been...

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A Genre-Hopping Triumph: “The Rabbits”

What is opera? This is a question that has engaged puzzled commentators and practitioners since the well-documented origins of the art form in the late 16th century. The name itself is little help – the Italian word might best be translated as “work” – and many other terms have been used to define particular periods and manifestations of lyric theatre. Wagner spoke of influentially of “music drama,” but more recently there has been a growing fluidity between “traditional” opera and contemporary musical theatre, itself another rather amorphous area. What’s in a name, anyway, and indeed, the creators of The...

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Interview with Spanish Scenic Designer Jose Luis Raymond

José Luis Raymond is a multi award-winning Spanish Stage Designer, Director, Plastic Artist, and Professor of Stage Design at the Royal School of Dramatic Arts (RESAD) in Madrid. His theatrical career started in 1975 and he has been a reference in the Spanish and European Theatre for decades now.  How did you get started in the theatre? What people influenced and inspired you along the way? Any seminal teachers and mentors? Since I was very young, my way to communicate and express myself artistically has always been through plastic art and theatre. They both still produce in me an...

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Design Of Mariinsky Theater 2 Causes Uproar In Petersburg

In an open letter to St. Petersburg, Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky asked citizens to wait for the completion of the Mariinsky 2 before demanding radical measures. Meanwhile, residents want the still unopened Mariinsky 2 demolished. Local architects are also unimpressed by the plain structure, which has become the most expensive theatre building in the world. The new building for the legendary Mariinsky Theatre has almost been completed in St. Petersburg. The theatre’s construction enraged, first, Petersburg citizens and, then, Moscow intellectuals, who are now collecting signatures for a petition to the governor of St. Petersburg, demanding that the new...

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