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Broadway By Design: Edward Pierce Brings ANGELS IN AMERICA from Page to Stage


Who is Annie without her red dress? Or Eva with out her balcony? It is the charge of the Broadway designer to transport the audience into the world of a show, whether it be Great Depression-era New York City or outside of the Casa Rosada.

In Broadway by Design, BroadwayWorld is shining a spotlight on the stellar designs of this Broadway season, show by show. Today, we continue the series with Edward Pierce, a Tony nominee for his scenic design of Angels in America.

As politically incendiary as any play in the American canon, Angels in America also manages to be, at turns, hilariously irreverent and heartbreakingly humane. It is also astonishingly relevant, speaking every bit as urgently to our anxious times as it did when it first premiered. Tackling Reaganism, McCarthyism, immigration, religion, climate change, and AIDS against the backdrop of New York City in the mid-1980's, no contemporary drama has succeeded so indisputably with so ambitious a scope.

Pierce worked closely with designer Ian MacNeil on adapting the design for Broadway. Where did Edward's design process begin? "The design for Angels in America stems directly from the Tony Kushner's portrayal of the characters in an intricate web of betrayals, revelations, hallucinations, and vision," explains Pierce. "Characters invade each other's dreams and nightmares and ask the design to transition the action to 70 locations."

Angels in America

"The approach to the design was a visual response to the fact that the play breaks down and the characters lose themselves. Millennium Approaches utilizes a series of turntables and sparsely furnished locations with jagged walls, as if they were ripped out of larger structures. Edges of the set are outlined in neon. This construct supports simple crossfades between scenes. By the end of Perestroika, the space is opened up and set for the wild flights of the imagination."

Angels in America

Angels in America

"Transferring the design from London to Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre posed a tremendous challenge, as the production made full use of the technical capabilities of the National's Lyttleton Theatre," says Pierce. "To that end, nearly every design concept had to be reconsidered and adapted for Broadway."

Angels in America

Angels in America

"At its heart, the design is a reaction to the proportion and energy of the venue. Simplicity is not easily achieved; a bare stage is quite a crafted space, designed to deliver the actors to the audience. A massive challenge was supporting the concept of the world being stripped away. In the final scene, the masking surround is removed and the bare theatre space is exposed. The intent is to reveal an empty space, so finding hidden locations for all the scenery, furniture, and props proved to be a major accomplishment."

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Angels in America is Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Marianne Elliott, and stars Academy Award® and Tony Award nominee Andrew Garfield and two-time Tony Award winnerNathan Lane, and also features Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Lee Pace, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Beth Malone, Patrick Andrews, Glynis Bell,Amy Blackman, Curt James, Rowan Ian Seamus Magee, Mark Nelson, Matty Oaks, Genesis Oliver, Jane Pfitsch, Lee Aaron Rosen, Ron Todorowski, Silvia Vrskova, and Lucy York.

When it first premiered, Angels in America won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play. HBO's 2003 screen adaptation won both the Emmy® and the Golden Globe® Awards for Best Miniseries.

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

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