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      Sets and Sunflowers

      Set. Many times creating a set is one of the most gratifying and  fun aspects of producing a play. The musical Sunday in the Park with George illustrates this powerfully in that the stage becomes the painter's mind and what happens on stage reflects what's happening inside. The painter begins with “white.” And the stage is bare and white and empty. The Sondheim music trembles with the energy of a blank page/stage/canvas and all the possibilities that are there...waiting.

      Sometimes I can see a set in my mind before we even cast a play. Sometimes the playwright indicates elements that must—or that she or he thinks must—be present on the stage. Often dialogue dictates elements that must be present. To try to produce Noises Off without two floors and at least six functioning doors—that can slam—would kind of defeat the purpose. Waiting for Godot without a tree? The Miracle Worker without a working pump?

      We're considering a play for 2019 that when produced on Broadway consisted of a huge box within which the action took place, all representing the brilliant pervasive mathematical mind of the main character. There were lights and lasers and secret compartments and trap doors that all contributed to really getting into this person's mind and experiencing how it works. One of our major considerations regarding whether we should produce this play has to do with how in the world could we, with out limited financial resources and tech capabilities, ever come close to replicating that. The bottom line is that there is nothing in the script that indicates this kind of set must or even should be used. The wonderful challenge is how to help us all get into this person's mind without the box.

      With Calendar Girls I'm faced with a much less daunting task, but a task nevertheless. How to create a hillside of sunflowers? Should we try to use real (or artificial) sunflowers? Images projected on screens? Paint them on backdrops? Or let the actors just see them, perhaps with a change of lighting to a gold yellow flooding the stage. The change all happens quickly, and I avoid long scene changes at nearly any cost. Time is running out, however, and I've got to figure this out very soon. Sometimes is all comes to me in the middle of the night or as I sit in the theatre viewing the stage or as I bounce ideas of someone else. A slight degree of panic is beginning to set in.

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