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Curse of the Starving Class

Conceptual Imagery and Lighting Idea

DISCOVERING THE LIGHTING IDEA

A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE CONCEPTUAL PROCESS


UNLIKE SCENE DESIGN OR COSTUME DESIGN, THER EIS LITTLE PRE-PRODUCTION IMAGERY THAT I CAN SHOW YOU. IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO DEPICT EXACTLY WHAT THE LIGHTING WILL LOOK LIKE THROUGH RENDERING, EVEN WITH TODAY'S ADVANCED COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY.

THAT BEING SAID, I THINK WE, AS AN ARTISTIC TEAM, DISCOVERED A PHOTOGRAPHER THAT EMBODIES THE STYLE OF THE PRODUCTION WE HOPED TO CREATE (I.E. THE GREGORY CREWDSON PHOTOGRAPHS YOU SEE TO THE RIGHT). WHAT I HAVE COMPILED BELOW IN THIS STATEMENT IS A BRIEF SUMMARY OF OUR (THE DESIGN TEAM, DIRECTOR, AND PRODUCERS') PROCESS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS PLAY. AT THE END, I THINK YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS ABOUT THE QUALITY OF CREWDSON'S PHOTOGRAPHS THAT MIRRORS THE QUALITY OF LIGHTING IN OUR PRODUCTION OF CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS.

IN OUR INITIAL DISCUSSIONS, THE DESIGN 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 THE 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 EXEMPLIFIED IN THE PLAY 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 FIRE OF THE EXPLODED CAR IN HIS DRIVEWAY AND ELLA (THE MOTHER), LIT FROM THE FLOOR OF THE LAMB PEN IN THE FAMILY KITCHEN, ALL VISIBLE WHILE WE HEAR THE FURIOUS FLAPPING OF AN EAGLE'S WINGS. THIS DISTORTION OF THE HOME'S REALITY TO ENHANCE A HEIGHTENED 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 THE 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 FAMILY KITCHEN. IN CONTINUING 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 UPON THESE HORRORS WHICH LED TO THE IDEA OF A COLDER, HARSHER, ALMOST UNATURAL IDEA IN LIGHT QUALITY... A QUALITY NOT UNLIKE THAT GIVEN OFF BY INDUSTRIAL FLOURESCENT LIGHTING IN OUR CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY. THIS IDEA OF A HARSH, COLD FLOURESCENT LIGHT IN THE KITCHEN, REFLECTING THE SELFISH SPIRIT OF THE INDIVIDUAL FAMILY MEMBERS. WE DECIDED TO CREATE THE FLOURESCENT LIGHT QUALITY FROM ALL OF THE PRACTICAL LIGHTING FIXTURES ON STAGE (THE HANGING CEILING FIXTURE, THE LAMP IN THE REFRIDGERATOR, AND THE STOVE LIGHT) THAT SCENICLY READ AS NORMAL HOUSEHOLD FIXTURES, BUT WITH THE DIFFERENT LIGHT QUALITY WOULD CREATE 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 OF THE CHARACTERS' MONOLOGUES AND ALSO IN SHEPARD'S VISUAL 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 TO THE RIGHT, IN COMBINATION WITH HIS OTHER WORK AND THAT OF THE DISPLAYED PHILLIP-LORCA DICORCIA WORK, BEGIN 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 THE TATE FAMILY KITCHEN... A ROOM THAT TRADITIONALLY REPRESENTS THE WARMTH AND LIFE OF A FAMILY. THE SCENES BY CREWDSON AND PHILLIP-LORCA DICORCIA, ARE NORMAL ON THE SURFACE (AS IS THE TATE FAMILY), BUT WE QUICKLY RECOGNIZE THE HAUNTING ELEMENTS CREEPING TO THE SURFACE.





Scene and Photograph by Gregory Crewdson
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Scene and Photograph by Gregory Crewdson
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Scene and Photograph by Phillip-Lorca diCorcia
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