Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A&C: First Set Meeting

I met with Alli Ross, the set designer, for the first of what I'm sure will be many fruitful design meetings.

We agreed that a nautical theme was a good place to start, although the set obviously needs flexibility or abstraction, to keep audiences from thinking that the whole play takes place on a ship. Alli is keen on using one or more broad white sheets to simulate sails; she described a process that could be used to fix them in a "billowing" shape, so that they wouldn't require wind to look full. We also talked about using the cyclorama, or cyc, to project various background lighting effects (warm sunset colours for Alexandria, cool blue skies for Rome). I've never done a show with the cyc before, so that will be neat.

As for the stage itself, we agreed that platforms are de rigeur. Alli suggested jutting wooden platforms that resemble gangplanks (or just plain planks). I agreed, adding that "as long as they're big enough to fit three or four actors standing close together," we should ideally have a number of them, set at different levels around the stage (this, again, is ship-like, and it can also simplify issues of rank and status when it comes to blocking).

I am picturing more and more of these tight clusters of people, now. My earlier neuroses about not having enough bodies to suggest armies has given way to a fairly basic principle of composition: three or four actors in a very tight cluster looks like a juggernaut, especially when contrasted to a solitary figure placed elsewhere on the stage.

Lots of possibilities emerge: when Antony is in Alexandria, his status is visually weakened because his soldiers tend to stand apart from him, whereas Cleo's retinue always sticks very close beside her (I'm even picturing them standing in a vertical line, waving their arms like Vishnu). In Rome, Antony and Octavius both have bodyguards who stick to them like glue, but gradually Antony's "mass" begins to shrink, while Octavius's only expands. At the climax, when Octavius captures Egypt, Cleo's maidens may be scattered...but when it comes time for her to kill herself, they reunite to create a living frame for Cleo's picture-perfect suicide.

Lots of good stuff to ponder, when I have the time...

No comments: