Designing the Laramie Project

The design process for this show started last semester, when Torry and I started doing general image research. We would just blindly search google images for things that spoke true to the feel of the show (or at least how we perceived the show to feel). We started with images of the actual town of Laramie, Wyoming and found lots of expansive spaces of what looked like mostly grass and sky.

From these images we gleaned the colors we wanted represented on the set. Blues, browns, greens, yellows, etc. We then researched more about the specific locations mentioned in the script–the Fireside Bar, the buck fence, the University of Wyoming and such. Once we got a good grip on the actual places, we began to abstract them. We looked more at images that felt right as opposed to looking accurate. Images that evoked the right emotions as opposed to recalling the factual places. 

Images that could help us realize a set design that doesn’t seek to replicate (which would go against everything we’ve learned about Brecht-type theater), but rather to reveal the bare minimum–the real guts of what needs to be seen and said. The image of power lines kept appearing in our search, which reminded us that we don’t want to hide the ugly parts of theatrical magic (the wires, cables, lights, etc). We want to remind the audience that they are sitting in a theater, actively watching a performance. To emphasize this idea, we thought about how we could engage the audience on a stronger level than usual. Jeff kept mentioning to Torry his desire to impart a certain sense of responsibility on the audience. To punctuate this effect, Torry and I thought that having the audience be able to see each other and recognize each other as a participating audience would be key. Thus we placed actors not only in front of the viewers, but also behind them. That way they would be forced to see each other while watching the performance.

Now the next step for us is finding images we want to display on the TV’s and figuring out ways to make/buy realistic props (such as the scary Fred Phelps signs…believe it or not Mandy found step-by-step instructions on how to build these signs on their website). Some images that I recently found and feel in love with are time lapse photographs of night skies. For example:

I think this is such a strong image that speaks to the idea of time passage (the 18 hours that Matt spent at the fence, helpless to do anything but look at the sky change above him), as well as the idea of confusion and trying to grasp why everything happened the way it did. These images really strike me as relevant to the play and I hope they can somehow eventually be included in the final set design. For more of my and Torry’s image research visit the tumblr page I created last semester:

One thought on “Designing the Laramie Project

  1. These images and the ones on Tumblr page are fantastic! I hope you don’t mind that I put a link to it on the Design Hub page on this blog. Is it possible to pull those slideshows officially into this blog? I think it would be a great addition to this rather text-heavy (for now) blog.

    It’s interesting that you talk about being drawn to the time-lapse images. In a recent design meeting, we were talking about video images and debating doing a “Ken Burns” (a phrase used by lighting designed Chuck Catotti and our videographer Alex Mayness) which would be camera movement on still photographs versus having bonafide video footage. Concerns about showing the passage of time, and “natural” vs. manufactured motion, weighed heavily in the discussion. I remember Torry being particularly drawn to some footage Alex had of wind blowing prairie flora and grass, also a long, slow left-to-right pan across the buck-fence at sunset (presumably the one where Matthew was left).

    I’ve been so struck at how the set design team has captured the panoramic feel Laramie’s landscape in the main playing space without being literal about it. It will be interested to see if we can find/use images/video footage that enhances the sense of vastness and sweep of space that marks the play’s geographic location, without giving in to Romanticism. Perhaps the very character of those flatscreen TVs will help keep it Brechtian.

    Please share more pictures/drawings or draft pieces! If you send jpgs or links to me, I’ll happily upload them on the Design Hub.

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