THEATRE SET DESIGN

A second year project in which I created a set design for a fictitious run of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (2013).

Using a handmade 1:20 scale model of the Maidment Theatre in Auckland, I was able to bring my design vision to life through the exploration of lighting and photography.

Handmade 1:20 scale model of my design for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

My design aimed to explore what Miller calls ‘The heart of the Darkness’ – that it is not necessarily actions that awaken anger and fear, but the ‘invisibility of ideas’. Although the play is centered around the 1692 Salem Witch-trials, for me the underlying theme of the play was not the act of witchcraft itself, but the unseen and the unknown, the belief in and fear of witchcraft and the subsequent rumours that spread throughout the community.

Inspiration drawn from work by artists James Turrell and Do-ho Suh

Informed by the notions of artist James Turrell – who believes that light itself is a material and can alter our perception of the world – I based the foundation of my set design on the play of light and shadows. My intention was to shift the audiences’ perception throughout the course of the play, through the use of light and colour, shadows which creep and envelop the stage and materials that change from opauqe to transparent – re-enforcing the uncertainty of what is solid and real from what is imagined and far more sinister.

Concept drawings for Acts One, Three and Four.

Final design; images generated using handmade 1:20 scale model of the Maidment Theatre in Auckland (Act One).

A key element in the play is the Salem wood and the unseen events which take place there, immersing the town in suspicious madness and accusation. I considered the woods as a character in itself, which would grow and influence the atmosphere of the play, and act as a constant reminder of the scene unseen. Ultimately the presence of the woods would fill the stage and blur the lines between the imagined and reality.

Detail of set during Act One; using opacity to show clear definition between the interior of the set and the exterior backdrop.

Through the use of lighting, and the shifting transparency of the main structure, the boundaries between interior and exterior are blurring during Act Three

By the end of the play the interior structure of the set is fully transparent, allowing the trees to dramatically envelop and dominate the stage (Act Four)