Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
Revolt, She Said...
Director: Lila Rachel Becker
Stage Manager: AJ Near
Scenic Design: Lindsey Larissa Kuhn
Costume Design: Akeem Celestine
Lighting Design: Courtney Gaston
Media Design: Courtney Gaston
Sound Design: Eric Marlin
Budget for this Design Area
Comments by the Designer
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is a vignette-style call-to-action written in four acts with Brechtian supertitles: “Revolutionize the Language”, “Revolutionize the World”, “Revolutionize the Work”, “Revolutionize the Body”, and “Galvanize”. A serious of absurdist snapshots into the world of the play, Alice Birch breaks down the subtext behind these phrases and the dialog within them, particularly those pertaining to women; the audience is forced to confront the words that are often used to describe and communicate with them. As the play moves forward, structure breaks down to a point of near chaos as words are dissected to their most simple forms. The characters struggle to convey meaning as they become louder and louder. It is sometimes unclear if we are hearing the character or the actor speaking.
In designing this production, my goal as both the lighting and the media designer was to accentuate the gravity of the conversations happening onstage and create a continuity that aided the audience as they navigated the chaos of the language. I chose to use color as one of my tools, creating a vibrant color behind the plastic drop cloth that served as our cyc. Upon this plastic, I also projected the titles of the scenes, typed on as if the play was being written as it was spoken. These titles grounded the intention of conflicts onstage. I used stark, clean, white light to illuminate the actors themselves and the texture of smashed glass that framed the pools of light, creating its own visual chaos at the edges of the world.
As each scene passes, the chaos amongst the characters becomes greater. The visuals needed to follow this pattern, as well. Entering the second act, the characters onstage begin to question their own words and goals. Resetting the text projected above them served as both an impetus for change and a commentary on the previous moment. The second the third act begins, the stage devolves into complete chaos. Actors are speaking over each other and struggling to make their voice louder than the others’. Light moved and highlighted different conversations and speeches with what appeared to be no rhyme or reason, but they were often focused on the women trying desperately to communicate with the world around them. This ultimately results in a moment of complete clarity as the final speech calls the world to the action of rising up against the patriarchy. In our production, this moment was pre-recorded and framed as a viral social media post that the people onstage stop to watch on their phone. The video is projected upon the sterile, plastic backdrop and ends in stunned silence. End play.
The biggest challenges with this play were the complexity of the language and the precision of the timing. Both lighting and media needed to be synchronized with the action onstage in order to punctuate the strong statements being made onstage. This was accomplished with meticulous repetition and many small changes to create timing that was at times both poignant and comedic. I experimented with different approaches to the appearance of the text above the actors and the speed with which it was typed. I also studied the action onstage to determine where I was going to highlight moments of conflict between the characters with subtle increases in intensity of the lights hitting them. This was particularly important during a moment in the second act when a woman blindsides the other characters onstage as she climbs onto a table to deliver a monologue of defiance and power before returning to the reality of disempowerment. This moment in and of itself perhaps defines the intentions of the play itself.
All of this media integration required pre-planning and programming before we got in the room. Ove several weeks, I filmed and edited the final social media video and developed the animations for the text supertitles. Once in the venue, all of the media elements had to be sized against the background and meticulously timed for effectiveness in conjunction with the dialog onstage. I often found myself back at my content creation computer making subtle edits to text spacing, sizing, and the typing animation.
The plastic drop cloth that we used as a projection surface presented several challenges due to its highly reflective, yet frosted surface. Small text tended to blur around the edges and pixels would reflect excess light in random places due to inconsistencies in the material. I dealt with this by resizing the initial text line much larger and having it become smaller when the next line appeared. This allowed the text to remain present onstage while giving the audience the chance to read it clearly first. Using the plastic in front of the cyc lighting actually provided more contrast for the white letters and made them easier to read. Using a 6,000 lumen projector afforded me the brightness to compensate for the bright stage lighting that was required for the production, but it made the text become even more present in moments of darkness.
Integrating media and lighting with other elements of a production can be a challenge and must be considered before the team enters the space. Controlling both the lighting and the media myself gave me a little more control over both elements as I was able to easily navigate the balance between the two light sources. This production was my first foray into this type of dual-designing, and it taught me what I needed to be ready for my first large-scale media design. The conversations that I had with myself about the give and take between media and lighting served me well in my first collaboration as a media designer; it afforded me the insight to understand how my projections were interacting with the light onstage.
Copyright 2020 Courtney Gaston