Arnulfo Maldonado/Set Design
Bobbie Clearly by Alex Lubischer is exciting in its structure and unique storytelling -- I was immediately struck by how engaging the interview format can feel within a theatrical context. What is the setting for such a world? In the film/documentary version of this play, these subjects would be interviewed against a static background. But this play spans both various locations and time. So, it was important for us to create a flexible environment that could easily transport us to different locations and times and that the audience be as much a part of the transformation of the space as the characters in it (thus the thrust seating configuration we've come up with for the space). As with any new play, before even getting into the practical specifics of what the play demands, I like to immerse myself in the emotional feeling of the piece. This sometimes involves music. What would be playing at the time on the radio in Nebraska in 2002? Music for me is always a helpful tool in terms of delving into the emotional landscape of these characters; I can create a narrative for myself by thinking about each of these characters' personal tastes (and there is definitely a wide range of personalities and tastes within this small town). From there I started looking at photographs that weren't necessarily about any specific location in the script but rather, again, the feel, of the play. I first landed on this image to the right. There is something both haunting and beautiful about this photo. Similar to our story. What is being kept behind this structure? Is it a refugee? Is it dangerous? Unclear. Coincidentally, this particular structure in the photo houses corn (these are known as corn cribs). From here Will and I looked at various structures that would potentially live in our world (grain bins, corn cribs, corn fields). Similar to the image above, these structures were both beautiful in their form and also dangerous in their capability to cause harm. I also found it helpful to look at documentaries that play with a similar interview/documentary structure. Documentary-series like The Thin Blue Line, Making A Murderer, Amanda Knox, and The Jinx were all helpful in terms of understanding how each one crafted a narrative of real-life events. In some cases these were served via stylized reenactments, and in others it was about letting one's imagination run wild by hearing a subject's retelling of particular events. Alex's description for the set is: “An acre of corn hangs above a bare stage, tassels down, as though the sky is the earth.” Aside from the rich visual these words provide, I was also taken by Alex's word-play, in how he laid them out on the page. How does one bring that much punch of a descriptor to a space that is not much taller than one of our actors, with no fly space? Will and I embraced the limitations of the space and its literal basement-ness. The “acre of corn” visual felt important in that the corn (field) felt like a vital extra character in the play; it was important for us to retain the feeling of Alex's words in that sense. Thus, why we are surrounding not just the characters in the play, but the audience themselves, in corn-crib walls. The corn is contained behind wire, but at any point this wire can give way...or not. It's that tension that is at the root of the design.
Ásta Hostetter/Costume Design
The event that precipitates Bobbie Clearly is a tragedy. Bobbie is our central character because he has committed a crime that has changed the life of the community forever. The reactions to that crime range from devastation to curiosity. To some characters, Bobbie is a demon to be avoided; to others, a human deserving forgiveness. Playwright Alex Lubischer gives us no instruction or footholds to “answer” this question. My main job is to craft this wide range of individuals with love enough to allow us access and feeling for all of them. My preparation for this had most to do with the small town of Milton, NE. In the midwest, corn detasseling is a job hundreds of young people work at a time. Though the masks and gloves that they wear will not be seen onstage, their sweaty exuberance in a gigantic field is important background to understanding the moment of this crime. I like to think that my work parallels the work of an actor: to be a sensitive collaborator in theatre, one has to be prepared to respond to the present moment of the rehearsal room. Meghan and Megan, characters in this play, are simultaneously two unique individuals and total twinsies. The joy of a well-written text is that there are a number of ways these characters could be embodied -- both physically and emotionally. They need to be able to giggle like sisters and repel one another as if they were strangers. It’s a fun challenge for a designer to take up.
Palmer Hefferan/Sound Design
Bobbie Clearly is framed through interviews for a documentary. As scenes evolve this lens morphs, turning single interviews into split-screen, and shifting to a theatrical world outside of the interviews. Establishing the perspective of the audience was my first task. What do they see and hear? The audience is a spectator that moves between documentary interviewer, an audience member at an event, and an observer in an undefined place. The magic of sound design is that it can invisibly move the audience fluidly between these viewpoints.
I began by listening to documentary films and radio broadcasts. I was struck by the sonic presence of interview locations. Whether they had the intimacy of a quiet studio, or the omnipresence of nature in a park, the environment gave authenticity to people's stories. In , location ambiences create the foundation of the aural landscape.
The play spans years, giving the audience multiple first person perspectives of a single event that comes to define the lives of those involved. As the play progresses, nondiegetic sounds seep into the design, creating expressionistic layers in the shifting naturalistic world.
Bobbie Clearly opens at the Black Box Theatre on April 3, 2018. For tickets and information, please visit our website.
2017-2018 Season, Bobbie Clearly, Roundabout Underground