A Conversation with Set Designer: Beowulf Boritt
TS: Talk about collaborating with some of the other artists working on the piece. How did you work with Michael Longhurst?
BB: It was really great. It was a fairly quick process, because I got hired and we had maybe a month to pull the design together, which is relatively fast. I was in tech in Las Vegas the first couple weeks of that, and Mike was in London, so we sent images and ideas back and forth on email. And we would Skype with each other, and I'm old enough to still be amazed when I'm sitting in a hotel room in Vegas on a video phone with a guy in London and pulling up research on our computers and emailing it back and forth. So that's how we started. Then I came back to New York, and I put together a model, and Mike flew over from London. And we had about three days together, where we just sat in my studio. We sat down with the model, and almost immediately, we pulled it all apart and threw it away and over the course of three days, we just made this thing. We kicked around ideas and he would go back to where he was staying, and I would work on the model overnight, and by the next morning, we'd have something different to look at. We'd try to work through it and find problems and solutions, and do the same thing the next day. After three days of that, we had completed the design.
TS: Can you talk to me about collaborating with Natasha Katz, the lighting designer?
BB: When Mike and I were coming up with the design, Natasha joined us for an afternoon so that she could see what we were doing, and weigh in about whether she would be able to light it well. It was a very fruitful couple of days, and we actually added a ceiling to the set as part of that meeting, which is an odd thing to come out of a meeting with the lighting designer!
TS: Did you add the ceiling because you wanted the set to feel claustrophobic?
BB: Claustrophobic and boxed in, exactly. And that ceiling was something that Mike and I talked about, and I was worried it was just going to be too difficult for Natasha to light, but she was all for it. The other interesting thing we added was a lot of practical fixtures that fly in over the course of the play. Part of what we're trying to do with the scenery is provide every location with realistic things. I think we're doing it with as few things as you could possibly do it with and still tell the story, but it adds up to a big pile onstage. It's an interesting metaphor for how we live our lives - this sort of overconsumption we indulge in today. What feels like a clean space at the top of the play, with a pile of stuff in the middle of it, is a complete pig sty by the end.