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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Romeo & Juliet Ballet - Scenic Design by R. Finkelstein Produced by The Boulder Ballet in 1997 and 2001. 
Milenko Banovich, Choreographer; J.P. Osness, Lighting Designer




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.

Conceptual Foundation

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."