12-year-old guest blogger and theatre enthusiast, Adam Leung, joined us this past March to attend our annual staff and volunteer Design Showcase. Enjoy his reflection on the event as well as some sneak peeks into this season’s set and costume designs. Stay tuned for Adam’s reviews of Romeo and Juliet and Fiddler on the Roof this May, as well as his adventures at our upcoming Pinballapolooza in Toronto!
by Adam Leung
On March 18, I was invited to go to the Design Showcase for the upcoming Stratford season. The purpose of the showcase was to give friends and staff of the Stratford Festival a sneak peek at the sets and costumes for the various shows.
Going into the Design Showcase, I had no idea about what was going to happen in the next three hours; everything was new to me. I learned that a designer’s job is vital to the production of a show, and that a lot of planning is involved in preparing the sets. The set designers must think about not only how the set will look, but also how it will move and how it can be stored in the massive backstage area. Even with all of this space, they still need a small fleet of storage trucks. The only question is how do you get everything inside the trailer and figure out what comes out next without damaging the other props and sets?
I learned that lighting design is also important; a good example is The Three Musketeers. The designers have really put a lot of thought into lighting. There’s a cage-like structure around the walls on top of the stage that will cast some interesting shadows on the set. They have also minimized the movement of the scenery and sets by using shadows and lighting to make the stage look different for various scenes. Also the audience doesn’t have to wait long between scenes, as the set changes happen “like lightning” so the play can keep a fast pace with the characters and action of the story.
The Showcase also demonstrated that the colour of the costumes is just as important as the costumes themselves. For example, in The Three Musketeers, the Cardinal’s men all wear bright red, while the musketeers wear lots of darker earthy colors. It is a simple yet effective way to clearly show who the hero is and who the bad guys are. The costume designers also use the look and fit of the costume to show what sort of person the character is. In The Merchant of Venice, the costume designer uses different colours and the fit of the costumes to show what class each person is from. For example, the main character has a well-tailored suit, implying that he is well-off and wealthy.
Out of all of the set designs, my favourite was Blithe Spirit, since for this production the director and set designer use a number of illusions and secret tricks to make the ghost truly invisible while she haunts her husband (eg. plates fly off the shelves without anyone near them and the grand piano mysteriously plays without anyone at the keyboard). I always thought that special effects like these were reserved for the movies!
One of the most interesting parts of the Showcase was the explanation of the costumes from Tommy. I don’t know much about the story, but I do know that the play bounces through the decades between the 1940 to the 1970s. The costumes also change dramatically with time. This caught my eye as the costumes literally go from black-and-white to bright red, orange, and blue … not to mention that they are also based on the original production’s costume designs!
By far, the most interesting set was that for Fiddler on the Roof, since several items take their inspiration from paintings by the Russian artist Marc Chagall, who we studied at school. The set includes a group of sculptures on the roof that are attached to a blue dome as well as a doll-sized community of plywood houses that were made to resemble a house in a Chagall painting.
Having seen all of the presentations and advertisements on the Stratford website, the play I am most looking forward to seeing is The Three Musketeers, and I am going to see it with my family! This play appeals to all, with swordfights, mystery, and even a bit of romance … not to mention that the set and costumes look very interesting!