Magazine article Stage Directions

Flashback

Magazine article Stage Directions

Flashback

Article excerpt

The set for a musical about bodily functions needed bodies to function.

In preparing a design concept for Lindenwood University s Spring musical, Urinetown's version of the class struggle between the elite versus the working class kept pointing me toward that short-lived but powerful period in theatre history, Russian Constructivism. In my image search, among all those curiously animated old black and white photographs of actors Struggling photographs of actors struggling up and down wooden scaffolds up and down wooden scaffolds with their great wheels and cogs, ramps and trusses, one seemed to stand out: the drawing and later model made for the 1922 Russian production of Meyerhold's Magnanimous Cuckold by constructivist artist Luibov Popova.

After a fruitless inquiry with the Russian embassy about any intel· lectual property rights which might require permission from the Popova family, we proceeded to honor the spirit of Ms. Popova's notions of conflict with a recreation, with modifications, of her stage setting.

In my design, doors and the leading edge of the primary ramp, now a safer stairway, were clad in corrugated steel fora stark industrial look, including a set of Western "bar room" doors under the main platform. Steel rolling steps, 10 feet high, were moved often to the side and front as entrances to and from the upper levels. The circus curbs from the original model became 18-inch-tall seats and tables when stacked for an endless furniture supply.

A giant wheel still dominated the upstage edge of the set piece. I wanted it to revolve for each scene change, with each spin revealing a bold graphic title, accompanied by the synchronous counter rotation of small wheels along with the odd stage left "windmill" form, which became a huge valve handle in my design. A center pivoted wall section was added to the up left frame wall to depict variously the plane timbers or flip to a large print of the central tower from Fritz Lang's 1927 silent German film, Metropolis, for the office of Cladwell B. …

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