The journey into the woods is the journey into ourselves- into our inner landscapes. What motivates up to venture into the woods? What pursues us once we are there? How do we find resolution and the path through the woods? Throughout this story the characters enter the woods in hopes of satisfying their desires- only to find that once accomplished their actions have rippling effects on the world around them.
We wanted- in designing this production- the woods to have a presence, not just an atmosphere, but an actual personality just as substantial as the characters wandering through it. To do this we created hollow tree forms skinned with fabric and placed lighting fixtures within their “trunks”. The fabric was block-printed in some cases and dyed with Rorschach-like patterns in others. Each tree then had its own light- its own voice- which created a sort of community beyond the human characters.
Previous productions of the Nutcracker at the Maui Academy of the Arts relied heavily on projected backgrounds. For this most recent production we decided to do away with projections and use actual scenery to fill the stage space. Flown windows and columns as well as a growing Christmas tree, a magic armoire, sofas, presents and scattered furniture created the image of a mansion for the first act. While in the second act the space needed to be more open for the dance numbers but also give a fantasy dreamlike quality. By adding a freestanding colonnade and a high throne upstage we were able to delineate a specific space and yet keep it open and ephemeral.
Lion King Jr.
In keeping with the iconic look of Pride Rock we tried to give height as well as more levels for acting while keeping the footprint as minimal as possible to allow the 50+ students and dancers room to move. Along with a rising sun, flown jungle vines, an additional rolling set unit (to form Scar’s cave piece), “elephant bones” and acting cube “rocks” we extended the stage with a thrust and stairs to allow the actors movement through the audience.
The Magic of Kamishibai
Folding hand-painted screens depict the dream world of a school girl learning about the tradition art of Japanese Kamishibai.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
While Victor Hugo's book is very focused on the Old World architecture of Notre Dame, I wanted to break the audiences' expectations of what they were coming to see. We focused on the building and its architecture not as the finished icon we all recognize, but as a work in progress- in growth; being built, repaired, and supported by our moving set elements. It was important to create a world for Quasimodo where his physical deformities were actually an advantage, whereas everyone else were limited just as he was in their world. This led to a sort of jungle-gym-meets-construction-site look with a number of ropes, beams, handholds, moving platforms and levels for the actors to play on.
Designing and building Quasimodo's world took a very organic path. We began with a design based on the footprint of average construction scaffolding and through the rehearsal process we added layers upon layers and level upon levels, giving us this final look. Modifying the construction scaffolding units gave us the needed height, mobility, and safety to quickly reconfigure these massive set pieces into the variety of places called for in the script.
Jekyll & Hyde
Man is a composite creature; not just merely a duality of GOOD and EVIL, but a collection of facades and interior frameworks all interwoven and layered together. Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is more than just a Roman Janus, he is a lens through which to view the entire Victorian landscape.
Dr. Jekyll 's delusions of separating GOOD from EVIL lead him down a much more dynamic path where he ends up separating his inner cravings and desires from his Victorian shell, freeing all of the suppressed individuality that had been caged in the form of Mr. Hyde.
This tension between the FACADE and the INTERIOR played out in the set as the space turned inward on itself, spun by an internal axis, peeling back layers to reveal the meat beneath the skin.
The Arabian Nights
The Arabian Nights exists in that space between two mirrors facing one another- tales within tales within tales ad infinium. The present moment not only frames the entire story, it is the shadow cast by the subsequent stories.
Every generation of stories creates more layers and more shadows.
Along with projections and shadow play, the scenery itself was modular and interchangeable, allowing the settings to jump back and forth easily and rapidly.
Suddenly Last Summer
A blending of architecture and jungle, the set illustrated a battleground between the rigid traditional structure of Violet Venable's world and the savage prehistoric garden world of her son Sebastian.
As the settings' formal elements gave way to the ever encroaching violent greenery contained within the garden walls, the story of Sebastian's life and death unfurled like one of his ancient tree ferns.
Splashes of red and swelling bulbous insectivorous plants punctuate the garden like organs ripped from a body, still glistening, and a broken statuary of St. Sebastian punctured by arrows rests in one of the garden beds, reminding us of Sebastian's fanatical obsession with seeing the savage face of God in Nature.
While Sebastian himself was never personally present throughout the play, his primordial garden overshadowed all of the characters just as he himself had in life.
Everyman dealt with the timeless issues of life and death by asking the audience to consider an important question: When you die, what really matters? What of our Earthly life is lasting and important?
The world of Everyman, represented through the set, revolved around the central axis of his soul- it was an extension of his inner self- his beliefs, his spirituality, his life. Ungrounded and wrecked, the world of Everyman didn't represent a fulfilled and fruitful life but one full of entanglement and fracture. The space existed somewhere between a forrest and a cathedral- a skeletal landscape reflecting the floatsam and jetsam within his very soul.
A conversation between light and shadow, told with larger than life puppets, this 600 year old morality play followed the journey of Everyman, tasked by Death to meet his maker God for a reckoning and in turn salvation.
In 1837, 23 year old Georg Buchner died before finishing his final play Woyzeck, based on an actual murder. The text of Woyzeck was found in fragmentary form, the narrative order of the scenes having never been determined due to mishandling.
This production updated and reset the scenes from their original setting to a depression-era sideshow somewhere in America. Each night's production asked the audience to create a one of a kind sequence for those unordered scenes by placing a corresponding Tarot card in a linear narrative arrangement thereby creating a unique story based on the choices of that night's audience.
One of the most important aspects of this production was the ability to blur the lines of conventional theater. In order to fully submerge the audiences' experience into the sideshow world of Woyzeck, their sense of reality, time, direction, and space had to be dislocated. Certain "expected" theatrical conventions had to be omitted or edited. The visual landscape had to funnel the viewers' attention and curiosity into the sideshow world. The instant the audience stepped into the space the machinery of the show was all around them, grinding on as if it had existed long before they arrived. They only experienced a slice of it though, a peek, surrounded by the shadows and silhouettes of whats not visible behind the veil. There was no curtain call- no definite beginning or end for the audience to expect/rely on.
Giving the audience the freewill to decide the arrangement of the play's scenes forced them into direct contact, not only with the characters, but also with the narrative itself. Bending so many of the expected rules allowed them to experience the show more intimately, unhampered by the safety of conventions.
The title refers to a psychological phenomenon associated with Alzheimer's disease where the patient begins suffering from a multitude of behavioral problems coinciding with the setting of the sun.
Revolving around the intimate lives of residents at a nursing home this play confronted the realities of their declining mental faculties and their relationships with those around them.
The set itself was fragmented and furnished with common everyday items that had been deliberately repurposed in order to bring the audience into the patients' confused mindset; ladders were bookshelves, hats were soup bowls, windows were clocks.