Hit the Wall


Hit the Wall


Ike Holter

Production Team

Director: Bo Frazier

Composer/Music Director: Mark Bruckner

Stage Manager: Spencer Clouse

Scenic Design: Alex Casillas

Costume Design: Chelsea June

Lighting Design: Courtney Gaston

Media Design: Nick Coso


E.C. Mabie Theatre

Production Type

Main Stage


Spring 2020

Budget for this Design Area


Comments by the Designer

Hit the Wall dramatically retells the night of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which opened the door for an entire community to begin their journey out of the closet. Through the narratives of a diverse group of fictional LGBTQ characters, the audience witnesses a day in the life and the panic, chaos, and victories of the riot itself. This story attempts to fill the gaps left from the lack of media coverage at the time and its often-neglected place in teachable historic moments.

For our production at the University of Iowa, the creative team decided to lean into the musicality of the script by setting moments of the play to originally composed music. This allowed me as a lighting designer to explore more of a concert design aesthetic applied to a traditional stage play. As much of our current lighting technology did not exist in 1969, it was discussed early in the production process that we would be adhering to a concept of anachronistic storytelling. I maintained a more realistic quality to the interior scenes, whereas transitions or moments when characters stepped out of their history to address the audience were embellished with a rock concert aesthetic. I chose colors that were inspired by the concert posters of the 1960s and lighting effects, like a line of traditional PAR cans, to evoke the feeling of attending a music festival.

Choosing moments to bring the audience into the minds and emotions of the characters was my priority in this process. As much of the audience was unfamiliar with the events leading up to the riot, my job was to help them identify and gain a deeper understanding of the emotional state of these people. As the ultimate goal of this story is to shed light on a turning point in LGBTQ history, it is important that we made sure that we were opening the viewers to more than a televised documentary. They needed to feel it. I did this by creating a heightened reality. Bright, isolated highlights keyed the audience into the shock and loneliness of moments. Vibrant colors and movements enhanced the freedom and escape that the Stonewall Inn offered the characters. Finally, flashing lights, smoke, and backlighting created the complete chaos and confusion that was the riot itself, both in its moments of triumph and brutality.

The challenges I faced within this production revolved around defining moments without distracting from the action onstage. By creating a set of rules for myself that I adhered closely to, I created a cohesion within the world. The level of comfortability with oneself was represented with by intensity of light. The more exposed the characters felt, the brighter the scene was. As the story progressed, the stage became darker. This signified the security that characters felt to be themselves, specifically within the Stonewall Inn. Flipping the typical narrative of color, red become representative of empowerment instead of violence. Brutality took place in the cold, more realistic environments. In making these decisions, I learned how to use continuity to flip traditional conventions.

Student Type



Copyright 2020 Courtney Gaston