Designing: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

In anticipation of our Stage2 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this month, we spoke to Scenic and Prop Designer Devon Drohan about bringing this “storybook” world to life.

What connections do you have to the world of bedtime stories?

When I was younger, the only way I would fall asleep was listening to someone read, whether it was my parents or books on tape. I was always fascinated by the fairy tales that were adapted into movies and discovered that a fair amount of those adaptations took original fairy tales with a much more grim ending and made them palatable. I also found it interesting that many of Shakespeare’s plays were also adapted in the same way. That fascination lead me to study those original fairy tales and Shakespeare in college. 

When babysitting my younger cousins, and now welcoming my own child into the world, I see bedtime stories in a slightly different light. They introduce common themes and morals and help develop a lens through which children begin to see the world.

What about this concept excites you?

An early rendering of Devon’s Scenic Design. A forest archway, with vines above.

We are surrounded by stories, and the idea of the storybook is both visually and conceptually exciting. Being able to break down the environment of the play into a more simplistic storybook-like surrounding—like the world of the play is popping out of the pages of a book, rather than a lush literal forest, is far more fun and interesting! It also ties a lot into my interests of creative storytelling and igniting the imagination.

What are the steps you take on your way to a finalized set design?

I always read the play first to get my own imagination going—I try visualizing the world of the play while taking into consideration any big moments or places the script describes. I then meet with the director and discuss the concept and share images and ideas. I use that meeting with the director as a guide as I go and do my own visual research and find some more inspiration. I take those little bits of inspiration and start to combine them and add my own ideas and flair to put together a design based on the needs of the production. Once I have that, I do my drafts and renderings to be able to share with the director and other designers. Often times things need to be adjusted so there are many more meetings with the design team to discuss and modify until everything is just right. Sometimes I even build a model of the set so the director, actors, and other designers can see the set in 3D before the big one is built. After all of that my drafts and renderings and paint elevations go off to the shop for them to build! 

How do you match these “bedtime story” elements to the limits of a theatre space?

A rendering of an archway and inspiration images of forest paths.

Conceptually, I wanted to make it feel like these scenes were coming out of the pages of a book; so keeping that in mind, all of the scenery elements are flat like they were cut from a piece of paper. I took a lot of inspiration from layered paper cut-out art. All of the colors used in the set are in cooler tones which are often associated with nighttime and are also not realistic colors for trees to be which adds a level of whimsy and magic, I think.

What are you excited for audiences to see?

I’m excited for them to see the whole show! The whole creative team has worked hard and collaborated beautifully to tell this story, and I am excited to see the actors bring the storybook to life!

Anything else you want the audience to know?

I hope that they feel excited when they watch this show and that it broadens their perspective of Shakespeare. Many of his stories still carry strong relevance and meaning today, and most can be set in just about any time, period, or place with some minor adjustments, which makes the design process so interesting—there are so many possibilities!

See Devon’s vision come to life as our CSC2 Company presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this March at The Strand Theatre!

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