Set designers first to begin creating the magic

The sap is running, the steam is pouring out of the roof at Wintergreen Maple Syrup and Pancake Barn and, as spring slowly creeps into the county, members of the Highlands Summer Festival company are gearing up for another great season. Not that some people haven’t already been toiling away. The set designers are among the first to start working with the plays on this year’s playbill. In consultation with the directors and the set construction co-ordinator, David Mills, they have been creating stage designs that provide the setting for each of the productions. Often overlooked or “unseen” by the audience, a good set design helps to create a mood, set a tone and define an era. The designs are more than mere backdrops for the actors They represent one of many elements that combine to make the plays come alive for our audiences.

Sarah Scroggie, who designed the Norm Foster play Looking in 2011, is back with two challenges this year. She is doing the set for the opening play, Nunsense and will also be creating the design for Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. In the musical comedy Nunsense, the Sisters have taken over the school gymnasium for their fund-raising review. The grade eight students were about to stage the musical Grease, so there will be a sharp contrast between the supposedly staid nuns and the backdrop of sixties rock n roll. Our Town is particularly challenging for the designer in that Wilder states unequivocally in the preamble to the script, that much of the stage is bare through the production with a minimum of set pieces. Designing to respect to the playwright’s instructions, but also creating elements that will help tell the story, will test the designer’s skills.

The set for Neil Simon’s comedy, The Sunshine Boys, is being designed by L. Garth Allen. While most of the action takes place in a room in a down-on-its-luck hotel, there a number of other short scenes that have to be accommodated into the design. The hotel room even has a Murphy bed…..points to anyone who knows what a Murphy bed is.

It is always interesting to see how the designers interpret the various clues the playwrights have provided for them. In some cases the instructions are direct and prescriptive. In other cases the designer has virtually a free hand to interpret the set as he or she imagines it. We have never been disappointed in the clever and unique touches these talented people bring to the process of bringing the stories to life on our stage. This year, when you settle into your seats and the curtain opens, take a moment to see what the designer has done to create the setting for the production you are about to enjoy.

For tickets to any of these productions click on this link: Tickets

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