Stage Designs of Richard Finkelstein

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Richard Finkelstein
630 Stonewall Dr
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
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Set Design and Lighting Design by R. Finkelstein

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Blood Wedding by Federico García Lorca. Presented by James Madison University in the Spring of 2009. Scenery, Lighting, and Projection Design is by Richard Finkelstein wit Costumes by LeVonne Lindsey. Direction if by Victor Mao

What follows is an early concept sketch depicting the scenic design of Blood Wedding . . .

Description: First, this is what I call a "light-reactive" set in that the physical structures cannot be separated from their ability to interact with the light in a way which creates images that look quite different from the set by itself. All surfaces are designed and selected specifically for properties governing the way they will change their appearance under lighting.

The physical structure itself is simple to describe. It starts with a flat stage surface. On top of the stage is a steeply raked platform of amoeba-like form, very organic. It is made to appear to float as all legs are deeply recessed. The surface has an edge about 4" thick and curved. The surface and curved edges are made pristine; without bemish, and glass-smooth and glossy. No visible seams at all. The urface and curved edge are all painted glkoss red.

The audience, though does not see this until the end of the show as the entire platform is covered completely with a heavily textured and wrinkled coarse-weaved dropcloth, which drapes all the way to the floor. The cloth is painted to feel like "the earth", dry, craggy, uneven, At the very end of the show, the dropcloth is removed choreographically by the cast to reveal the bright red platform underneath.

The background is made in two overlapping panels so that actors can enter through the backing. The SL panel is made from a stiff wrinkled old drop with a terrible ripped-out segment. The hang is very wrinkled, textured, distressed. The SR side was made to look similar but with Svoboda-styled crumpled window screen panels. These drops were designed to take the projected images well but also dimensional lighting from the side and below, to catch the wrinkled textures were appropriate to the show.

Behind all of this was a tradtional black scrim and cyc. Our original intent was to fly out the projection drops at the very end so as to be able to reveal the bodies/ghosts of the past floating in anguish above, You can see this depicted in one of the photos above but in performance the imagery clashed and so this revealed moment was cut. It was a powerful image but just did not work with the rest of what we were doing.

For the forest scene, strips of the crumpled window screen were lowered into the space and the screen was lit from the side in greens.

Conceptual Thoughts: I normally shy away from crass, obvious symbols. A cross can symbolize Christianity, but whooptydo! To me symbols should expand understanding and not just serve as a lazy short-cut. So it is unusual for me to base this design on a giant spatter of blood. What I did here though was to make the symbol evolve, much like a playwright would allow characters to evolve. When entering the theatre what the audience sees is not at all a blood spatter, but rather a very parched, damaged, dry earth. It is through the course of the play that these initial meanings do not just apply to the earth but the people inhabiting it in this place. At the climactic moment of the play with the couple in the center of the platform, the rest of the town "move in from all sides as they gather up the cloth to make the reveal. It is then that we can physically see the damage done in its fullest, doubly so as the form never changed at all. what was revealed was not a new form but revealed was the true nature of the reality. The final blood-spurt image was made tio contrast as much as possible with the image from the rest of te show. While the space looked dry and tattered before, it also had a womb-like quality. It was a feast of textures and light. The end leaves us in stark reality. In performance the moment was striking and affected both audience and players alike.

A few more words on the lighting: When possible, when a show features my projection work, I also like to design the lighting. Unless lighting is in the hands of someone very sensitive to the unique demands of projection work I find that lighting can greatly diminish the work of its sister discipline. In these photos, I hope you can see the synthesis and symbyosis between the projection environment, scenic environment, and lighting environment. To make this happen I worked quite hard to separate out the geometries so that lighting tended to be solely matched unit by unit to what that light was designed to illuminate. I did NOT want the feel of spotlights on the floor, except at the end when called for. I need the performer to be lit INDEPENDENT of the floor and I needed to be able to divide up the acting planes, again without telegraphing this via light geometries on the floor. For this reason I made heavy use of shin busters carefully placed so as to not hit the floor at all with their light. Side-lighting in general became important. Backlight, templates, etc, could then light the floor independently and I could keep any spill on the projection surfaces to a minimum. The feeling in all of this is like the characters are within a painting. For the last "blood" image there are an additional 20,0000 watts of red downlight just on the central platform but note how the actors themselves do not look to be lit in red as it is the sidelight and special light playing on them independently.

A Complication/Challenge: In the period of rehearsals, choreographic movement became much more prominent. While the perfoprmers and director worked valiently and successfully to deal with the folds of fabric, as earth, on the ground, we did run into a challenge. The cloth could not be stapled down due to the reveal at the end, but sitting atop a glass-slick undersurface AND a rake made things quite precarious. The solution was effective though not inexpensive in time or money. A non-skid surface of the type used at the bottom of kitchen or parts drawers was meticulously sewed to the entirety of the underside of the floor cloth. In the end this did work quite well and the cloth stayed flexible too.