Thursday, March 28, 2013


Sometimes the best set is the least.  The simplest.

Simple perfection.

That's all.

A friend of mine recently designed Hamlet for an incredibly successful children's production.  Both the budget and space were modest and fine materials and carpentry skills limited.  Generally, if a designer is going to pull off a minimalist style then what IS on stage has to be exquisite.  Perfect.  But here (as often is the case) perfection was kinda hard to come by.  Still, theater has its tricks:  smooth out lumpy carpentry by stretching fabric over it.  If you still can't get a perfectly smooth wall? then texture/spatter the surface so you can't tell it's not perfect.  Fool the eye.

Whatever the clunky reality of the build, what the audience saw was clean, simple, geometry.

Hamlet at Funhouse Theatre and Film, set design by Joseph Cummings - copyrighted

I love the bold simplicity of this world.

The other remarkable thing about this photo is the use of projections - integral to this production.  Here the appearance of the ghost of Hamlet's Father is enriched by this classic illustration.  (Sorry I don't know the artist's name.)  It was this image, in fact, that was the inspiration for the whole set design.

Below, you see a similar use of Millet's iconic Ophelia to illustrate her off-stage fate.

Hamlet at Funhouse Theatre and Film, set design by Joseph Cummings - copyrighted

Hamlet at Funhouse Theatre and Film, set model by Joseph Cummings - copyrighted

The model gives a better idea of the design: sliding panels plus two rolling raked platforms.  Clever.  Simple.

You can see more of Joseph's work HERE.

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