Stage Designs of Richard Finkelstein

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Richard Finkelstein
630 Stonewall Dr
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Finkelstein Stage Designs - simplified resume
Dance Photography by R. Finkelstein
Dance Artwork by Richard Finkelstein


Fine Arts Photography by R. Finkelstein



R. Finkelstein - web designs
Set Design and Lighting Design by R. Finkelstein

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The Wizard of Oz - Barter Theatre, June 2009. Scenery & Projection design by Richard Finkelstein. Lighting by Lucas Krech,  Costumes and Choreography by Amanda Aldridge, Flying by Delbert Hall, Directed by Richard Rose. Presented below: Production photos.

This is my seventh Wizard of Oz, third as a designer (for two theatres). Each of the productions that I designed had the same conceptual framework and so you sill see similarities in some elements, especially the farmhouse. The three however gave me an opportunity to fully explore the various possibilities and nuances of this design scheme, so while looking at similarities between these, it is also interesting to look at how the different choices impact the look, style, and feel as a whole.


Wizard of Oz Scenic Design Barter Theatre


Wizard of Oz Special Effects Barter Theatre


Wizard of Oz twister Design Barter Theatre


Wizard of Oz Set Design Barter Theatre


Wizard of Oz Set Design Barter Theatre


Wizard of Oz Set Design Barter Theatre








The Wizard of Oz - New York State Theatre Institute, 2003. Scenery & Projection design by Richard Finkelstein. Lighting by John McLaine, 
Directed by Patricia Snyder. Presented below: Production photos.

This edition was a 30th anniversary production of NYSTI's signature show. It was the 7th edition of OZ for NYSTI (I worked on about half of them!) Depicted below are production photos of the 2003 edition followed by some shots of the 1992 edition. The scenery for both was quite different except in the treatment of the Kansas home, where you will find similarities.  The projection work was accomplished with a variety of tools including one 5KW Pani, 2 RDS machines, and even two vintage high output Linenbach units! 

The Wizard of Oz - New York State Theatre Institute. 1992 Edition - Scenery & Projection design by Richard Finkelstein. Lighting by John McLaine, Costumes by Brent Griffin.Directed by Patricia Snyder. Presented below: 3 views of the show.  

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Description of the 1992 Settings:

Texture and light interactivity were central elements in this production. I approached the piece more in the dance idiom than in a traditional Broadway mode. Although I love to design such shows, this was the first time I was allowed to demonstrate this style fully on a NYSTI show.

Since I was out to surprise audiences with a fresh approach, I elected to design Kansas in a more traditional style, reminiscent of the Oliver Smith musicals of the 1950s. This choice also allowed me to maximize the contrast between the world of Kansas and the worlds "over the rainbow".

Kansas consisted of a stylized farmhouse building. It was designed in three pieces so that when the tornado hit it could fly up and off to two sides simultaneously while splitting up. The cyclorama was a major element in this world to accentuate the flatness of the Kansas topology. There was an indication of a split rail fence as well as a farm windmill.

In the film, the house is very weathered and gray almost like a piece from Tobacco Road. I opted for a more quaint farmhouse. I felt that Auntie Em had too much pride to let her house get too run down. I also wondered why Dorothy would find that there is "no place like home" if it was so devoid of life. So in this case I made the house itself somewhat of a refuge in a sea of dry dust-bowl land.

At the point of "Over the Rainbow" and then the tornado, I wanted the element of magic to take form. To achieve the feeling of the dry land I took a gamble on an interesting idea. If it worked, it would be great. The gamble was to cover the floor entirely with erosion cloth, but to not attach it. When the tornado struck, scenery flew and twisted and skidded every which way within our pyrotechnics, but most impressive, the earth itself was pulled into the vortex. Actually the entire floor was pulled into the pit. The effect worked beautifully. The real risk in the technique was that the cloth was over a highly glossed floor to represent the lands over the rainbow. It was hard at times to maneuver on the erosion cloth, especially with Mrs. Gulch’s bicycle. The effect was so very striking though that the performers opted to keep the design element.

Under the erosion cloth, the floor was rendered in jewel-like organic, metallic forms. The floor resembled a forest floor glowing with the light reflecting from the dew. It was a marked contrast to the brown of the erosion cloth.

Munchkinland was rendered entirely through the use of magical sculptural elements somewhat resembling enamel abstract floral jewelry floating in space.

Then for different parts of the forest or the witches castle we used a series of different 3-dimensional cut drops which could be lit dimensionally from the side, or lit through to the cyc, or serve as a canvas for our Pani projector images.

Conceptual Foundations:

As part of my research, I was able to locate a copy of the 1917 silent film of Oz which included Oliver Hardy in the cast. I was struck by an honesty in the telling of the story that was lacking in the MGM version. The plot too was rendered in a much more realistic manner. This is not what I had expected of a silent film of the era.

In designing the piece on stage I too then wanted to explore what might be considered a more honest approach. Visual realism though would have stifled the true expression of artistry in the piece which followed, I felt, the path of truth in the expression of feeling and emotion.

In making my choices I applied some of the ideals of the impressionists. Their work was not in opposition to reality, but rather it was dedicated to exploration of the levels of reality that lie beyond the material world. The world of the impressionists was one of light as it interacts with atmosphere, revealing the nature of emotional sensitivities and realities of spirit.

Use of abstract forms allowing for the interplay of light on them allowed for this aspect of the play to unfold in a way that traditional scenic styles had not. Indeed the result was refreshing.