Drafting

 

This was only the second show that I had drafted three dimensionally in Vectorworks, so I gave myself a real challenge in skewing the raked platforms in a way that was precise and measurable. It did give me a great advantage when it came to the individual front and side elevations of each unit though. Depicted in this plate you can see the initial idea of the golden cracks I wanted to appear on the stage for the 'kintsugi' effect. Our first idea was to router physical cracks in a facing layer on several platforms, and line the gaps with LED tape. This idea was later scrapped for the much simpler one of using lightning gobos as "cracks" on the various platforms, and opening some more space for backlight to shine through the topmost wall. 

Inspiration

 

My first piece of inspiration for Marcus was the top left image of the sculpture titled "Rain" by Nazar Bilyk. To me it encapsulated both the dreamlike and introspective feeling that the world of the script evoked, and pulled in the importance of the water within the story. My inspiration also explored architecture that had been destroyed and reconstructed, and the kinds of structures that exist near bodies of water such as boat docks and stilt houses. The visual elements that seemed to stand out most to myself and Kevin, the Director, were the fragmented structures and a bold usage of negative space around and underneath the set. 

First Sketch

 

Following that initial impulse of destruction, I gathered a variety of found materials (mostly carboard and balsa wood) which I then broke/ripped/crushed into a pile of debris. I used this pile of debris to build up a structure from a roughly sketched groundplan. That structure is what I translated into illustration for this first sketch. By this point, I had the idea to put an actual water feature of some sort on the stage, so I explored applying watercolor over the inks to get that drippy, runny feeling where the water touched the set and the figure. More than anything, I wanted this first sketch to capture the same feeling as the inspiration imagery, since it seemed to be a good touchstone between Kevin and myself. 

Design Revamp

The design revamp involved several factors. First and foremost, Kevin found my previous sketch too broken- while we wanted to explore that sense of destruction, he was worried that the set looked like the aftermath of the hurricane, not the moments leading up to it. He challenged me to find a way that the set could tangibly "break" at the end of the show, and that it be in some way more beautiful after the breaking. Immediately what came to mind was the Japanese pottery style of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired with gold. The breakage becomes a network of gilded scars that holds and reinforces the pottery, and I found the symbolism of this to be a beautiful parallel to the breaking down and building back up of Marcus as he learns to embrace who he is. The addition of the house-like structure at the top was needed to evoke the sense of the elders' front porches, and helped to balance the visual weight of the set vertically.

Finished Model

 

For this show I chose to make a painted model instead of paint elevations. The paint treatment ended up being relatively simple and universal, but I felt it was important to see the whole thing together. Especially for the director and the cast, I wanted to ensure that they had plenty of time in the rehearsal hall to get used to the idea of something they would need to climb around on. Having the model in the room also helped us to solve a blocking issue early on, which is why you can see the addition of a ship style ladder that allowed for another entrance/exit point between from the highest point of the set. Fun fact: the "pool" is a trimmed section of a tupperware bowl, filled with gel candle wax. The rest of the model is made of foam core and scale balsa lumber.

Water Effects

 

The rain was by far the most beautiful element on the set. My TD constructed a circular rain curtain with two independently operable diameters, one large enough to surround an actor, the other tight enough to come down directly on the head and shoulders. At various points we used one or both settings together, which had the added effect of an incredibly powerful sound as the rain hit the pool. The pool was an incredibly important element, as Kevin and I discussed the duality of its nature as a calm reflecting pool, the quiet eye of the hurricane, and the thundering, splattering cacophony it would become when the rain fell. This duality very much paralleled the experiences Marcus went through during the story, and helped to drive home the water of his dreams as something beyond imagination, and into the real world. 

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Play by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Produced by the Nevada Conservatory Theatre

February 14th - 23rd 2020

UNLV Black Box Theatre

 

Directed by Kevin R Free

Scenic Design by WLM

Production Team

 

Executive Director: Norma Saldivar

Lighting Design: Catherine M Pratt

Costume Design: Gabrielle Lewis

Sound Design: M Sohaa Smith

Sound Design: Santiago J Sanchez

Music Director: Joseph Pigee

Composer: Merald W 'Bubba' Knight Jr

Technical Director: Jalen L Morgan

Stage Manager: Alan J Stogin

Dramaturg: Dr. Allison Gibbes

Photographer: Richard Brusky