Tag Archives: set designer

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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Designer creates spaces for people to have experiences

Craig Hudson
Craig Hudson

Craig Hudson designed the sets and lights for Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s stunning production of “Cabaret.” Hudson founded OCT when he took a peek into an old pink church at First & Hargadine Streets in Ashland. He transformed it into a lush theatrical venue complete with dark green walls, polished wood balconies, and dominated by a spectacular crystal chandelier.

Hudson divides his time between Ashland, where he is the resident set designer at OCT, and his exquisite bed and breakfast in Mexico City called The Red Tree House. He is now in the midst of building a dazzling supper club (to open soon) just below the Cabaret Theatre: The Hearsay Restaurant, Lounge & Garden, where we met one afternoon. Continue reading Designer creates spaces for people to have experiences

Don Zastoupil

Don Zastoupil
Don Zastoupil

Set Designer, Don Zastoupil, has created a guillotine for The Scarlett Pimpernel, currently playing at The Camelot Theatre. With a background in interior decoration and an interest in cinematography, Zastoupil began designing and constructing stage sets when he was a Board Member at the Opera House in Woodland, California.

One afternoon, we visited in Camelot’s newly constructed playhouse as he was finishing the set for The Scarlet Pimpernel which takes place during the French Revolution. Individual scenes depict a prison, the Bastille, an estate, a library, a schooner, a drawing room, a garden, a ballroom, a café, a cave hideaway, the inside of a carriage, and a seacoast.

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Doug Ham

Doug Ham
Doug Ham

Designer and director Doug Ham’s recent work has included some remarkable set designs.

At the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, his design for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” consisted of colossal, colorful, multi-dimensional pyramids on which were played wide-ranging scenes in far-flung locations. The Next Stage Repertory Company’s “Tally’s Folly” was set in an exquisite, delicate and decaying boathouse to portray a pervasive psychological landscape. “Chicago,” at Ashland High School, was placed in a cavernous speakeasy with an orchestra on bleachers center stage.

Ham is preparing to direct “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” at the Craterian theater, and is designing sets for “The 39 Steps” at Ashland High School. Last week, we chatted at Bloomsbury Coffee.

EH: What makes a good stage set?

DH: If an audience can look at it, understand it, accept it, and know where they are, then it becomes a backdrop for the actors. The most important thing is that the set is an establishment of the location but doesn’t overtake the show. Every show is a new challenge: to do the research, figure it out and understand how it’s going to work for the space. In a small space, you have to be imaginative to make a show work. I designed for a professional company in California with a 50-seat theater. I put a two-story set in there. You have to be creative.

When I read a script, I start imagining where it’s at, what it looks like and what I can do to give the director a lot of choices. As a director, you want different areas, different levels on which to place the actors for a more dramatic scene. If you just have a plain stage and you don’t have a way for them to move to another level, the stage pictures can get boring.

For “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” there are six characters, but I will add an ensemble of 12 more, all Charles Schultz’s characters, like Pig Pen and Peppermint Patty. It will be visual choreography — some fun stuff. It will have a pen-and-color feel to it. I want it to look like the comic strip. There will be a level stage, but upstage I will have a stair unit for the glee club scene. When they’re at the ball game, I can use it as bleachers.

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Mike Halderman

"When the actors do a good job, they put pressure on me to equal them, and I put pressure on them to equal my work. That's what makes it fun." — Mike Halderman

EH: How did you become a technical director? Isn’t your degree in music?

MH: I have a teaching credential in music from Sacramento State University. I taught for a while and then I got involved in community theater.

EH: So then you went to SOU to the undergraduate program?

MH: Yes, in 1990. My wife was a teacher and I had kids in high school. I went to Southern Oregon University (SOC at the time) to be an actor. I was doing some technical theater classes, and I said, “I’m really good at this.” I decided that I could graduate in two years because I already had a degree, and I didn’t have to do any of the undergraduate pre-requisites. I took lighting, sound, and scene design, theater business management, costuming, makeup — I did a painting internship at OSF one semester. I graduated with a BFA in scene design.

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Doug Ham of Ashland High School

"The theater journey's been great." — Doug Ham

Doug Ham
Doug Ham

Over coffee and root beer at Bloomsbury Coffee House, Doug Ham described the theatrical team experience.

EH: Theater is life-giving, in a way, isn’t it?

DH: The first show I was ever in was during the height of the Vietnam War. People were afraid of being drafted. I was a mess. At the end of the show this couple came up to me and said it was so cool for two hours to come into the theater and to be able to laugh out loud and to and forget about all that is going on outside. I thought, “Well this is what I need to be doing.” It can be an escape and it can be a teacher.

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