A Look Into the Scenic Design Ideas of Precious Little

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 2:28 PM

By Chelsea Warren, Scenic Designer

The director Julieanne Ehre and I, along with the rest of the design team, had many meetings in which we discussed the both the play, its message, and the design possibilities. Immediately the scenic arch within the story captivated me: in the beginning scenes take place in pockets of western institutional isolation and as the play progresses the spaces blurred into a fluid psychological space. Moreover, the idea of the play starting off with isolated pockets of realism was inspired by the language machine at the zoo that is used to dialogue with the "talking gorilla", in which language is fragmented. By the end of the play, language has moved deeper, beyond human constructs, allowing locations to blur from one to the next.

I became very excited about the experience of the audience to actor relationship when drawing the ground plan (or bird’s eye view of the design). I realized we could create this total sense of enclosure by creating theatre in the round, with the audience helping to create a sense of a glass enclosure. Inspired by the research from a British gorilla enclosure, I made the simple gesture of the interior of the space a step down from the perimeter, helping to create an interior and exterior space for viewers. Many ideas were discussed in how to further emphasize the overall enclosure by having structure at the four corners. In the end, we landed upon air craft cable lines, which help out with sightlines and on the diagonal blocking which is beneficial to theatre in the round, and still gives the psychological impression of glass corners.

I also would love to say that one of my favorite parts of the design process is sitting in tech and getting to hear scripts over and over. I know that this might sound like a boring part, but when you have complex writing it can be thrilling. Getting to listen to Precious Little for a week was awesome, each day some new concept or linking theme became apparent to me! Thank you to Madeleine for writing such an interesting provocative play!

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