An Enemy of the People: Stagecraft
An Enemy of the People, authored by Hendrik Ibsen and adapted by Arthur Miller performed by the Playmaker’s Repertory Company, was a tremendous spectacle of production. To enhance the audience’s overall experience, key production elements included superior scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound. Each of these elements was required to support the script in a creative and engaging manner. Every decision made by the designers is entirely relevant. The collective workings of these elements dictate the show’s success of spectacle and overall value. McKay Coble, scene designer, was tasked with sending the story back in time. She used crisp and clean retro furniture to return to the 50’s. The walls were covered in portraits, suggesting that this home was inhabited by a very close nuclear family. Above the stage, there were permanent fixtures of exposed pipes, and along the perimeter of the stage, there were open grates suggesting that water would play a pervasive role in the story. Every so often, these pipes would leak onto the grates. Whether this was done deliberately or not, every time a droplet of water fell, the audience was reminded of the over-looming aquatics. The role of water cannot be understated, it is very much related to the main conflict and assumes the role as a major thread throughout the show. The home was divided by two partitions, with a dining room upstage, and a living room downstage. Making these two rooms visible to the audience was quite the challenge for Coble. The walls that divided the rooms were lined with a see-through fixture so that the dining room and all action was entirely visible. Before intermission, the stage mechanically retracted to expose a larger concrete area. A writer’s desk, complete with a typewriter, pens, and files, ascended from a trapdoor center stage. This total transformation was a smooth transition from the Stockmann’s home to the office of the local paper’s editor. At the end of the first act, water rained down from the pipes and into the grates, following that, the Stockmann family was drenched in water by the raging town’s folk, and at the conclusion of the play, water burst from the pipes drenching the actors and a few audience members proving this production to be quite a fully immersive experience. Throughout the show, water is used as a pervasive symbol of chaos. Charlie Morrison, lighting designer, was a master of evoking mood through lighting, color, and intensity. Before the play began, a blue-stenciled outline of pipes was cast on the floor surrounding the stage. Once again, reinforcing the omnipresent role of water. The play began in the evening; Morrison used a combination of white light and blue gels to achieve this timing effect. The following morning, the white light beamed with a much greater intensity. After the set transition to the editor’s office, a grey light emanated from the surrounding grates. Once the Mayor made his entrance to the action, the grates clamored with his every step, and the light cast deep shadows across his face revealing the true malevolence of his being. When the rain started once more on the stage, the lights dimmed to a gloomy grey in accordance with the action. As the rain fell, lightning struck with a bright strobe to continue the audience’s suspension of disbelief. As the show progressed, Morrison chose to intensify several critical slow-motion moments. To achieve this affect, a bright spotlight was shone on Aslaksen and his rock gavel. The rock gavel reinforced the themes of truth and justice in the play, so it was quite fitting that Morrison chose to illuminate this detail. The audience was immediately informed of this prop’s supreme importance as a dramatic symbol. When the townspeople attacked Stockmann, Morrison chose to use a strobe to increase the chaos. He also used a spotlight to create the same slow-motion effect when the townspeople entered the Stockmann home and began breaking the surrounding furniture. In the final scene, the lights beamed in an overwhelming display and instantly cut to a blackout. Robert Dagit, sound designer, brought the aforementioned production elements together in harmony. Before the stage action began, dripping water could be heard throughout the house. This dominant design element restates the significance of water to the overall story. When there was a discontinuity of time, musical transitions signified the shift, most commonly a melody of sultry piano notes contributing to the discontented mood. At the entrance of the Stockmann home, the actors would approach the door to either knock or ring the doorbell. However, the set lacked a physical door; it was Dagit’s job to match the action with the sound. When water precipitated at the conclusion the first act, Dagit used sounds of lighting strikes and thunder to bring this impossible spectacle into the realm of reality. Dagit’s role was vital to heightening the intensity of specific scenes, especially the raid of the Stockmann home. He executed the hostile mood of this scene with tremendous precision by incorporating high tempo music that kept the audience on the edge of their seats while various props were being smashed and broken. Patrick Holt, costume designer, stuck to the period of the 50’s with each of the character’s costumes. Every costume was quite gender specific and representative of the time, restricting certain colors to the male and female characters. The men were commonly wearing brown suits while the women were in bright pink and teal colored dresses. This realistic design was vital to upholding the fashion of the 50’s. The Mayor was accessorized with a black cane topped in silver and a fedora style hat. These clothing choices set his character apart from the others, relating to a man of means and power. Towards the conclusion of the play, Mr. Stockmann is seen in a tremendously disheveled state. Holt supported this part of the script by having Mr. Stockmann’s costume tattered and bedraggled. Holt kept the costumes within the world and time of the show, further drawing the audience into a separate reality. Each of these creative production artists brought this show to life. The world in which these characters inhabit is dictated by the script, but created by the designers. The structure of design was professional, organized and engaging. The expression of ideas was certainly breathtaking, making use of symbolism and metaphorical images to convey a deeper message about the rules and order of society. Quite often, the Mayor of the town takes action not based on the ideals of order, but of self-interest. The lighting, costume, sound, and scene design all reinforce this common theme. Their choices were deliberate, effective, and full of copious intricate details. Their successes constitute a genuinely memorable experience.