bad things happen here...


bad things happen here


Eric Marlin

Production Team

Director: Lila Rachel Becker

Stage Manager: Adam Koob

Scenic Design: Savanna Genskow

Costume Design: Savanna Genskow

Lighting Design: Courtney Gaston

Sound Design: Bri Atwood


Theatre B

Production Type



Fall 2017

Budget for this Design Area


Comments by the Designer

A series of scenes illustrating the rise of a dystopian society, bad things happen here… merges the styles of Caryl Churchill and George Orwell to create a fast-paced vignette-style drama. With strong themes of surveillance and censure, the audience is navigated through the fear and violence women face when men create a society sanitized of choice, and how they ultimately fight it.

In the development of this play, surveillance became a very strong theme that we explored in terms of design. There needed to be a presence that was always looming, yet not blatantly obvious as it becomes more and more pressing over the course of the show. The lampposts are referred to often and I decided to key into that by creating a series of pools of light that could appear in different locations. As things become more dangerous, the pools of light become closer and more apparent. Government addresses are delivered from these spotlights and they are avoided by the society as if they would burn.

Light became the only indication of transition and scene within the narrative. A crinkled fabric hung behind through which a cold light shone through. When people “disappeared” they found themselves surrounded by darkness, as if they never existed. The stage remained stark and cold until we glimpse a shimmer of warmth and hope in the final moments.

I had the opportunity to work on this play at the University of Iowa in the gallery season and then continued work on this piece as it was produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland with a team of graduate students from the University. Through public fundraising and research grants from the University of Iowa, we were able to travel and present a two-week run of bad things happen here….

This was an interesting challenge as I redesigned the play to be produced in a much smaller venue with fewer resources that was also transportable within our luggage. I created a modified version of our original backdrop that would function with the repertory lighting rig in our venue. I was able to uphold the initial design concepts with a few alterations such as substituting the pools of light for quick flickers of light at certain moments in the script. This actually revealed itself to be a more dynamic way to create the threat than I had originally conceived and became a very effective tool in storytelling. A scene featuring the actors playing two soldiers was redesigned to be lit solely with flashlights blinding the audience which also ended up being very successful. This turned out to be a wonderful chance to revisit a previous design with fresh eyes and a new point of view.

Student Type



Copyright 2020 Courtney Gaston