Designing the scene

Sean O’Skea, professor of scenic design at Southern Oregon University, designed last spring’s brilliant production of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” directed by Jim Edmondson. “Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika” will play Nov. 14-24 in SOU’s Main Stage Theatre. I met O’Skea in the lobby of the newly expanded Theatre Arts Building on the SOU campus.

EH: What’s your process of designing a play?

Sean O’Skea: It’s the same with all the designers, actors and directors. We start with the text and get a sense of what the play is trying to say. Designers are always sort of subordinate to the director’s vision. There are an infinite number of possibilities of ways that a play can be interpreted, especially good, rich, meaty plays. In an ideal situation, it becomes a nice collaborative back and forth. I’ll show some imagery, and the director will respond to it, and I’ll have a second pass at it, and we’ll go through that.

It’s always different depending on the venue, where it is, the time frame and budget. It changes a lot. There are so many variables as to how you get from the idea of the set to the actual set, and only some of those have to do with your artistic vision. If you go in with your dream of what that show wants to look like, and the director has an entirely different direction, it can be heartbreaking sometimes. It’s all part of the process.

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