Sarah Ruhl

Production Team

Director: Erica Vannon

Stage Manager: Olivia Leslie

Scenic Design: R. Eric Stone

Costume Design: Zamora Simmons

Lighting/Media Design: Will Borich

Sound Design: Mark Bruckner


E.C. Mabie Theatre

Production Type

Main Stage


Fall 2019

Budget for this Design Area


Comments by the Designer

Originally written in 1928 as a fictional biography by Virginia Woolf, Orlando tells the story of a young man (Orlando, a poet at heart) born in the 16th century who becomes a member of Queen Elizabeth’s court. Later under the reign of King Charles II in the 17th century, Orlando eventually becomes England’s ambassador to Constantinople, where he magically transforms into a woman. Orlando then goes on to live throughout the next few centuries up until the year when Woolf’s original novel was published, ending on a note that leaves the audience wondering what the future holds for the titular character.

We as an artistic team agreed that the visual aesthetic of our production should be one that is influenced by Orlando’s inner memories and emotions. This decision also supported our goal to have each audience member be able to relate to our titular character, because we as humans are all able to relate to experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions and. From love to resentment and belonging to yearning, all of these feelings are universal and everyone who lives desires to be their most true self.

To visually communicate the dichotomy between the meticulous complexity but utter simplicity of Orlando’s inner recollection, my visual influence came from two primary sources. First, from trees in nature throughout the four seasons, manifesting in pale and cool to lush and radiant, communicating our hero’s transforming emotions. Second, from artwork created with palette knives and broad watercolors that capture the simplicity of how those raw emotions manifest within all of us. I achieved this by utilizing the scenic elements of six columns (three on each side of the stage) and a rear projection screen that were both saturated with color and bright white that shifted dynamically throughout the play. These shifts in intensity and color on the scenery were driven by using various color motifs for the main recurring characters throughout Orlando’s life as they appeared and re-appeared. This is my nod to the emotionally charged Romantic period of music from 1800-1900, in which many operas utilized leitmotifs as “theme songs” for when certain characters would be featured on stage.

This production presented itself with many challenges regarding the scenery and costumes. Half of the line sets were taken up by flying scenery (including an always present oak tree branch that spanned two-thirds of the stage) and the chorus was dressed in different shades of cream and white. Because of these factors I utilized every lighting position to its maximum capacity, as well as lit the front of the actors with clear static colors and highlighted them from the back with my saturated palette as to not overwhelm the audience’s eyes.

While the lighting for this production successfully helped tell the story and convey the emotional intensity of our production, there are some things that I would have changed about my design process that would have resulted in a stronger lighting design. First, I would have used two-thirds the amount of lighting instruments, as having so many within close proximity to one another resulted in some lights unable to be used to their full potential. Another disadvantage to deciding to use too many lights is that it was easy to get lost in the vast amount of organizational paperwork that is necessary to keep track of all of my lighting instruments.

Student Type



Copyright 2019 William Borich