Observations and practice of visual communication and design in the theatre, exemplified through the development of an original piece called Th' Burning.
The process of conceiving and developing a new production, Th' Burning, which is set in the historical context of the Freedom Rides and the Anniston bus burning of 1961, encompasses the meat of this paper. The play was created as a tribute to the Freedom Riders and to the memory of civil rights leader, the late Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. As the designer for the production, I understood that my task was to interpret the essence of the play visually and to marry that vision with director's intention. However, I perceived that the development of this play did not undergo what I had experienced as the ordinary process. I was initiated into a new mode of designing and perspective because of the elimination of routinized responsibilities to one aspect of the production. An environment for innovation and evaluation was created through shared responsibilities and the communal nature that art forms such as theatre can provide. We termed this process Creative Culture, and it became a working definition for our process.
The play serves as a fictional comment on historical fact. One of the difficulties in building this production was the tendency toward being restrained to the portrayal of actual events. History begs for accurate portrayal and “living history”, or historical events—like the Civil Rights Movement—that are in the recent past are even more difficult to deal with because of the sensitivity of the subject matter. People want things told “right”. However, the rightness or truth of the relationships between human beings was the emphasis of this play and this gave us the freedom to express a reality that is more timeless than timely. The characters become archetypal symbols but are still able to retain a sense of honesty and individuality. I discuss this more within the paper.
The visual communication of the stage to the audience was not my only concern. As a full participator in the creation of this new work, it was also my duty to help the cast to envision themselves in the production. I became the dramaturgist and historian of the group . I acted as the vocal director and I handled the social media as well as the archiving of certain parts of the process. I became completely invested in the design of each aspect of the production. As a new challenge in my scenic design, I wanted to experiment with digital projections within the production. In my initial designs, I relied on the projections as visual texture and later realized that they were an important means of clarifying some of the abstract nature of the plot. The first…