“The scenic designer’s job proper is not to worry so much about real world concerns–whether it’s the reality of physics or any theatre limitations (such as cost)–but to be creative and to serve the story,” says Eli Schlatter, the scenic designer for Park Square Theatre’s The Liar, playing on the Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2.
The removal of any perceived barriers freed Schlatter to let loose and come up with a very fun and playful concept for this hilarious romantic comedy featuring a central character who cannot tell the truth: Let’s thrust three-dimensional actors into a two-dimensional world!
By doing so, Schlatter not only created an environment that forces inherently silly interactions and moments to occur but also loaded the play full of supporting visual metaphors.
The Liar is based on a 17th-century French play that was modernized by playwright David Ives so Schlatter fittingly drew inspiration from the Italian-influenced Baroque style of set design that became increasingly popular on France’s stages during the mid-1600s. Scenery was essentially constructed on flat, painted panels creating an angled perspective to give a sense of depth. Painted structures in the foreground looked larger than those in the background, with an elaborate green courtyard (green was “everywhere” during the 17th-century) inspired by French knot gardens as center stage.
The location depicted on Schlatter’s stage panels are directly inspired by the Place Royale, where much of the play’s action occurs and which just happens to be a real place in Paris. Completed in 1612, it became the European prototype of urban residential squares (Schlatter called them “the first urban condos”) with all housefronts bearing the same design.
While the scenic design will be elaborate and gorgeous for The Liar, Schlatter had to take care not to let it upstage the actors. As he put it, “If the audience thinks more about the set than the actors, then I did my job wrong.”
Although Schlatter did let me in on many of the “winks” of his visual fabrications for The Liar, I shall conveniently neglect to reveal them to you, the audience. (Hint: During our talk, Schlatter did mention “Prince” and “1640” in the same breath.)
(Note: Future blogs will tell how the props designer plans to “spin off ” from the set design as well as an insider’s look at Schlatter’s step-by-step process to bring the set for The Liar to fruition.)