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Eli Sherlock Sets the Stage

Yew Alley at Baskerville Hall
(White model by Eli Sherlock)

Who better to design the set for Park Square Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery than Sherlock himself–that is, Scenic Designer Eli Sherlock (née Schlatter)? Using his impressive powers of deduction, Eli had to solve the tricky puzzle of how to set the stage to accommodate 31 scenes covering 18 locations. But anyone who’d caught a glimpse of Eli’s clever, wholly two-dimensional set design for last season’s comedy, The Liar, at Park Square knows that, without a doubt, Eli was definitely up to the challenge.

The moors at night
(White model by Eli Sherlock)

However, his task wasn’t for the faint of heart, requiring a relentlessly methodical approach. Eli combed the script for details: What’s the time period? What are all the scenic locations? How are they utilized? He did exhaustive research: What does the Manor of Manaton (a.k.a. Baskerville Manor) and its surrounding moors, thought to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Hound of the Baskervilles, look like? What are the dimensions of the Proscenium stage to ensure that his design would fit and function well? Basically, as Director Theo Langason cracked open the script, Eli read it and began to determine so many of the choices that had to be made.

But one of the closest relationships for a set designer is with the director, who carries the vision for the play. Theo added his influence on Eli’s design via input on such matters as how to possibly incorporate puppetry into a key scene, whether the run crew who moves the set pieces should be visible or not, how the set design could contribute to the play’s comedic elements yet also make it feel spooky and scary and much more.

Set Designer Eli Sherlock

Eli’s training has, in fact, taught him how to manipulate how the audience feels. For instance, Holmes’ area tends to be on stage right for a good reason. Everything on the set–whether wallpaper pattern or color scheme–subliminally tells the story.

“It’s a fast process,” Eli said about set design. “On and off, I’m thinking for a couple of months, then creating the set for a couple of weeks. But the set has to be figured out before rehearsals start so the director can do the blocking.”

This heady combination of collaboration and creativity is what excites Eli about his chosen profession. His greatest thrill is to have created something that an audience hasn’t seen before and cause an unexpected reaction to a space.

“In Baskerville, new stuff will be popping up all the time,” said Eli. “And my hope is for the audience to wonder, ‘How did they do that?!?!'”

Then perhaps he’d flash a sly grin and reply, “It’s elementary . . . .”

Baskerville is on stage now through August 5! Tickets and information here.

Ting Ting Cheng, Blog Author, Park Square Theatre
Ting Ting Cheng

Ting Ting Cheng joined Park Square Theatre's Front of House staff in 2014. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Los Angeles, she became a Minnesotan after graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in English Literature. She loves live theatre and has a passion for writing.

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