What was your inspiration for the set?
I was inspired on two fronts: the first were famous TV homes like the Kardashians’ mansion, ‘The Bachelor mansion’ and the Property Brothers’ house in Las Vegas – I knew I wanted it to look expensive, but also have a little cookie cutter McMansion feel to it. The second was a desire to evoke the architecture of the White House so when the play takes a big turn towards politics, there it would be looming in the background.
Why a pool? Was that an idea you had for the design or did the idea come from the adapted script?
TARTUFFE traditionally takes place in a foyer and a dining room; a place for comings and goings. We wanted grandeur, plenty of light (it is a comedy after all), and lots of entrances. Stephanie Gularte had a few inspiration images that she kept coming back to with water in them. It was my idea to take this show and set in an amazing backyard (and what McMansion doesn’t have a pool?). As soon at that was settled we instantly knew the famous table scene would need to take place underwater!
Also, WOW, how did you pull it off and keep it going through a four week run?
When it comes to the logistics of having over 700 gallons of water on stage we were fortunate enough to have an experienced team at American Stage. In our old building we had produced METAMORPHOSIS, so the team, lead by our Technical Director Timon Brown, had experience building a contained water feature on stage. There is a lot more than just plopping a kiddie pool on stage that goes into it for sure! Our water has to be heated to keep the actors comfortable as well as chemically treated and tested for safety. On top of all that, I wanted it to look as elegant and authentic as possible.
What is your favorite feature and/or most difficult challenge in regard to the set?
My favorite feature would have to be the pool. In the first 60 seconds of the show it makes a splash, you might say. As the audience enters the theatre, the pool is covered with what looks like a runway or extension of the tiled porch (that cover is actually a welded steal, rolling platform that spans the pool) the lights go out, a video ensues, and when the lights explode us into a raucous party, the pool is lit up with LED’s and a beautiful young woman comes bursting out of the water. After that it used wonderfully by the playwright Robert Caisley as an integral part of the plot.
You are also the Properties Master for our productions. Could you once and for all explain the difference between Properties Master and Set Designer?
It is true that many people don’t know what all falls under a Propmaster’s umbrella. I like to explain it this way. When you move into new house there are empty rooms. A Scenic Designer is like the architect of that house; they design the walls, floors, windows, doors, light switches, door hardware, paint colors, etc. Our Technical Director, Master Carpenter, Carpenters, and Scenic Artist are tasked with executing those designs. Scenic Designers also provide how they would like the space decorated and populated with furniture. That’s where the Properties Master and Scenic Dresser (for American Stage these roles are one position) come in. They are responsible for everything that you bring in the moving truck when it’s time to move in. Often I say “Anything that’s not nailed down!” Which means furniture, art, decor, rocks, trees, and everything else an actor might pick up, eat, or sit on.
See Jerid’s masterpiece for yourself and catch a performance of TARTUFFE, now playing through this Sunday (November 20).
Click here for tickets and information.