1. Mary’s Wedding is a “dream play.” How is designing this type of play different from other styles?
The biggest difference is that I would say a “dream play” allows you so much more freedom of expression in the design. Unlike a realistic play, a “dream play” affords you the permission to create an environment that is much more fluid and abstracted. This also means the design will have far less limitations, as far as time and place, allowing the design of the space to have greater flexibility and be a more adaptable playing space for the actors and for the director to create movement within.
2. From the deck of a gun-metal grey ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean, to the intimacy of a weathered barn, to a late-night horseback ride across the star-lit plains of Canada the action of the play travels to many, wildly different locations – how did you create a design that evokes all of these places?
I tried, within the design, to include all the bits of the realistic places in the world of the play. But they are, for the most part, taken out of their realistic context and proximity to each other. The melding of all these elements, although in a non-realistic way, gives you a presence of time and of place without being to limiting in their placement onstage. This gives flexibility for the playing and for the placement of various scenes and locations throughout the playing space instead of limiting it to a specific location on stage.
3. We have two basic configurations for our mainstage space, proscenium (with audience on one side and the stage on the other) and thrust (with audience on three sides of the stage) — why did you and director Stuart Carden decide to use the thrust configuration for Mary’s Wedding?
Mary’s Wedding is an intimate and personal account of the relationship between our two characters Mary and Charlie. Their story wants to be told in close proximity to the audience. It also is a story which chronicles their journey through both vast open pastoral country fields as well as the vast open battlefields of the First World War. I think with the use of the thrust configuration verses the proscenium, allowing us to have the audience on three sides lets the whole audience be closer to the action of the play and also allowed me, in the design, to envelop them, while also giving the audience the sense of the vast openness of the fields by the use of our “sky surround.”
4. What has been the most exciting part of the design process for you so far? The most challenging? Can you walk us through the process a bit?
Well the most exciting part, first off, is that I really love the play! I think it is romantic and heartfelt as well as being a kind of sweeping epic. The play is so beautifully written and the characters of Mary and Charlie are both so endearing. I guess my big challenge was creating the very large “sky surround.” Stuart Carden, the director, and I were looking for something less usual and more dream-like, something that had saturated vibrant color as well as movement and texture. We were interested in using paper as the material – given all the letters in the play that material made total sense – and were also interested in crinkling or crumpling the paper to give it even further texture. But it still needed to be transparent enough to allow Andy Ostrowski, our Lighting Designer, to light it from behind to give it depth and layering. We ended up using a photographic backdrop paper normally hung and used by photographers.
5. Was there a particular moment, piece of dialogue, or image in the play that sparked your design approach? What was your first design impulse after reading the play?
I guess the biggest image that has driven my design approach has been the sense of movement in the play. It has movement in its constantly changing stormy sky, the movement of riding a horse (whether through country fields in a rain storm or charging through battle fields), the movement through time that the journey takes us through, as well as the movement through the play’s different locations. My first design impulse after reading the play was that I felt the set needed to have a strong sense of this movement – graceful elegant lines and simplicity that can serve the play with seamless transitions so as to not interrupt the advancement of the story.
Posted by Stuart Carden, Associate Artistic Director and Christine Pini, Artistic Assistant