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King Creativity at Southwestern

Scenic & Lighting Design: Hamlet Trio

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by Javan Cayo Johnson
Major: Theater with Emphasis in Scenic and Lighting Design

In October 2000 I received the King Creativity Fund grant to build the set for the Brown Symposium’s Hamlet Trio which was performed in Alma Thomas Theater. The Hamlet Trio is adapted from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which was reconfigured for three people. The director/writer Ron Bashford wanted to take Hamlet from the point of searching for his father. We wanted Hamlet to strive for reconnection with his father through “the way out.”

The three “unities” for this production were pretty simple, no specific time, place, or setting. Which made it all the more difficult to do. The idea for the set design was a visceral non-existent place that was birthed from Hamlet’s own pain and torment. This place could be on the brink of oblivion or eternity. It needed to have a hint of mystery and to be on the threshold of “the way out,” which to us (the design team) was the place where “dreams may come,” what comes after death. The idea for that was taken from the to be or not to be speech for Hamlet act 3 scene 2. The set design also needed to have pieces of Denmark because in Hamlet’s mind he kept flashing back there.

So I wanted the set to show traces of surreal art. I wanted to have floating shapes that could disappear with the use of lights. (which I also Designed) I wanted the “way” to be this huge looming, over barring gate that tied the set together. So in the Design I had two main set pieces which were these huge platforms with big metal pyramid shapes jutting out from the back. The stage also had a removable orchestra pit, which I took out and put triangle platforms in as well. I tied the set together with this 4’-6” wide by 11’-0” tall steel gate.

I used the money on materials for this design, and they were; wood, hardware, muslin, paint, and steel.