by August Strindberg
Directed by Dr. Tim Baxter-Ferguson
SET DESIGN, COSTUME DESIGN, LIGHT DESIGN and SCENIC ART
DESIGN STATEMENT: In the end, Ghosts Sonata is a ghost story. It is a dream play (which is a title of another on of Strindberg’s famous works) that brings me to the artistic inspiration for my design: Expressionism. Expressionism is defined as “a style of painting, music, or drama in which the artist or writer seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world”. Though Ghost Sonata has been placed in many theatrical genres—Surrealism, Symbolism, Modernism—I believe Expressionism works best, simply because of Strindberg’s desire to illustrate an external world while simultaneously immersing us in an internal and ethereal one.
For my set design, I took much of my inspiration from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a famous 1920 German Expressionist horror film. The exaggerated and nightmarish abstraction in the world of the film fit perfectly into this dream world we wanted to create for the play. As you will see, my lighting design is crucial to the scenery because of the shadows and color transmitted through the walls of the set. I gained inspiration for this from the woodblock prints of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner as well as the shadow techniques used in Dr. Caligari.
For costumes, much like the furniture in the show, we decided to have them be real and period accurate. Again, this was to accentuate that juxtaposition between dream and reality. My colors, textures, and emotional influence for all my design elements were inspired by works of Edward Munch, Jack Vettriano, Oscar Kokoschka, and Eric Heknal.
There is one piece of artwork I have not yet mentioned, but is incredibly important to the piece: Arnold Bocklin’s Isle of the Dead. Strindberg specifically references this piece at the end of the play when innocence is finally rewarded with heaven. It is an eerie and beautiful piece that I believe was chosen by Strindberg for its soft, ghost-like texture and solitary white figure sailing towards a mysterious and idyllic island. I believe this is what Strindberg was looking forward to in his own redemption as he struggled with the dark earthly matters that seemed to weigh upon him as he wrote this play.