posted by Molly MacLagan, Literary Management and Dramaturgy Intern
Louder Faster, the new play about George S. Kaufman by Eric Simonson and Jeffrey Hatcher opens tomorrow! (For more information about the play, visit the City Theatre website at http://www.citytheatrecompany.org/LouderFaster.html)
Theatre is one of the most collaborative art forms around, requiring many artists to work together to create a single production. Tony Ferrieri, scenic designer for Louder Faster, has been part of the artistic team for countless plays, and enjoys the challenge of meeting the needs of each production. One thing that makes his job both demanding and enjoyable is the collaborative work he does with the creative team working on a show. Below, Ferrieri describes the conversations he had with director Tracy Brigden and the ways the other production designs influence his own:
Tony Ferrieri: The script calls for a row house, but that kind of structure is too long and narrow to allow for the kind of action onstage we wanted. In a row house, you wouldn’t even be able to see the front door from the living room! So Tracy and I had to decide what kind of structure would be the best. We agreed about the kind of structure it would be – a house more like you would find in Shadyside [a detached house] than on the South Side [a rowhouse], for example.
But it’s always a collaboration with a director. Sometimes there’s a give and take to a design… When we were trying to decide what kind of wallpaper to use, I decided on one that I thought would work, and Tracy didn’t like it. She wanted blue wallpaper, but I thought green would be funnier. In studies on color and their effect on emotions, green, green-yellow and green-blue were found to be the most arousing and evoked mostly positive emotions and yellow was found to be the most attention-getting color so I thought the combination of the two would be the funniest and most eye-catching combination.
Also most period wallpapers and paint treatments used greens or yellows or reds or pinks or off-white rather than any blues. And also initially the costumes were leaning toward browns, blues and navy so there needed to be some contrast against the background of the set. Michael [Krass the costume designer] liked the green color, because it worked well with the costumes he was creating. So I told Tracy that Michael liked it. That’s a big part of working in theatre and working with other artists, is making sure that our designs will work well together. I wouldn’t want to use a color on the set that would be a bad choice with the costumes.
Another example is when we were deciding on whether to have a ceiling. We thought that would just make it too hard for Andy [Ostrowski the lighting designer], so we ended up not having a ceiling. Collaborating means you have to kind of look out for the other designers on a show.
In terms of the set design as a stand-alone concept, three things that really guided my process were having a ground plan that would allow for varied and free-flowing movement to accommodate the many entrances and exits, making sure that it was funny and colorful, and being true to the period style and architecture.
The “Designing Louder Faster” series will include more special behind-the-scenes looks at the costumes, lighting, and sound design, with designers Michael Krass, Andy Ostrowski, and Brad Peterson as well as an interview with Literary Manager and Dramaturg Carlyn Aquiline about what goes into commissioning a new play at City Theatre. Keep checking back for more!