Jewell Theatre Company's spring play in 2012 was the North American Premiere of British playwright Francis Warner's "Living Creation". The story follows the life of the painter Sandro Botticelli and how his artwork influence the court throughout his life. This play has only been performed one other time and that was it's opening performance in 1986. This first production took place in a church in Oxford, England with no set taking advantage of the interior architecture of the church.
The director and I had just finished working on A Man for All Seasons which had a minimal unit setting painted in a dark navy blue to unify the piece. When we finished reading and analizing Living Creation we kind of thought the technical needs were very similar- very few. I went away and spent some time with the script and began to find thematic elements to drive my design concept. The play is about an artist that uses canvas and a brush to replicate life using symbols. How can I use canvas and the "brushes" of today's technology to help tell this story.
Once again a minimal unit set with a few moving pieces emerged. I was able to integrate a lingering design that ive wanted to do for a long time. I designed a raked (ramped) triangular platform that when combined with rolling wall units with angled tops created a forced perspective that directed the viewer's eye to the center of the stage. This perspective technique was used by Botticelli in many of his well known paintings and drawings.
Representations of some of his paintings needed to be present on set for the characters to look at and describe. My goal was to create the most realistic copies of these paintings that I could. Using a little bit of theatre magic the paintings appeared to the joy of the audience (the first one causing audible gasps each performance night!)
Here I will describe some of the process that got the design to its finished version and maybe reveal some of my secrets.
The designs were executed over an 8 week period by a crew of student workers with varying skills.
I'd like to thank Tina Campbell for her hard work on aquiring costumes for the play!