The Production of Terminus( The content of this blog is still under construction)
Richard Wolfe, the artistic director of Pie Theatre, asks me to design and create an installation for a production of Terminus on March 2013 at Performance Works located at Grandville Island in Vancouver. Terminus is play written by Irish Contemporary playwright Mark O’Row. Richard asks me to do an installation based on the play to give the impression of the play once audience enter the theatre lobby.
Terminus is a monologue play written by Mark O’Rowe in the form of rhyme. The play is about three characters a former school teacher, her daughter and a killer who has sold his soul to devil over a night in Dublin.
In his Richard’s vision, this installation should do something with the pre-show space, such as theatre lobby, similar to an event, so audience before and after the show while drinking don’t leave the world of Terminus. He briefly writes for me his vision of the installation:
“I’m thinking Immersive pre-show that is taken over by the show itself without pause.”
The installation should give an abstract impression of the play with the characters flying and flo ating over the city of Dublin. The installation should trigger the imagination of audience before and after the show. Although we know that the installation is separated from the actual show , but we still don’t know if the installation in mounted inside the theatre or at the lobby.
The sketch above shows the wide shot from Performance Works. Next to the entrance door of theatre , behind audience seats, the first placement of the installation is sketched. Putting the installation in the lobby is the alternative plan.
The goal of the installation is to create an affective and impressionistic experience of the characters and the play before and after the performance event. The major question I ask before designing the installation is what could be an impressionistic installation? What would be an immersive installation? Are we telling the complete story or is it just an abstract illustration of characters? Richard has given me lots of creative freedom, even for the duration of installation. The first step is researching about impressionistic art in painting and cinema in order to find elements and techniques that could be used in this installation.
Impressionism in painting is a big area to study, but none of the techniques from painting helped me to find a write style for the installation nor the impressionistic cinema. The meaning of impressionism in this installation doesn’t really match the school of impressionism, it means audience encounter an immersive installation which gives them some ideas about the setting, characters, story and images of the play.
For me to find a formula for the installation to make it affective, immersive and impressionistic is to find some images and link them to the images of the play, the inner world of the characters and the city of Doblin. After linking these images I had to find a unified style in order to have its affect on audience.
In one of our design meetings including David Robert, set designer, Richard Wolfe and I we talk about the movie SinCity, and about the stylistic approach of the movie, graphics and colors used in the movie. It suddently appeared to us that the style of the installation can be similar to SinCity with shades of black, white and the color of red. Yes, red it is the strongest color that we can associate Terminus with. Using this simple color pallete can be expressive enough to project the inner world of characters, their isolation and themes of Terminus.
The biggest thought comes to my mind is to create a miniature city to simulate city of Doblin and to project portraits of ghost like characters over the city. (The initial idea of constructing a miniature set resembling a city and then projecting characters on it came from one of my proposals for a conference EVA London that I never attended called Whispers of the Still City). I had never built the Whisper’s city so Terminus due to similar concept is an opportunity to implement the idea of Whispers.
The Theme and Images:
My first conversions with Richard Wolfe after reading Terminus are about the fundamental themes and concepts of the play. In one of the emails Richard writes the themes and images of the play:
“Here are some words and phrases I just wrote in a stream of consciousness.
Dublin, cranes, isolation, regret, souls, loss, angels, hell, singing, pride, drink, demon, revenge, frustration, shyness, jealousy, swirl of words, search for redemption, sex, revulsion, speed, hallucination, death, shroud of night … “
Richard’s dramaturgical questions:
On Jan 3rd 2013, I have an email conversion with Richard about his vision of the installation. As a director, Richard aks you the best dramaturgical questions and gives you enough freedom to trigger your own imagination as a designer. Here are some of Richard’s thoughts and dramaturgical questions about the installation:
“A visceral sense of modern life as:
3. Existential alienation?
4. Motion, ie speed?Frenetic energy?
6. Regret? (This is a big theme in the play)
Or do we want it to deliver more concrete information concerning:
This part is addressed to the question of affective performance. If I want to design an impressionistic and affective installation then I need to think of words and themes that could lead to senses rather thinking about character, plot, story and place.
How abstract or concrete do we want the installation to be? A kind of impressionism is possible as well.
What’s the emotional colour palette? Greys, blues, duo-chromatic? Or more full spectrum?
To use the visual medium of videography to create a physiological / kenetic response in the audience. Something to do with feeling motion through visual stimulation supported by sound that wasn’t language. I though this would be a great counterpoint to the relative stillness of the storytelling, which although exciting, is visually quite still. The audience has to listen more than look. Their pictures are mostly generated in their minds.
Richard’s direction gives me the ability to practice and apply bioscenography for this installation. The main goal of bioscenography is to create agency in audience by visual and sonic stimulation with the tools of scenography such as light, video, set pieces and props. The goal of Terminus installation is exactly to trigger visual stimulus and to trigger their imagination and make them enjoy the actual performance, which is very much auditory.
I thought the installation could flip that around and give them a visual and sonic hit off the top that could carry them into the play proper.
Over all, I want to wind the audience up with this evening in the theatre, for them to feel physically and intellectually stimulated and I want the installation to play a part in that experience.