Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Making Art

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Making Art

Article excerpt

Making art

Kansas City staging of Sunday was in an art museum

Is there a more appropriate venue for Sunday in the Park with George than an art museum? Not for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. One of the company's regular homes, the Spencer Theatre, was under renovation during the run of the show (Sept. 11-Oct. 4, 2015). Where then to stage this production?

KC Rep looked within their neighborhood and found a place for the show at the nearby Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. There was just one problem: The museum's Atkins Auditorium is little more than a lecture hall. No fly space. No infrastructure for lights and barely any room in the wings. These restrictions proved liberating for director Eric Rosen and his creative team.

Donald Eastman's scenic design consisted mostly of painting easels on wheels, moved and arranged by the actors to set scenes with Seurat's drawings and paintings. When George didn't like a tree at the beginning of the show, another actor removed the drawing of the tree from an easel, leaving a second, treeless landscape.

Rosen also enlisted the help of projection designer Jason H. Thompson who used multiple projectors to add a bit of the theatrical spectacle that Sunday is known for. In "Putting It Together," George replaced himself in each conversation with an easel and a projection of his likeness.

But it's not spectacle alone that makes Sunday an exceptional work of theatre. Intimate stories anchor the show, and the design complemented those moments as well. During "Finishing the Hat," when George sang about his lost love for Dot, he was surrounded by easels filled with drawings of women. In Act II, Marie revealed to George that these women, now in the painting, are all Dot.

Such details, perhaps noticed by only the most passionate Sondheim and Sunday fans, added deeper connections between the two acts. Another example occurred during Act II scenes when George prepared to show the Chromolume on La Grande Jatte. On one of the easels was a picture of an illuminated light pole, a sly reference to the George of Act I, whom the Celestes believe prowls the streets staring up at the lamps.

Another brilliant design contribution to the story was Linda Roethke's costumes. …

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