Rex Carleton, TPS technical director and Seattle Theatre Wikipedia himself answers monthly questions in this new feature of our Newsletter. Program Assistant Keiko Green sits down with the man himself to ask him one of your many questions.
1. What’s the most inventive way that people have incorporated the Center Theatre columns into their set design, that you can recall?
REX: Those friggin’ columns. (laughter) In a way, I’m kind of a purist. I prefer people to just let them be. I think a lot of the times, designers get all tied up trying to make them part of the scenic element. And often times, it draws more attention to them than was the intent. So to me, the most effective use of them is to just let them be and let them be part of the blank picture, the slate.
But there have been… there was one show — I’m struggling to remember what it was, but there was one show where they turned one of them into this massive, gnarly tree. I think it was a Shakespeare show, it was a comedy, if it was.
KEIKO: Was it recently?
REX: No, this was maybe 10 years ago now. I’m trying to remember it, but was really spectacular. It made a great giant trunk of a tree.
KEIKO: Sound Theatre/Pratidhwani did Indian Ink, and they did the same thing.
REX: They did too. And it isn’t the first time and won’t be the last time a tree comes to mind — frequently, when you’re looking at those things.
Shakespeare also did a show way way back when, where they actually made a third column. To which I thought, “Wow, two isn’t enough?” And they put it upstage center (laughter) — and I guess that worked, sort of. Anything to justify the presence of the two… which I think is part of the problem.
You just take them for what they are. And frequently, of course, people build stuff around them which is a reasonable approach, but as far as an imaginative use of the columns, the trees come to mind.
There was a show we (The Group Theatre) did, where we painted them like a screaming crimson red. And we did a really elaborate Chinese dragon motif on both of them. That was for A Language of Their Own.
And if nothing else, they were impressive when you demand that much attention to them. But again, I think I kind of like it when you’re not forced to look at them.
KEIKO: Those friggin’ columns.
REX: Those friggin’ columns.