Our First Set

Designing the Jacob Two Two set was definitely one of my career highlights.  When Nicola Harwood approached me, I had no idea what Arin (Arin Fay) and I were getting into, all I knew is that it was a chance to work within a dynamic production team  in support of a summer theatre programme that our son participates in.   After reading the story ( I still had my childhood copy) and the script, we agreed upon Arin’s design that involved a two level prison block, in which the ground level cells were detached and on casters, so that they could be easily moved into different set combinations.  In the meantime, auditions came around, and our fine young son Eli was cast as Jacob Two-Two, the leading role.  Despite feeling a little bit like The Partridge Family, work on the set began in full force June 1st , 2007 in Kaslo.  Considering the size of the components within the set, matched with limited studio space and the rainy season, the majority of the work was completed in our living room, kitchen and any covered deck space.  Our entire house was transformed into work space, artificial lighting had to be used day and night, as Arin’s flats blocked the sun; one would have to weave in and out of the jail cells to make it into the kitchen.  Not surprisingly, the frequency of visits from the neighbourhood kids increased to observe this work in progress---  and then we loaded it all into a big truck and moved to the Capitol. 

This leads to the big question, “How many visual artists does it take to design a theatre set?”  All I know is that my sculpture and Arin’s paintings do not get rolled across a stage and danced upon.  In conversation with Michael Graham, regarding the visual artist as set-designer, he informed me that the visual artist’s natural direction is to over-do things, and that it is not as if one has to build a set to code.  At this point I shared with him the building code manual I was continually referring to.  In all, that was the biggest challenge for me in the construction of this set, I could not submit to the smoke and mirrors approach of what good set design is all about.  My approach is not conducive to that which is temporary.   With that said,  I must admit that many of the components within the set were designed so that they could be directly installed as deck railings, lattice, etc. to our house and gardens. 

In all, despite a few family artistic differences, and the fact that we could have easily spent another 3 months working on the set,  I was very pleased with the experience of our first set.