Sing it! We have quite a season in store for our audiences this year and taking over our indoor mainstage space at Babcock Fine Arts Center, is Assassins, the Sondheim musical which retells the individual stories of nine assassins who played a major role in shaping the history of the world, but also melds the environments of these figures in a twisted, surreal place where they meet and interact.
Sharing their stories through song, the Assassins require a visually interesting habitat that is versatile to suit the needs of multi-focus theatre and flexible to change and mimic the rhythmic pace that is inherent in the musical score. Chad Larabee, director and dear friend, suggested we explore the world of the amusement park, where the lights are bright and blinking, where the smells of popcorn and hot dogs fill your nose as you are whipped around by the Tilt-A-Whirl. A carnival he said, is the one place where there is an atmosphere of joy disguising an underbelly that is strange and disingenuous.
Why do you think so many children cry at amusement parks? It's because they can feel that something is "off". I had the charge of combining that joy/weirdness and what better way to showcase those ups and downs than with a rollercoaster. Millions of people dare to sit in those loosely fitted lap bars, and get thrown around by the antique wooden rollercoasters that sweep across our nation in some of America's oldest parks that are still in operation. And for what? The thrill? The nauseating ruckus that leaves our ears ringing and the spunk we feel when our hearts are in our throats? Are we sick?
"What would be nice is to tell them [the audience] to take the journey with us," he says. "It's a real roller-coaster ride." - Stephen Sondheim
Much of my research of turn of the century fairgrounds had the tarnish of a bygone day upon them. Many of the photographs, naturally were in black and white with a yellowed patina, deliberately earned. Our environment for the show should have that tonality as an overall brush stroke, I thought, as if we were looking at a photograph. This is a glimpse into a story or collection of stories from selected moments in history... why not capture the stage picture in this manner as well- as in a photograph.
Nice, Krista, strong yet subtle metaphor there. But let's be serious, Assassins is a musical and how do I not incorporate the joyous side of our carnival's color palette. Some of the iconic imagery that I incorporate in the design will have a more brightly adorned canvas and a mixture of textures to bring the slightest bit of realism into our scenic elements.
Although the Ohio Players probably didn't have John Wilkes Booth sitting on a crate under the shadows of a rollercoaster structure in mind when they came up with "Love Rollercoaster", I will be proudly playing it while we are in production for Endstation's first musical, Assassins. Keep your hands & feet inside the car at all times and make sure your lap bar is secure as we take this wild ride.