• Curse of the Starving Class- Kogod Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

  • Curse of the Starving Class- Kogod Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

  • Curse of the Starving Class- Kogod Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

  • Curse of the Starving Class- Kogod Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

  • Curse of the Starving Class- Kogod Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

  • Curse of the Starving Class

    Curse of the Starving Class by Sam Shepard follows a family living on an artichoke farm in Southern California. What appears at first to be the stereotypical ideal for an American family (Mom, Dad, Son, and Daughter) is quickly revealed to to be a group of individuals looking after their own self-interests.

    Design Context

    I think we, as an artistic team, discovered two photographers that embody the style of the production we hoped to create for Curse. CLick on the link below to view diCorcia and Crewdsons photographs that formed the foundation for our production. What I have compiled below in this statement is a brief summary of our process and thoughts about this play. At the end, I think you will understand what it is about the quality of Crewdson and diCorcia's photographs that mirror the quality of lighting in our production of Curse of the Starving Classs.(

    In our initial discussions, the artistic team for Curse talked a great deal about the reality of the world these characters inhabit. What did it look like? How did it feel? Smell? On the one hand, we have teh stereotypically perfect American family: Mom, Dad, Son, and Daughter. On the other hand, this family goes through a series of horrifying actions both on and off the stage, and they are constantly clawing at each other to attain what is best for them individually, which ultimately leads to the destruction of the family at the end of the play. This destruction is exemplified in the pay by Sam Shepard's metaphor of a fatal fight between a cat and an eagle, hundreds of feet in the air.

    The poetry of the metaphor is what Daniel Deraey (our director) brought forth when we first began talking about lighting. He came to the design team with an image of that poetry in the final moment of the play: Wesley (the son), lit only by the first of the exploded car in his driveway and Ella (the mother), lit only from the floor of the lamb pen in the family kitchen. All of this would be visible while we hear the furious flapping of an eagle's wings. This distortion of the home's reality to enhance this emotional moment in the play created a surreal tableaux that, for us, was worth exploring in relation to the rest of the play.

    Most of the play, however, takes place within the "reality" of the family kitchen, and we had already concluded that this world was primarily based in a realistic style. Our challenge was to discover how to combine the world of Shepard's metaphor and the reality of the kitchen. In continuin our research and discovery process, we began to understand that the realistic world of the family kitchen was in fact shaped by the bizare and horrific events in the characters' lives. I thought the look of the kitchen lighting should reflect uponthese horrors, which led to the idea of a colder, harsher, almost unatural idea in light quality. . . A quality no unlike that given off by industrial flourescent lighting in our contemporary society. This idea of a harsh, cold flourescent light in the kitchen, reflected the selfish spirit of the individual characters. We decided to create the flourescent light quality from all of the practical fixtures on the stage (the hanging ceiling fixture, the lamp in the refridgerator, and the stove light). These fixtures scenicly read as normal, everyday home fixtures, but with the different light quality they created an environment that felt harsh and uncomfortable for the characters and audience.

    In tweaking the light quality of the characters' reality, we also found we were one step closer to combining this world with a visual representation of Shepard's metaphor. We found the key to this combination of ideas in the textual poetry at the beginning and end of each act. It was in these moments that the surreal visual idea would come out on stage, starting slowly and building the visual impact with each successive moment to arrive at our final image with Wesley and Ella.

    The two Crewdson images found here, in combination with his other work and that of the displayed Phillip-Lorca diCorcia work, began to explore the troubled family in this play and demonstrate a distorted view of the family's reality. It is in these photographs that we began to discover the world of lighting that Tate family kitchen. . . A room that traditionally represents the warmth and life of a family home. The scenes by Crewdson and diCorcia are normal on the surface (as is the Tate family), but we quickly recognize the haunting elements creeping to the surface.

    Robert and Arlene Kogod Theatre - CSPAC

    Kogod Theatre is a multiform theatre that seats up to 156 patrons. It is housed in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.

    For Curse of the Starving Class the space was arranged in a d thrust, with the audience seated around three sides of the stage.