“Our Class” By Tadeusz Slobodzianek, translated by Ryan Craig is truly a haunting story. The play focuses on following 10 classmates through their experiences of World War 2 in poland, where all of the jews in town are burned alive in a barn, adjusting to life after the war, and ultimately their passing. In Jedwanbe Poland the political climate and cultural climate could in short be described as a storm, and a storm and cloud that continues to haunt the polish people to this day.
The Script called for a quick progression through many different locations across Europe and also even the United States. Nick Sandys our director knew from the beginning that he wanted to achieve this through Projections and Lighting. Immediately we knew that the Scenery needed to be the envelope that allowed for Projections and Lighting to shine and truly be transformative. When Collaborating with John Boesche our projections designer and Mike Durst our lighting designer we had many discussions about the space and what footprint we wanted the scenery to take. Ultimately we decided on a 3 sided box that would allow John to create some truly immersive projections environments by projecting on all 3 walls. It was also then important that the Scenery take on a neutral color Palette so that Mike could transform the space with some bold color choices and be able to isolate down so some tremendously tight intimate moments.
After some pretty specific requirements for projections and lighting to be able to achieve their work, it became more clear that the small subtle details were going to be what really sold the scenic design. Working with Jeremy Floyd our costume designer provided some tremendous insight to the people living and inhabiting the space. Since no one left the stage and the performers stayed on stage even after they died it was important that the cast blend into the environment. We both wanted to highlight the layers of distress and hurting that the characters felt. As the character put on clothing to symbolize them getting older as well as the weight of the events they were living through, I wanted to highlight the same layers of history in the room. Focusing on the images of Auschwitz and the more Utilitarian Buildings in Poland, I created a room that began to crumble and almost resembled in a way the mass graves of World War 2. By creating the open wound that was then patched over and patched over, no matter how much they tried to cover it up it would still surface. Much like the characters in the space there way no way out and no way to avoid what was done.
Each part of the design process relied on each other. I can truly say that without John, Mike, Jeremy, or Nick my collaborators this production would never have been as fantastic as it was. The brainstorming and the constant push and pull from the design team made me a better designer and collaborator at the end of the process. It also in my opinion showed in the production when you watched it and also in the production photos. It was truly a one of a kind experience.