Setting the Stage for HOLMES AND WATSON

Behind the Scenes:
Erik Paulson, the set designer for Holmes and Watson, shares what goes into turning ideas in a script into a full-fledged world!

“The first step is always reading the script and then doing visual research with attention to how the director is thinking about the play. From there I will do a number of “low-stakes” sketches just to rough in some ideas and composition on stage (Image 1).

Pencil sketch of a set design.

Image 1

I usually jump in to Sketchup (a 3d modeling program on the computer), but on this I built a very rough scale model made for discussion with the Director (Image 2).

Rough model of a set design

Image 2

As we narrowed in on what was working I created a series of computer models and updated the winner until it was approved (Image 3). Knowing I could show a more complete look with an actual scale model I redrew everything in a separate drafting program and reduced it to 1/4” scale for the sake of 3d printing. Each piece was divided up into small sections and textures were added.

Finally, all the plastic pieces, balsa wood, foam core, and printed graphics were assembled into the 3d model with theater surrounding it (Image 4). I hand painted most of details in place.

Computer model of a set design

Image 3

This process is primarily important for the sake of communication. It’s all stages of taking what is in my brain and sharing it with collaborators –  the director, lighting designer, technical director, etc., and then refining it. The steps are different every time. Sometimes I don’t sketch, I  just jump into the computer model.  Sometimes I won’t make a scale model. Sometimes I mock up full technical models to discuss ways to make things move on stage.

Full scale model of the set for Holmes and Watson

Image 4

For me, the process is dynamic depending on the the needs of the collaboration and the play. For Holmes and Watson,  the director, Michael Evan Haney, and I collaborated between Minnesota and Sicily to suss out this rough environment. The challenge of the design was to first see Moriarty on the Reichenbach Falls and then see how an asylum would co-exist around it.  The architecture is supposed to be an old Scottish fort, reclaimed into a light house, and finally renovated into an asylum on an island.

While the architecture needed to feel specific, we wanted to also work abstractly, so the hope is that we are taken away to the perilous falls, or we see a Sherlock emerge from a cell, without being too literal.”

Construction on the set for Holmes and Watson is in progress now with first previews on July 12.
Learn more about Holmes and Watson and get your tickets now!


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