Set Design: The Terrifying Beginning

“Many young directors make the big mistake of assuming that directing is about being in control, telling others what to do, having ideas and getting what you ask for. I do not believe that these abilities are the qualities that make a good director or exciting theatre. Directing is about feeling, about being in the room with other people; with actors, with designers, with an audience. It is about having a feel for time and space, about breathing, and responding fully to the situation at hand, being able to plunge and encourage a plunge into the unknown at the right moment.”

Anne Bogart, “A Director Prepares”

More behind the scenes milestones achieved this week. The most significant was the basic set design, which I had requested to be done differently than the company’s norm: to use the floor instead of the proscenium stage, and create a thrust — or 3/4 round — performance space.

We made the case that not only will this bring the play physically closer to the audience for a more intimate, personal experience — but we can also create even more “front row” seating, as this set-up puts seating on three of the four sides of the action.

The challenge: the group is committed to dinner theatre style seating, and the tables we use are squared rather than round (which takes up more surface area for the chairs themselves and then even more once you have people sitting in them). This gets even trickier given that we have grown our season ticket holder population and now have very large groups that ask for the same evening’s performance. It would take a great deal of fenagling and diagramming to rearrange the space for these larger groups and still provide safe aisles for entrances and exits — and let’s not forget emergency exits in case of an act of God.

A small group of passionate, intelligent people put their minds to the task, and somehow we got to a place where it seems we can make it work. There will be some puzzles to solve and possibly some constraints on overall directorial decisions, but the board ultimately supported my vision and agreed to help make this happen.

What was just a vision in my head is now starting to mobilize into an actual plan.

To say this is both terrifying and thrilling would be an understatement.

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