January 27, 2022

Designing THE BOOK CLUB PLAY - Finer Points Blog

From L to R: Amona Faatau, Dylan Burningham, Niki Rahimi, Favour Bright-Agindotan, Tristian Osborne, Victoria Arlofski | Photo Aaron Swenson From L to R: Amona Faatau, Dylan Burningham, Niki Rahimi, Favour Bright-Agindotan, Tristian Osborne, Victoria Arlofski | Photo Aaron Swenson

By Emeri Fetzer

Excerpted and reblogged from the College of Fine Arts news + blog publication, "The Finer Points"


This Friday, January 28 2022, the U Department of Theatre opens its latest production, “The Book Club Play.” Written by Karen Zacarías and directed by Penelope Caywood, “The Book Club Play” takes an affectionate look at the people who love books; the books they love; and the heartfelt, hilarious consequences of judging something (or someone) by their cover.

For Ana, everything is going according to plan: good friends, a great job, and a loving husband. When a famous filmmaker selects her Book Club as the subject of his next documentary, what could possibly go wrong? All they have to do is show up, and a state-of-the-art automatic camera will take care of the rest. No crew, no director, just five friends being their “authentic selves.” But when things get a little too authentic, there’s no way to turn off the camera—and no one to hear them if they yell “cut.” A few unexpected book choices and a provocative new club member could be all it takes for Ana’s plans—and everyone else’s—to spin out of control.

What does it take to create the world for this story?

Hours of dedicated design work bringing set, lighting, projections, costumes, and sound to fruition – all led by talented students with design emphases.

Set designer Erin Murphy started her process with taking three passes at the script to gather ideas and inspiration. “The first time is for pure enjoyment, to get to know the characters and plot a little bit. The second time, I go through and look for little indicators of what the playwright would want in the set. The third time was for me to dive into Ana and Rob and figure out what kind of people they are, to figure out what kind of people they are, what kind of house they would live in, and what kind of tchotchkes they would have around,” she said.

After consulting with Caywood, Murphy understood the need for movement within “The Book Club Play.” “It is about a book club, so characters come in and sit down, and talk. Adding movement was important to her, and that gave me lots of ideas to expand on,” she explained. “I thought about how to make a set move in the Babcock, because it is not a proscenium – we don’t have wings. We don’t have space for big set pieces to move on and off. And that’s where the idea of the turntable came.” A rotating set piece remedied the need for movement while still providing the essence of the inside of a home.

The script also requires projections, which is where Ailish Harris came in. “The projections are mainly used to help tell the story and give context,” Harris said. “We leaned toward having them add aesthetic ambiance to scenes, and to help blend the two worlds of theatre and documentary.”

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