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Roundabout Blog - Designer Statements: You Can't Take It With You

David Rockwell - Set Design

Central to the comic plot of You Can't Take It with You are the eccentricities of the Sycamore family. The entire three-act play takes place in the house where this extended family lives in upper Manhattan. We wanted the audience to get the sense that this family doesn't quite conform to their surroundings from the moment they enter the theater, so, rather than a standard show curtain, they see the front porch of a fully three dimensional, faintly Victorian, turn-of-the-century house, flanked on each side by renderings of two relatively modern apartment buildings from the 1930s. Inspired by architectural "holdouts" that are sprinkled throughout New York City, this image creates a stark contrast between the Sycamore house and the prevailing aesthetic of the rest of the neighborhood -- playfully hinting at the quirky family that the audience is about to meet.

The family's eccentricities are further evoked when the two apartment buildings move off into the wings and the house is rotated 140 degrees to reveal the interior of the family's parlor floor. Influenced by the Sir John Soane Museum in London - a former residence that is tightly packed with art, architectural models and antiquities - the dusty red-hued walls are covered with an array of odd artifacts, paintings and curios. Shelves are filled chock-a-block with books, art, and objects. To accommodate all 18 actors who will eventually inhabit the set during the course of the play, we designed a grand staircase with a balcony that creates a second level. As each act concludes, the action continues and eventually fades away as the House revolves back to its grey façade, flanked on either side by those imposing apartment buildings.

Set design models for You Can't Take It With You

Jane Greenwood - Costume Design

It's wonderful to be working on You Can't Take It With You for many reasons: I am working with director Scott Ellis again and with James Earl Jones, who is playing Grandpa, of course. I am also thrilled to be working with David Rockwell again - we had a very successful venture with Harvey. He is designing the set and all of the accoutrements of this rather mad household, and I am taking off from his approach. I really love working with all of these talented people because designing a show is such a collaborative art form. Also, the fact that I just finished designing James Lapine's play version of the Moss Hart autobiography Act One at Lincoln Center and am now going on to design a later play by Kaufman and Hart -- it is really a tremendous experience. I especially enjoy the way the characters are written, how they are portrayed so clearly. Kaufman and Hart tell me as the costume designer so much about the characters. I am trying to make the costumes as realistic as possible for the period and style we are working in.

Costume sketches for Penelope, Mr. DePinna, Grandpa, and Gay Wellington

Donald Holder - Lighting Design

The principal objective of my design for You Can't Take It With You is to fill the world of the play with a living, highly sculptural light that provides the proper visual context for the audience (in other words, how should we feel about what we're seeing and hearing?) and communicates the essentials of the storytelling. Light is the principal device for indicating passage of time. We move through afternoon into twilight and late evening during the course of the play, and these changes are articulated by subtle (and not so subtle) shifts in angle, color and intensity. The sunlight, moonlight, and streetlight that pierce into the room though the bay windows of David Rockwell's set must be closely related to the light on the sky drop that encircles the space and suggests the greater world beyond. You Can't Take It With You is at its essence a bright, spirited evening in the theatre, so it's crucial that the light add ample doses of sparkle and kinetic energy to the proceedings.

The process of creating the lighting began with a careful reading of the script, followed by preparation of a scene-by-scene analysis from a lighting perspective, and a meeting with my collaborators to discuss intention and overall approach. I then developed a list of lighting ideas I would use to bring the world to life and created technical documents that the electricians referenced when installing the lighting equipment. I created the actual light "cues" or stage pictures during technical rehearsals and then shaped and refined my work during the preview period.

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