• Passing Strange - Mirianna, listening to Youth compose music in Amsterdam.

  • Passing Strange - Youth in Berlin presents his emotionless performance art piece "Identity."

  • Passing Strange

    Passing Strange is the story of Youth, a young, middle-class African-American man from Los Angeles called Youth, who grows up in search of "the real."

    The story, narrated by Youth's adult self, follows Youth's journey of self-discovery through music, sex, drugs, and an escape to Europe. The search for "the real" is a search for self-identity, both as a musician but also as a human.

    Through punk-rock in Los Angeles to soulful passion in Amsterdam to emotionless performance art in Berlin, we follow Youth as he discovers what is most important to him about living and performing.

    Design Context

    Passing Strange posed a number of design challenges as our creative. There was much concern in the media that this play could not be performed without its writer and lead narrator Stew in the production. In all prior productions, including the Broadway run, Stew had performed the role of Narrator, and without his charisma our creative team needed to pay particular attention to reinforcing the story of the play.

    We had a new narrator in Jahi Kearse, who directly interacts with the action of the play through guiding Youth. The Narrator also needed to lead the band, which would have an on-stage presence throughout the show. We created a challenge for ourselves, when we decided that the rest of the band would not interact with the action of the play but remain on stage. This became a serious lighting challenge as we wanted to acknowledge the band but stay focused upon the Narrator and the story. To help pull focus to the Narrator and allow the band to be composed but not steal focus, I chose to follow-spot the narrator. This allowed for the Narrator to wander in and out of the action, join and rejoin the band, and for the audience to stay focused upon the Narrator as he helps relate Youth's story.

    Secondly, the creative team needed to support the change in location as Youth travels from place to place. This was primarily created through abstract projection imagery on the translucent back panels of the set courtesy of Erik Trester and with a base-look color choice courtesy of lighting for each location. For example, Los Angeles had a no-color lighting look with abstract palm trees projected upon the wall. Amsterdam had a lavender color from the lighting with abstract building imagery. Berlin had a cooler green and blue light look with abstract metalic projections.

    For the lighting design, my primary concern was to help focus upon the personal story of Youth and the Narrator, who as an adult is reflecting upon his past. Because I had chosen to follow-spot the Narrator, I also chose to follow spot the Youth. This enabled us our team to pull primary emphasis to Youth's feelings of isolation and his struggle for self-discovery. By putting Youth into a look different from that of the ensemble, we reinforced Youth's feeling of being disconnected and in search for something "real."

    Stage 4 at The Studio Theatre

    Stage 4 at the Studio Theatre is a small, transformable space that seats about 150 patrons. For Passing Strange the space was arranged into a proscenium format, although no framing arch was present.

    The space has a few interesting quirks, such as two concrete columns that rise through the middle of the space. For this production, those columns were in the audience. Secondly, the space has a low light grid, just over thirteen feet from the concrete floor. Finally, the space has large, industrial windows that are exposed to the outside world. The window in the background of many of these photographs is exposed to the main lobby courtyard of The Studio Theatre complex. I was able to house some fixtures in the lobby to light the window from behind in the Amsterdam portion of the play.

    Production Photographs

    To access production photographs, click the link below.

    You may take control of the slideshow using your left and right arrow keys on your keyboard or by clicking the arrows on either side of the image.

    Passing Strange Photographs

Enemy of The People

Production Photographs

Rimers of Eldritch

Light Plot and Drawings

Passing the Love of WomenRelated Paperwork