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The Rappaccini Variations: Setting the Stage

Amelia Feiner

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The inky theater is empty, save for a few rows of foldout chairs and four fluted columns breaking through the darkness that fills the room. This is the set for “The Rappaccini Variations,” the school’s fall play written and directed by theatre teacher Joseph Timko, which opened Thursday in Black Box Theatre.

Theatre Design and Production B (TDPB) worked collaboratively on the set and lighting design, Faculty Technical Director and TDPB teacher Joel Sherry said. The students have been designing and creating models for the set the past month and a half, but they began construction three weeks ago.

The TDPB class started by reading “Rappaccini’s Daughter” to brainstorm ideas, said TDPB student Ashley Dai (10).

The play has elements of all different types of theatre, ranging from Brechtian theatre to Noh theatre, according to TDPB student Bernard von Simson (10). Brechtian theatre is different than most modern theatre, as the style relies on the audience’s reflective detachment rather than emotional involvement. Noh theatre incorporates actors as storytellers that use visualization and movement rather than action to convey stories. Both of these styles are different from the more common Stanislavsky Method, in which actors use real emotions to make their performances believable by the audience.

While the show bounces from style to style, it also jumps around in time. “The set is able to transform and adapt to genres from different eras and parts of the world,” Dai said.

“We used a lot of different lighting to make the set versatile,” TDPB student Isabel Mignone (10) said. “We have red green and blue strip lights, and our magic curtain shows different amounts of each other in every scene.”

“Usually for HMTC shows, the set design is done by an individual student who has completed both Theatrical Design and Production classes (TDPA and TDPB),” TDPB student Maya Dubno (11) said. “The After-School and H-period Crew classes then construct the set based off of these designs. This show, however, was done a little bit differently, with the design and construction of both the set and lights being done by one class working collaboratively.”

“This is the first set we’ve designed for a production which incorporates so many genres of theater,” Dai said. “It was really amazing seeing how we worked as a team and how everyone’s ideas made it into the final design.”

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The Rappaccini Variations: Setting the Stage