This production, produced by The Boulder Ballet, had an interesting
set of circumstances. The company is very limited in finances but
nevertheless in a few factors of ballet production, the company is at
the forefront. The performances for instance, are presented in Boulder’s
Macky Auditorium, a very richly decorated Victorian-era music hall
that seats around 2,000 patrons (the performances always sell out).
The company makes use of the entire Boulder Philharmonic which gives
it a pit orchestra size only 4-7 members shy of what The Bolshoi
Ballet uses. This is really ballet on a grand scale.
That is what the audience experiences. Behind the scenes, there
were significant challenges. The stage itself is actually tiny, as
were many music hall stages of the era. What was needed was a grand
set that actually took up little floor space.
Traditionally the company had rented its scenery, but they wanted
to make this a more special production. I was serving as a member of
the board of directors at the time. The company, as usual, was in a
dire financial way and I was feeling guilty that I had no money to
donate. I decided instead to offer my services.
The company had no shop space, and only a part time technical
director, and of course little money available, but I did not want to
compromise on the design.
We were able to rent the University shop, but could only afford a
week’s rental. As a result, the entire 3-story high setting, all of
built, 3-d textures, was built and carved and painted within seven
days by a crew of four including myself. In fact, both the carving and
painting were done in a single day. To accomplish this I had to
develop new techniques for distressing styrene.
The show was presented with great success and was revived last
spring for a second run. I originally designed this production as I
was designing The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Merchant of
Venice. It was fun to use some of the same elements but treated in a
very different manner.
Description of the Setting:
The setting consisted of a series of four massive sets of arches
and columns. The two most upstage included full columns, while the
ones downstage were left open.
These elements were rendered in an extreme and offset perspective.
Between the upstage columns was a platform pathway, which connected to
the main stage with a central curved stairway as well as an indirect
set of steps stage right. The platform had railings on both the up and
down stage sides except where the steps were located. For the bedroom
scenes, a series of perspective sheer curtains flew in as did a
railing plug to turn the platform area into the balcony. This affected
a very simple change which was nevertheless quite powerful. Other
units such as the bed and biers moved in on casters.
While the line and layering of this design has a connection with my
design of The Merchant of Venice, in this production I played
with the element of mass. While the forms in Merchant were rounded and
delicate, lacelike, here there was a built in sense of imbalance.
In the dance of the mandolins and in the dances of Juliet herself,
a great delicacy is displayed. These dances are light and airy. But
overhead is a terrible gravitational mass, ready to crush at an
instance. Ballet is about leaving the bounds of gravity, but the text
of the work as well as Prokofiev’s music is all about the
juxtaposition of the spirit of life and youth against the crushing
realities of society.
I usually avoid the use of simple metaphor in my design work, but
this production was an exception. The element of mass against the
delicacy of the human form became important to me. The setting also
has an angularity about it in contrast to design I had done for Merchant.
All textures were carved and between the form of the set and the
texturing, the structure was very light reactive. I accentuated this
quality by including bronzing powders within the paint.
The lighting designer was excellent. He was able to use the unit
setting to affect a myriad of moods. He was also able to properly
emphasize or de-emphasize the force of the scenic mass above the
performers in service to the moment in production.
Citations in the Press:
Daily Camera, The. Hayden, Niki. "Romeo and Juliet Simply Luscious".
"... That's the only flaw [refering to some of the male dancers] in what is a luscious production. The set, designed by Richard Finkelstein, is stark, with Romanesque arches that flow across the stage. They are effective framing devices for the dancers."