The Look of Love: The Designers of Prelude to a Kiss
A play begins with one man putting words on a page. But without others, the story would remain there. To fully come to life a play needs actors, designers, directors, stage managers, and many many others. The talented designers behind Prelude to a Kiss are the ones who make the words on the page leap to life for the audience to see and hear. The texture of the costumes and set, the shades of the colors, how we see what we see onstage all help us to experience, along with Peter and Rita, the whirlwind romance that Craig Lucas created in Prelude to a Kiss. Designers Scott Bradley (sets), Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costumes), Maya Ciarrocchi (projections), Japhy Weideman (lights) and David Remedios (sound) are responsible for bringing this world to life.
Peter and Ritaís courtship is swift and the structure of the script reflects this, with one scene slipping into the next before you know it. A break in this flow could slow the production down. "Since it moves from to place to place, above all it had to be fluid," says Scott Bradley of his transformative set that supports both the playís structure and sensibility. The production also utilizes projections which Bradley and projection designer Maya Ciarrocchi agree will help keep the quick-moving narrative flowing. The projections can "change the space literally, or make it more cinematic at times if weíre doing a transition," says Bradley. Ciarrocchi's background in choreography and visual art gives her an edge with projects like this. "I think about narrative in a different way," she says. "Rather than in theatre time I think about it in cinematic time."
Just as the set design helps the audience to understand the movement of a story, the colors used by designers can subtly use the audience's cultural assumptions (e.g. white for innocence and weddings, black for sophistication and mourning) to shape the audienceís perception of character, scene, and mood. Costume designer Elizabeth Hope Clancy takes this on in her work. "Something that I find when Iím thinking about a show is color and how I can story tell with color," she says. "I tend to have each character have a fairly consistent palette and I think it allows the audience to understand who that person is." Clancy's work was last seen at the Huntington in All My Sons where "it was important to let the people be monumental and strong without a lot of color." Prelude to a Kiss on the other hand is "going to have scenes where the color is going to be very vibrant and busy."
No design element exists in a vacuum; the designers all must work together to create a cohesive production. Bradley, who also worked on All My Sons, says about that show, "we had a really tight color palette that we were constantly comparing back and forth and making sure that it looked like a total production. But with Prelude," Bradley continues, "we said 'we're going to use green.' And early on, we snagged on a color that we agreed was an appropriate environmental color for it, so that was easy. Once the color palette is decided on," says Clancy, "You just fold that into your thinking before you begin. 'Okay, what looks good against green?' As it happens, everything does. It falls right into place in my mind when I have a sense of where Scott is going." Like Clancy, Ciarrochi collaborates closely with Bradley, "whatever he gives me, I'm projecting onto." Lighting designer Japhy Weideman comes in later in the process and uses light to "mediate all these departments and meld it into a story."
Director Peter DuBois is responsible for guiding these visions to form what you will experience at the show. The designers praise DuBois' leadership. "A lot of it is about trust," says Weideman. "When you have someone that is trusting of the people that they brought into the room together, and trusting of themselves, you have not just freedom to try new things, but also less fear to try those things."
Set design by Scott Bradley.
— Anne G. Morgan