The Set Designers

chairI went to see The Year of Magical Thinking at the Dali Museum yesterday. It was a good play … sad, but good. Let me explain what the play is for those of you who don’t know. It’s a one woman show written by Joan Didion based on her book of the same name. It chronicles her life the year after her husband’s death during which time their daughter was extremely ill and in the hospital a number of times.

Before the play I scanned the playbill and noticed there was a listing for set design. Under that listing there were two names and I wondered what those people did exactly. You see, this play has no set. There is just a chair for the actress to occasionally sit on in the middle of a totally bare strange.

What did the set designers do? Why were two of them necessary? Did they have intense meetings about the placement of the chair? Did they argue over whether it should sit slightly to the left or right of the stage before agreeing to place it front and center? How long did it take them to come to this decision? Did the actress have to object during rehearsals when much to her dismay she discovered that the set designers had made a poor decision?

“… I think I’d be able to better connect with the audience if the chair where facing them, don’t you think?” she’d say observing the chair sitting at the left side of the stage facing the white backdrop.

Oh, yeah there was the white backdrop that they lowered just as the play started. It probably took them a few days to come up with that. There were only two of them after all and set design is a hard gig.

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