POLARIS: An Expansion Tragedy Pack
Director: Erica Vannon
Stage Manager: Brillian Qi-Bell
Scenic Design: Courtney Gaston
Costume Design: Aella Rose-Hill
Lighting Design: Nick Coso
Sound Design: Huda Al-Aithan
David Thayer Theatre
New Play Festival
Budget for this Design Area
Comments by the Designer
Featured in the University’s New Play Festival, POLARIS takes the audience on a journey of trauma in the form of a role-playing game. Polaris, the avatar of this game, finds his way through an imaginary landscape, searching for his missing older brother, Gideon. Clues are revealed in the form of eidetic memories, hints of the real world, that Polaris discovers from USB drives collected in the game. These memories are incomplete and elusive. As Polaris tries to explore them, they are pulled away from him. When Polaris finally finds his brother, the game space is broken and we make the heartbreaking discovery that Polaris is actually Paul, a young child sitting at his kitchen table desperately trying to make sense of his brother’s suicide.
As this script was heavily influenced by games like Dungeons and Dragons, I chose to create a floor that eluded to a game map similar in shape to an unfolded game die. Above the map, plastic bubbles hung suspended magically in the air. The fleeting eidetic memory space was represented with a moving platform on which incomplete scenic elements entered and exited the game. As the game-world fades away it is revealed that within the bubbles are the memories of a child as they descend from the sky to guide Polaris back to reality. A curtain opens and we see a young boy sitting at his kitchen table. This moment needed to look starkly different from the game world. I did this by choosing warm colors, as opposed to the coolness of the blue gameboard. There are still hints of the memories from the game; the kitchen chairs are the same style and the toys from the memories lay scattered on the table before Paul.
The unique challenges of creating a set for New Play Festival are a great learning experience. The $200 scenic budget covered paint for the flooring built from scrap masonite. It also included an assortment of clear plastic bubbles and the variety of toys that were placed inside of them, as well as five toys that had USB connections attached to them for interaction with the actor; these purchased items were combined with pieces of furniture from our prop warehouse. Scenic elements are constructed through volunteer student labor with minimal shop support and are installed over one morning. Organization and planning are key to a successful execution in such a short period of time. For these reasons, I designed a set that consisted of 63 triangles approximately four feet wide. This allowed us to easily layout the floor according to a simple map and secure them to the stage floor very quickly. The hanging plastic bubbles could be installed with a small crew and were light enough to rig with fishing line. These choices allowed us to utilize the volunteer labor we had available as efficiently as possible resulting in an effective and dynamic word in which our actors could work.
Copyright 2020 Courtney Gaston