The Simple Wooden Shaker Chair

Started by scenicdesign71, Nov 08, 2022, 03:52 AM

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I'm designing another play, my fourth this year, and we begin previews tomorrow.

By the standards of a real career in theatrical design... well, by those standards, a year with only four shows casts doubt as to whether mine should be called a career at all, or just a somewhat half-hearted hobby.  But never mind; before this year, I hadn't designed anything since mid-2018 (apart from a brief Zoom project in the spring of 2021), and prior to that it had been only one or two shows per year for half a decade.  So, judging by my own recent output, this is practically a boom.

However, as I've mentioned elsewhere on this board: for reasons too diffuse and tedious to rehash, none of the three previous projects this year turned out very satisfyingly, from my perspective.  (I haven't polled my collaborators as to whether they felt similarly underwhelmed, but I'd be mildly surprised if I was the only one who felt that way.  On the other hand, it is universally acknowledged that the Great Reopening of 2022 has been, in theatreland as everywhere else, numbingly weird and disorienting and, as far as anyone can tell, likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.  So maybe I'm just mistaking the general ongoing shell-shock for disappointment).  In any case, so far it has been three-for-three in terms of weird, not-horrible-but-not-great design gigs.

But this current, fourth and final endeavor of the year might possibly break that trend.

It will be my first time out at a smallish but well-known Off B'way theater (albeit not on their mainstage, currently home to a beautiful John Lee Beatty set; mine is in their tiny downstairs "second space", considered off-Off due to its audience capacity of just 50) -- which, in terms of institutional prestige, might count as a baby-step up for me.  In a career (or whatever) filled with small shows, in terms of literal square footage and seating capacity, I can think of only one I've done that was physically smaller (and that one was set more-or-less literally in a closet).  Yet this one is also as elaborate, in its way, as the "biggest" (meaning still modest, with budgets to match) designs I've yet managed here in the city -- and, despite or because of the even-smaller-than-usual scale (our stage is just 15' x 10', with a grid height of 9'), this may actually be my most polished and fully-realized NYC design work to date.

At the moment, things seem to be going well enough that a certain amount of optimism might not be entirely misplaced.  (How's that for qualified confidence?).  On one hand, I'm thrilled at how well the finished set reflects our original intentions: it's been a lot of work -- simplicity always is, as they say -- but the results deliver exactly what we hoped for, and on those terms I'm already counting this job a gratifying success.  (Basically: the finished set matches the original rendering with exacting precision).

But on the other hand, over the past day or two it has occurred to me that some of those original intentions, however meticulously-executed, could actually backfire.  I'll explain more in a later post, but in broad terms: I've been nervously pondering whether some of my basic assumptions about how best to serve this script and its solo performer might potentially prove fatally flawed.

Anyway.  I'm in that excited-AND-scared, somewhat manic phase that always strikes at around this point in the process.  Hence: the Simple Wooden Shaker Chair.  To chill the heck out, if nothing else.