Directed by Mark Boergers
Cardinal Stritch University, 2018
St. Norbert Music Theatre 2018
On this page I'll showcase files and images from an assortment of classes I've taught, management materials I've created, and images of student designs that I've mentored.
Excellent design requires the skillful handling of many subtle intangibles: mood, pace, nuance, audience perception, cultural bias, voice of the playwright, historical context, and the list goes on. As a designer I seek to understand the text, understand the audience, and understand the conditions in which a production is to be mounted. Getting a grasp on all of these slippery details allows me to begin creating the scenery and lighting for a show.
My work as a designer has to be more than creating the conceptual art for a show. However well I understand the production or how wonderful the design may be, I have to be able to share that design in a highly accurate, evocative, and efficient way. A beautiful design in my mind, or put down as a rendering or model must be communicated with other artists, with technicians, performers, directors, and choreographers. What's more, my design in itself cannot be "sacred." It has to have the space to live and breathe and evolve as I work with the director, actors, technical director, budget, and other designers. Compromise and creativity go hand-in-hand. That is how theatrical art is made.
To me, great design is in the fusion of the grand-scale artistic vision, and the nitty gritty understanding of how to make it work on stage.
So how do I begin communicating the design? Here I'll dare to mix metaphors: A picture says a thousand words. Now it is up to me to pick the right tool (or picture) for the job.
What tools do I choose from? The written word, research, presentations, phone calls, emails, sketches, research, renderings, research, scale models, computer models, research, painter's elevations, drafting, research, prop drawings, paint samples, and research!
The Wisconsin premier production of School of Rock the Musical, was presented by Next Stage, a division of St. Norbert College.
What could be more fun to put on stage than the men's and women's bathrooms of a late '70s British discotheque. Toilets, running water, graffiti (redrawn nightly on stage), condom dispensers, breakaway windows and... well you get the picture.
If not... then look at these pictures:
Shakespeare in the round. Meh... ok.
Shakespeare in the round with floor projections. Floor projections? How does that work?
Well I'll tell you:
Imagine, if you will, rings of text lifted from the script, rotating and undulating on and around the actors onstage. And if that weren't exciting enough, imagine also projecting barren tree limbs blowing in a storm across the body of Banquo's ghost onstage.
Mary's Wedding, produced at Bristol Valley Theatre in Naples, NY is an example of a design where intimacy, function, and detail reign supreme. The show's action takes place as a memory or dream containing flashbacks and correspondence between a pair of young lovers separated by World War 1.
While the play's action takes place in a barn, the space also needed to serve as a shell-impacted battlefield and a great plain across which we experience the couple galloping on horseback.
On the battlefield, barren tree branches at the foot of the stage suddenly feel like barbed wire.
Riding on horseback, the pair mounts a beam in the barn and as their ride intensifies the tattered fabric panels hanging in the space began to blow in the wind!
Charley's Aunt, produced at the State University of New York - Fredonia, is a great example of finding solutions to the problems posed by scripts that demand "big sets."
This design allowed scenery and projections to mesh tightly in telling the story. Frequently in Antigone, characters onstage describe events that they've seen or heard about elsewhere: battles, mutilation, suicide, fornication, and funeral rights.
Hearing about all of that is great. SEEING it is a special treat, and in order to see it I worked closely with the director, costumes, and master-at-arms to film sequences for many of the show's "offstage" moments. Those sequences were edited into silhouettes against a roaring fire, projected onto two large tattered drapes flanking the entrance to the war-ravaged palace.
This production of The Sound of Music, presented at SUNY Fredonia, is a great example of rendering scenic locations as storyboards for a large musical using computer generated modeling.
Here's a sampling of images and videos from my work in video and projection design. Productions shown include Radium Girls, Antigone, Macbeth, and On the Twentieth Century.