On Tuesday, Fred M. Duer, the head of scenic design at the Department of Theatre and Drama and the scenic designer for the Indiana Festival Theatre, shared his Music Man designs with the cast of the show. “This is a large cast on a big stage,” Fred began, “and The Music Man needs to flow easily from one scene to another. So how are we going to bring on all these different locations—a train, the street at the center of town, porches, a footbridge, and the interiors of a library, the gym, and the Paroo household without slowing the show down for a dozen scene changes?
“The answer is that we’ll fly in a lot of the scenery”—that is, the scenery will be “stored” above the actors in the flies and raised and lowered into view at the appropriate time—”and a lot of the detailed furniture will be moveable and on wheels. And,” he said, looking at the cast, “you’ll be dancing the pieces on and off. It ought to be a smooth and fast-moving show.”
The style in Fred’s designs were, in part, based on a note to producers from author-composer Meredith Willson. “Dear Director,” wrote Willson. “The Music Man was intended to be a valentine and not a caricature….” Fred was reminded of the old-fashioned valentine cards from the early years of the 20th century, cards that were bordered with exquisite lace and filigree, not unlike the architecture to be found in Victorian houses. The resulting designs are both delicate and substantial. There’s an openness to the scenic pieces, but they are massive in scope, and they suggest that Victorian sense of large, yet intricate architecture. That they’ll be flown in and out of the Ruth N. Halls Theatre—our proscenium stage—only adds to their dual qualities of lightness and substance.
Here are examples of the designs, following the sequence of the scenes. First up, drawings in gray wash for the major scenes, followed by colored renderings, and ending up with painter’s elevations—detailed colored drawings used as a guide by scenic artists to match the set colors to the colors specified by the designer. You may click on any image to see a larger picture with more detail:
1.) Grey wash drawings
2) Color renderings
By drawing on a black background the designer takes great control over how the colors on the set are represented. These drawings inform not only the director, but the lighting and costume designers. The renderings communicate the color choices the scenic designer is considering, and they begin a conversation and collaboration.
3) Painter’s elevations
Thanks to Sara Taylor for scanning the images and working them into shape!
Next week: more on building scenery and costumes, as well as some discussion about Robert Preston and his connection to the IU Theatre program.