Arkansas Children's Theatre
Little Rock AR
Directed by Katie Campbell
“Photo(s) by Stephen B. Thornton courtesy of the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre”
ARTIST'S NOTE IN PROGRAM:
When I was a child, I vividly remember enjoying Charlotte’s Web. Unlike a lot of children, I was less into the reading and more into the wonderful illustrations by Garth Williams which accompanied the text. This was my motivation when I was asked to design the set. I started researching Garth Williams’ illustrations, using his soft hues and sketchy quality as an inspiration for both my color palette as well as an influence for texture.
Next, director Katie Campbell brought research to the design team that showed E.B. White’s estate and images of old barns. What struck me most was the way the light streamed through the slats of wood. These slivers of light gave the barns a dreamy and magical quality that spoke to Charlotte’s magic. This harkened back to other research I had found of spider webs covered in morning dew. I wanted to combine these magical images into my set so that not only would Charlotte’s web look beautiful and mysterious, but the barn and fair themselves would continue to enhance the enchanted environment.
After many meetings about how best to embrace this magic, the team and I came up with the set you see today. The next thing I had to do as the set designer was to take these ideas and research and express them in a visual way. During our brainstorming sessions, I sent the team several digital renderings, evolving into the final painting that represented what the set would look like. I chose to do my drawings with a digital program on my iPad because I am in South Carolina, and my communication process was all done long distance. This technology allowed me to change drawings within a few minutes and post updates in real time for the production team during meetings.
Once the final rendering was approved, I went to work drafting out the show in a CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) program called Vectorworks. Drafting is a kind a visual language used by designers to communicate how the set looks from every angle. This, along with paint elevations, helped the Technical Director, Lighting Designer, scenic painters, carpenters, and props artisans create everything on the set. As a designer, drafting also helps me really see how the whole set works in the space. In CAD, you can actually create a digital model in 3D that can be viewed like a short movie! This gives the production team one more way to visualize if the set is going to work.
After hashing out final issues, measurements and color, I build a model. The model is one more facet of visual communication for the production team. With the physical model, the director is better able to visualize how the actors can physically be in the space and the audience can see what the set designer had in mind. This final step is the icing on the cake for me. When you really see your design come to life before everyone starts building. All this comes together to make the set you see on stage and the model in the lobby.