The Swan: The Jungle Theater

American Theatre, May-June 2007 | Go to article overview

The Swan: The Jungle Theater


Bain Boehlke, DIRECTOR AND SET DESIGNER: This play is, in a real sense, a fairy tale for adults. Dora Hand is a swan but she doesn't know it. All is going well for Dora until one fateful morning a swan crashes into her kitchen window, changes into a man and becomes the catalyst/lover for her transfiguration. It was my notion that, although the play seemed surrealistic, it was best served if the overall design was not abstract, but grounded, rather, in a heightened romantic realism. Is anything more surreal than life keenly observed? For example, the music we employed in the show (and it was considerable) was drawn from the reality of the character's personal past--John Denver, Patsy Cline, the Eagles, etc. In fact, even at play's end, as Dora transforms into a swan (vainly struggling to hold onto the final shred of her humanness), she throws one last tape into her trusty boom box. Melanie's early '70s anthem "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," with its exultant "white bird" chorus, accompanies her at full throttle as she soars through the shattered window of her past into new-found freedom and her personal bird home.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Bill Healey, LIGHTING DESIGNER: I've had years of tutelage and training under Bain Boehlke, who directs and designs most of the shows at the Jungle. The way he works is that every designer and tech person needs to break down the script as if he or she were an actor. Everything knits together. Bain calls it "finding the vocabulary." This was our second time doing The Swan together, and we spent a lot of time analyzing the script in long e-mail discussions, throwing out all sorts of different ideas. One thing the lighting does is represent the mental state of Bill, the swan--his physical transformation happens far more rapidly than his mental transformation, and we wanted to bring his interior world inside the house in the form of clouds, dappled light, the saturated blue you see in the photo above. …

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