Psychological Spaces, #Metoo, And “The Crucible:” A Conversation With Set Designer Andrew R. Cohen

The Crucible (1953) is Arthur Miller’s harrowing play about the 1692 Salem witch trials. Set in the strict moral confines of a righteous, patriarchal, Puritan theocracy, The Crucible examines what happens to individuals who refuse to conform to social norms in an atmosphere of mass hysteria. Set designer Andrew R. Cohen discusses his work on this timely play at the Olney Theatre Center–a production which The Washington Post recently called “a blazing revival.” Michael Schweikardt:  Tell me about designing the set for The Crucible for Olney Theatre Center. Andrew Cohen:  The Crucible is one of my favorite plays. It...

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When The Space Is The Protagonist

Mona el Gammal studied scenography, stage design, and exhibition design at Karlsruhe, Hochschule für Gestaltung ZKM. She started there in 2008, building narrative spaces, and since then creates with her team parallel worlds that incorporate the audience and turn them into protagonists. Lately, she also directed the Virtual Reality Experience RhizomatVR, commissioned by Arte and Berliner Festspiele, that takes a critical look at the new digital medium. How do you define the narrative space? I do not have a clear definition. I use it for 10 years, but it was used for very different kinds of work in the last few years. For me it...

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“Mr. Half Dwells…” Journeys Through the “Normal” City of Hong Kong in the Most Abnormal Theatrical Display

It is always an excitement to anticipate a show if one sees the name Ming-hang ‘SunFool’ Lau in the production team list. Mainly known as a lighting designer in Hong Kong, Mr Lau professes the knowledge on storytelling far more than most working lighting designers. His work implores the audience to reinterpret a mood of a scene or a character that speaks more than a thousand words. The last work of Mr Lau that I have seen is Theatre du Pif’s The Oedipus Project which the lighting basically makes a statement on the text without pulling back his enthusiasm for...

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A Day In The Life Of Liz Crossman: Costume Prop Maker And Milliner

Whilst it sounds like a cliché, the great thing about my work is that it is rare that any day is the same. The nature of my job as a Costume Prop maker means the parameters of what I am asked to create are so wide–from Wizard hats (Harry Potter, Palace Theatre), to bedazzled Showgirl headdresses (Follies, National Theatre), to 9ft costumes made of piles of rubbish (Everyman, National Theatre). At the moment I am currently working towards Harry Potter And The Cursed Child opening on Broadway in the spring, so it feels like returning to an old, slightly eccentric friend....

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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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5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Bolshoi Theater

It’s easy to become so engrossed in a performance at the Bolshoi that fascinating details about the theater’s history and appearance can go unnoticed. Make sure to think of these five facts next time you visit. 1. The Quadriga of Apollo The Quadriga of Apollo has been a symbol of the Bolshoi – and Moscow – for a long time. It even holds court on the 100 ruble bank note. Despite the sculpture’s antique appearance, the four horses led by Apollo are not even 100 years old. Russian-Italian architect Alberto Cavos commissioned Pyotr Klodt (Peter Klodt von Jurgensburg) to...

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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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