As many of you know, this August I produced my first show, East of the Sun, West of the Moon a story about a young woman who sets out on the adventure of a lifetime to save the man of her dreams. Along the way she encounters Mother Earth, an Evil Troll, and several celestial bodies.
The show was staged on Pilgrim Hill in Central Park. Because of the location we had design challenges that were very unique to the space. Central Park does not allow for anything to be tied to trees, staked into the ground, or otherwise attached to any of the landscape. Furthermore, the park requires that you take everything with you after the show (part of their keep the park clean initiative). What this meant for us was that not only did everything have to be freestanding, but that everything had to pack down into 2 suitcases and a granny-cart so that we could get it out every night.
The set pieces that we used ended up being items that could easily collapse, tents, folding tables, fans and cloth in a multitude of colors were used to create the scenic elements. We also worked with the natural landscape of the park to help create the different spaces within the park and worked with our Choreographer to incorporate the fixed elements into the dance numbers.
Because the scenic elements had to be relatively paired down, the costumes had to be eye-catching in order to attract the attention of passers-by. Kristin Costa (our costume designer) and I worked closely together on developing a look for the actors that would compliment the space and enhance the atmosphere that we were trying to create.
Our biggest challenge by far was getting the audience to move with the actors through the space. While the kids in the audience were gung-ho to chase after the actors, their parents were far more hesitant. I found myself having to approach parents at almost every show to say things like “Its ok if she wants to dance with the moon, the actors are used to it” or “The troll is going to have a battle with the prince in a moment, it’s ok if the kids chase after them”. For this show the solution was to plant audience members who were friends and have them run after a character, for the next show, it will be interesting to see what else we can do to encourage the audience to move.