Douglas Sills as Percy
SP1, SP2 and SP4

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The Scarlet Pimpernel : Broadway's Most Intriguing Musical.

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An Interview with Andrew Jackness - Set Designer

Andrew Jackness has worked on Broadway in Precious Sons, Spoils of War, Grownups, The Little Foxes with Elizabeth Taylor, Beyond Therapy, Whodunit, and Arthur Kopit's Wings. He has worked extensively in the worlds of Opera and Dance and Film. He illustrated Pamela's First Musical, written by Wendy Wasserstein.

 

What is the job of the set designer?

First you get the script which you read in conjunction with conversations with the director. The director gives you an idea of what the concept of the show is. The concept is which direction you're going to go in terms of the look and the quality and the kind of acting and style of theatre that you're going to be using. Then, within that concept, you then sit down and start to sketch out, in very rough ideas, how you might design the show. The design incorporates all of the scenic elements: the drops, the moving pieces, the furniture, the draperies, and how the show is going to move from scene to scene.

So you create the entire physical world of the show...

Yes. We then move from the rough sketches to more complete sketches, then on to working in model form, just the way an architect would. We start in ¼ inch to the foot models, which is fairly small, and then we move to a ½ inch to the foot model, which is bigger- like the size of a small tabletop. That becomes a physical representation of the stage. Then, like an architect would, we do blueprints, and the blueprints represent in flat dimension what we're making in three dimensions.

How did this process work with The Scarlet Pimpernel?

Well, the design problem for The Scarlet Pimpernel revolved around the fact that the show goes from France to England, it bounces back and forth. As a designer, I had to make it clear to the audience when we were in England and when we were in France.

And so I went back to the period art work from the late 1700's and I looked at what styles they were using in both places. In France, since there was a lot of revolutionary activity, they did a lot of artwork in engraving. And so I represent France by linework and engraving. In England, they had already gone through their own political upheavals, and it was a much more stable country. They were doing a lot of pastoral landscape painting. And so England is represented in pastoral landscape.

And then there are some big set pieces, like the ship and the prison, that help make the transitions from one place to another, so I decided to use an elevator at the front of the stage to help make those transitions. So it brings the action down to the very first 8 feet of the stage, so that we can change the scene behind that.

If a young person was interested in becoming a set designer, what advice would you give them?

I'd say that the most important thing is to be able to draw, and to be able to visualize your ideas graphically on paper. You can't just step into it, you've got to be able to express what you want to do to a director.

Ideas for Research and Discussion




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