DESIGNING WALLACE (opening March 4) and AMERIGO (opening April 8)

Cheryl Ann Cluff, Sound Design
Phil Lowe, Costume Design
Randy Rasmussen, Set Design
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cheryl Ann Cluff, Sound Design
Designing sound for two shows at the same isn’t so bad. I have to put the work in sometime, right? Why not both at the same time?

As I’ve been working the last few weeks, I’ve found myself thinking of a new idea for the second show while I’m working on what I think is a good idea for the first show. Then I leave the work on the first show and work on the idea for the second show. Bad idea. I tend to get immersed in the second idea and lose some of the energy flow that was happening with the first idea. Best to just write down the idea for the second show and follow through with the initial idea I was working on for the first show. This designing for two shows at once can really bring out the A.D.D. in a person.

Multitasking is all fine and good, but for things like sound design, it’s best for me to get at least a first draft of a concept down before I move onto a different concept for a different show. I find with projects that are a little more left-brained I can jump in and out randomly and finish portions of the projects piece-meal. But I have to follow through to the end a little more with right-brained projects.

So I’ve got two distinct styles happening for WALLACE and AMERIGO.

I’ve picked two major sounds for WALLACE; one for Stegner and one for Thurman. These two sounds represent major influences in their lives. I chose forest sounds, specifically Fish Lake (or my version of it) for Stegner and jazz/blues clarinet for Thurman. I’m using them combined in the first few minutes of the show and they aren’t necessarily related to what the characters are saying – the sounds aren’t literal. Then the two sounds repeat again, separately later in the show, and in this case, they are used literally, when Stegner revisits Fish Lake and when Thurman is in Harlem.

For AMERIGO I’ve been wondering what does purgatory might sound like? And why are these people there? It’s not heaven, it’s not hell – it’s this kind of in-between place that’s not necessarily good or bad. So I’ve come up with some ambient drone sounds with pulsating bells. Various versions of this drone will underscore the entire show. It’s the energy of purgatory, and this energy reacts to what is happening in the show. Uh, yeah. Something like that. We’ll see what happens in tech rehearsals.

Phil Lowe, Costume Design
It has been a fascinating experience sitting in production meetings talking about one of the shows, and then switching gears and talking about the other one. As a designer one gets so submerged in the visual world of the play; the time period, location, social status, the individual characters and all of the other iconic images that the play evokes. WALLACE is so biographical and, from the costume angle, a photorealistic piece, while AMERIGO, deals with historical characters and subject matter, but is conceptually much more abstract.

To turn around in the middle of a meeting and jump from the world of one play to the world of another presents an interesting challenge inasmuch that one has to leave behind all of the ideas and images that were just being discussed, and internally “clean the slate” in order to enter the very different visual world of the other play. It’s one of the things I like most about design. Every project is different. The means by which the costumes are created or obtained is always the same, but the subject matter and design process are always new experiences.

Randy Rasmussen, Set Design
When the extra spring slot became available a couple of seasons ago I first thought, “Oh no, another spring show!” But what has evolved is the chance for us to work in a whole new way, repetory theatre. It’s like our own little spring season and due to the slightly compressed schedule we kinda work the shows into each other. And then, on top of that, WALLACE is kind of like two shows in one. The last production meeting was fun. We actually were working on three shows at once, as we did bring AND THE BANNED SLAMMED ON into it.

It’s also nice to get back to a ground-cloth-focused-kinda-show for a change, back to something a little more like the shows we did in the past: focus on the acting kinda stuff, love that stuff! When I was 18 I saw a production of KVETCH in a 33-seat theatre in Los Angeles, seated three-sided like we are doing with both WALLACE and AMERIGO (but with 75 seats). Seeing the actors that close up really changed the way I thought about live theatre, hope it does the same for you.

The fabric for the ground cloths can out of a production at the LDS Conference Center. I’m sure they are happy to be supporting Plan-B.

Cheryl Ann Cluff co-founded Plan-B in 1991 and is currently Managing Director and Resident Sound Designer, having designed sound for nearly every production since 2000. She was also the driving force behind Plan-B’s five RADIO HOURs. Phil Lowe has previously designed Plan-B’s ANIMAL FARM, BLOCK 8 and THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER (at Kingsbury Hall). Randy Rasmussen is Plan-B’s Technical Director and Resident Stage Manager, having designed every Plan-B set since 2001 (and a slew between 1991-2000).

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