Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wisey Best Set: Sunday in the Park With George, 5th Avenue

The nominees for best set for 2009 were:

A Comedy of Errors, GreenStage. Ryan Higgins, director. Laura Garcia, properties designer.
Equivocation, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Christopher Acebo, scenic designer.
The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Balagan Theatre. Ed Cook III, technical director. Jen Butler, set designer. Terri Weagant, shopping cart builder.
Sunday in the Park with George, 5th Avenue Theatre. Projection design, Timothy Byrd and the Knifedge Creative Network. David Farley, set design.
Don Quixote, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lynn Jeffries, puppet designer.

The 5th Avenue Theatre team wins the Wisey for its brilliant set for Sunday in the Park With George.

A part of Weisenheimer wants to handicap the relatively affluent big houses in the Wisey competition because of the resources they bring to the stage. A set piece for one scene at 5th Avenue or OSF might cost more than the whole year's budget at GreenStage or Balagan. But 5th Avenue deserves the nod for the clever, creative set for Sunday in the Park. When one walked into the auditorium, the set was merely three plain white walls. But when the lights went down and the projection system kicked in, magic happened. The walls came alive with the art of George Seurat, as he was creating it. Animated characters interacted with the human ones, too. And in Seurat's studio the painter was behind his canvas, a semi-transparent curtain lit so we could see both the artist and the work he was creating. Marvelous!

A few of the runners-up deserve mention. At Balagan Terri Weagant not only played Trudy and a zillion other characters in Search for Signs well enough to earn a best actress nomination, she built the shopping-cart spaceship to boot. The GreenStage production of The Comedy of Errors was truly minimalist in a classic sense. The only scene beside the outdoor parks was a tent with multiple entrances that served as several locations, including dressing room. Just like the wandering troupes used to do it.

A special nod to OSF for its use of puppets in Don Quixote. The valiant steeds of Quixote and Sancho Panza, and several other characters, were played with puppets to great effect. We've seen several great examples of the physical side of theater in the past year, with clowns and puppets, and the OSF puppetry was carried off especially well.

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