When we last left our noble heroes, they had triumphantly worked out a set design, made it accessible, and conquered their troubles with artistic collaboration and gallons of coffee! Little did they know they would face these troubles again, resurrected for them by a price-out.
When a scenic designer completes his/her design, it’s sent out to a shop to be analyzed and priced. Once the production team can settle on materials, bargains are hunted and prices tallied up. If it fits within the theatre’s budget plans, then it’s full steam ahead!
Things don’t always work out that way, though, and so our noble heroes have some adjustments to make. The first pass at reducing price is changing materials (wood vs. metal, glass vs. plastic, etc.). After that, the party tries to make some changes to the design. It’s not about sacrificing artistic ideas—it’s about finding brand new ones from the same source.
Colette Pollard, scenic designer and problem solver extraordinaire, returns to her research. She likens it to tracing breadcrumbs. Research is where every design starts, and this one was no different. Colette, at Tuesday’s meeting, outlined the goals of the scenic design and what inspired her and Nate from the beginning. The goal, according to Colette and director Nate Allen, is creating a holy (and uniquely American) experience for the audience. “We walk in and have some experience of a space that has been sculpted for the story,” Nate says. That experience is key to the story and the atmosphere of the piece.
So what’s at the heart of American storytelling? The iconic campfire. It’s this idea that Colette and Nate zero in on as a focal point for the set.
What’s unique about a conversation like this is how personal and artistic it is. While solving pricing may sound strictly logical and calculating, the heroes of our tale prefer inspiration to solution. They talk of how ideas feel and what’s important to them. Their immense passion for their work is how they solve real world problems, and it’s inspiring to see.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the conversation is easy. For instance, how do you make an audience that is sitting in the windowless Chopin theatre feel like they’re in the middle of the woods? “Something that doesn’t have a roof makes people feel outside,” Colette muses, but we can’t very well tear the roof of the Chopin. What if it rains?
The team struggled with how to design that absence of space. To come to the solution, Nate and Colette had to think like audience members. They focused on designing the experience of an audience walking and sitting in the space. To Nate, it’s about “[the audience members] watching each other and the campfire.” It’s definitely a challenge, especially with how much the design team loves the walls in the original scenic design. A commitment to ideas and moods leads to artistic problem solving.
Legends speak of a day long ago, when a lone storyteller dedicated his life to building a holy votive space where tales are told and stories spun. It’s this clearing that the dedicated heroes of the House tirelessly seek to find and rebuild. To do so, they must find the balance between the chaos of nature and the order of man.
You’ll have to wait and see just how their ideas come to fruition as they continue to questing to make The Iron Stag King the immersive experience it is destined to be.