We recently sat down with THE 39 STEPS Scenic Designer Jerid Fox to discuss how he is raising the bar by designing an entirely grayscale production.
On translating a film to live theatre:
THE 39 STEPS here at American Stage is going to be quite the theatrical production and I think that’s what’s cool about it, we are doing a very exciting adventure. We’re going to invite our audiences to imagine with us and basically to play. I mean, it’s got murder, it’s got adventure, it’s got spies, but it’s also very funny. Because we are encountering those problems of putting a movie on stage, there is this “play-within-a-play” that’s happening [where we get to watch] four actors face challenges like “Okay, go create an airplane chase on stage with creates and boxes.”
On making an entirely grayscale set design:
Something interesting we are doing here at American Stage [is that] we are going to produce a grayscale production. So what does that mean? Well, Alfred Hitchcock obviously filmed in black and white. So, we are going to produce a “black and white” production. And on top of that layer will be bold saturated colors when something of importance comes up in that play. So if somebody dies, for instance, an entirely grayscale set will produce one pool of red blood or one really emerald green glove, for our villain. So were going to lead you along and drop some hints for that mystery, but it should also be a very visually intriguing production, which I am excited about doing.
On the challenges facing the production team:
For myself as the prop master, I can’t just go and rent something that I normally would just go and rent, so if it’s brown and wood grained, then I’m gonna have to paint it to be a gray scaled wood grain. And then also for our costumer, she has to sew everything in a greyscale. There’s gonna be a lot of building and creating, which is different from just renting certain pieces and it’s really about control. It’s about having a set that is a very controlled environment, so that we can choose when to break the rules.
On an American Stage first:
Stephanie Gularte, our new Producing Artistic Director challenged me with creating a Victorian theater in American Stage’s theater. So our seating configuration poses a challenge, when you want to look at a proscenium house. You will be walking in to an [abandoned] Victorian theater here at American Stage, completely in grayscale. It will be abandoned for about 20 years so definitely some things falling apart, some decrepit things, and then everything in the show, the theory behind it is that it is a found prop left behind by the theater troupe. The costumes will be completely period in the 1930s, all of our props will be found props that were perhaps left behind by a Victorian theater that had been shut down.