Statements from Designers of “Apologia”

Megalyn Echikunwoke, John Tillinger, Talene Monahon, Hugh Dancy, and Stockard Channing. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Dane Laffrey, Set Design
The process of designing Apologia began with and continues to be driven by a lot of research. I did a series of digital models which Daniel, Alexi, and Stockard responded to until we honed in on the right space for the show. All along the way, new research continued to inform the space we were making. Apologia is a play in which the set – Kristin’s house – is inextricably tied to character. It’s her domicile, one that she created and curated. Our research was focused on trying to see her character reflected in a wide variety of homes. In some cases, it was about architecture and in others just about the way a painting was hung on a wall, or the kind of bowls in a kitchen. Ultimately, the set was distilled from hundreds of images into something that hopefully feels very specifically hers. One of the big challenges in design and fabrication has been to effectively present the age of the house. We want it to feel like a structure that was built in the 19th century. As structures age, they shift and settle and their appearance becomes softer. Right-angled corners and walls and ceilings aren’t so straight and plumb anymore. We’re very focused on getting a freshly constructed set to feel visibly antique, which adds an interesting level of complication to the process.

Anita Yavich, Costume Design
Apologia is a very intimate play about extremes. Tension is high at a family reunion where everyone questions the notion of success and failure, and in between all the doubts and arguments, out pour years of resentment and long-suppressed emotions. Throughout the play, the audience will witness their sympathy sway in unpredictable directions. When I design costumes for a play, it is important to collaborate with the actors and create the look of their character together. Especially with a play like Apologia, where expectations are constantly being turned around, we need to make sure the designs are subtle, that the characters’ looks can facilitate the suspension of disbelief. In other words, we need to come up with something that looks familiar and specific, but also has a mystery to it at the same time. After all, the play is about discovering or rediscovering all these people in your life and hopefully be able to find the answers to the truth behind past behaviors and decide what really matters in these relationships. On a practical note, we also have to solve a heightened moment in the play when wine is spilled all over an expensive light-colored dress! How can we make this happen eight times a week and still make sure the dress looks fantastic? It would be easier if this liquid were not edible, because we would be able to have more options for the solution. However, since it is wine, it will need to be edible and come out in the wash out every night. We might need to consult people at NASA about this!

Stockard Channing. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Bradley King, Lighting Design
Few things would seem to instill as much fear in a lighting designer as walking into a theatre and seeing that the set has a ceiling. Everyone wonders how on earth are you supposed to light a sealed-off box?!? But, on the contrary, I find ceilings an indispensable design element when attempting to design a highly naturalistic environment such as the one in Apologia. Think about it: How many rooms have you been in where the ceiling is a black void that disappears into eternity? A ceiling cements the idea of a real room, a real place, and contrary to conventional wisdom, provides infinite opportunities for a creative lighting designer. Windows become extra important. Blasts of sunlight or moonlight can be the principal motivating source of light for a scene. Lamps, chandeliers, and bulbs (what we refer to as "practicals") also become critical, lending a source of light for both day and night that can be reinforced with traditional equipment. Ceilings also bounce light around the stage, adding softness to shadows and a glow to surfaces and reflections. So despite what conventional wisdom might lead you to believe, any lighting designer who relishes a challenge loves nothing more than to see that ceiling in the model. Bring it on!

Ryan Rumery, Sound Design and Original Music
My process is different for each project that I score. Each play that I work on, including Apologia, I try to approach it as though I were an audience member, seeing and hearing the play for the first time, and I try to really focus on what makes sense to someone who is only seeing the play once. I do believe in certain nuances that might not be perceived by the audience, but that doesn’t always work for every show. As a starting place, the script is informative, but it's only when I hear the actors read the play that I know where there might be scoring or outdoor noises, whether the sound and the score are realistic or abstract. Do we hear the cars arriving at the house, and what do they sound like? What's the tonality for the mobile phone text and ringtones? I'm always asking a lot of questions to myself, and I try not to worry about finding all the solutions until we get into the space. Another aspect that is important to my process is finding time to sit in silence in the theatre because each theatre is different, and I want to hear how I might add to the aural world of the existing space. By the time you're reading this, I'm sure I will have come up with something different from where I started by just being in rehearsals and responding to how the actors and director interpret the play!

Apologia is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre through December 16, 2018. For tickets and information, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2018-2019 Season, Apologia

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