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A Look Over His Shoulders: How Eli Schlatter Designs

The set of The Liar is moving onto Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage for the play’s September 9 to October 2 run.  Scenic Designer Eli Schlatter has spent months getting us to the moment when concepts become reality, following similar steps that he’d taken many a time for other productions.

After reading the script twice, Schlatter met with both Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein to get their input.  His collaboration with Scholz-Carlson involved going through each scene in the play to discuss what would be needed and Schlatter’s providing research images as possible concepts.

Now armed with some sense of what the show should look and feel like, Schlatter did further research and conceptualizing with thumbnail sketches.

A sketch

A sketch

Once Schlatter and Scholz-Carlson decided to go with a very classic and two-dimensional set design (refer to the August 28 blog, “Flat Land: The World of The Liar“), Schlatter made what is called a white model.  This is an unpainted white cardboard model of the set scaled according to actual Proscenium Stage measurements to determine how the set will fit and look in the space.  Schlatter used a ruler with a quartering scale (one inch equals four feet) for measuring and added model people for perspective.

A white model

A white model

His next step was to create a means within the design for scene changes.  For The Liar, the two back center walls could be opened or shut like doors to change the space for the action to move upstage or downstage. Schlatter then produced a color model of the set.

The color model

The color model

After meeting with Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Schlatter made further decisions about such matters as surface texture before producing paint elevations–very detailed, scaled plans that show the scenic painter exactly where, what and how something must be painted onto the entire set.  They look somewhat akin to drafting plans with specific painting specifications throughout. The shop crew is also provided with a section view, which shows how the set looks from different directions, as well as execution drawings that show all the dimensional details.

Eli Schlatter (left) with Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

Director Doug Scholz-Carlson (left); Eli Schlatter (center); Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

The Park Square shop crew have been busy building and painting the set. While it is quicker to build a two-dimensional set, more pressure is placed on the painting to be especially well done, though luckily the human eye tends to fill in any details on scenery that’s not represented on the stage.

As Schlatter completes his work for The Liar, he won’t be putting his feet up to relax anytime soon. He’s already working with the Artistry in Bloomington to design for Little Shop of Horrors and Bad Dates.

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