Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Caeneus & Poseidon: An Interview with David Donovan

Next up, we hear from David Donovan, our set designer! Watch our website to check out photos of our set in the coming days - it's under construction now.

What is your role in this production?
Scenic Designer

Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience? How did you get into this aspect of theatre?
I've loved theater since high school, where I played in several musicals (My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Big River, Anything Goes) and one play (Neil Simon's Fools).  I got interested in Architecture in 2007 while doing my PhD in Astronomy.  Later, in 2011, I entered UC Berkeley's [IN]Arch program with the intention of doing a Master's in Architecture.  I did a summer term in Architecture at California College of the Arts but left the program to return to my career in Engineering.  My love for spatial design didn't subside, however, and I found that scenic design allowed me to scratch the creative itch without quitting my day job.  I am very happy to be working with the Caeneus & Poseidon production team on my second show as set designer!
In what capacities have you been involved with Dragon Theatre before?
My first scenic design was for the Dragon's Second Stages production of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie directed by Jenny Hollingworth in June 2016.  Though the Dragon's "diamond thrust" stage is very challenging to design for, there's something about the intimacy of the space and the constraints of working almost in the round that brings out creative thinking.  It's clear that the community really loves and supports the space, and that's a great environment in which to work.

What is your favorite part of what you do? What is the most challenging thing about what you do?
I love the process of moving from a list of scenes to imagining how to bring them to life in the spatial conditions of the stage.  The transition from rough plan sketches to designing the 3d model is really fun.  

I think the most challenging part (aside from determining colors, where I still have a lot to learn) is working out the scene transitions.  Transforming the stage from a city to the seashore or from a bar to the deck of a barge in under a few minutes is a big interconnected puzzle.  Working out the transitions between the final two scenes can have repercussions on the design for Act 1, Scene 1, and I have to consider not only the scene at hand but how it fits into the entire show.
Are there any moments or scenes in this play that pose a particular challenge for you?
The two biggest challenges for me in this play were conveying the seashore and dealing with two character-swallowing earthquakes.

For the seashore, I researched actual beaches in Thessaly, Greece, where the play is set, and realized that the cliffs came down very close to the shore.  This was the key to the idea of the staircase pieces, which could ambiguously serve as steps to a building, a hill in the countryside, and rocks leading to the shore depending on how they are approached by the actors.

For the earthquakes, I realized that the set alone would not be enough to convey Poseidon's magic -- I could only provide a place for the swallowed actor to exit.  Fortunately, we have a great creative team on the show and I worked with Leanna (Lighting Design), Josh (Sound Design), and Amy (Director) to establish a multi-sensory language to bring the earthquakes to life.
What other theatre projects do you have coming up?
Nothing lined up at the moment.  If you hear of anything let me know!

Who’s your favorite mythological character? (Doesn’t have to be Greek)
I've always been a big fan of Hermes (Mercury), the messenger.  The first manned space program is named for him, and he gets to run around causing mischief in a winged shoes and hat.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself? 
I am happy to be working with such a great production team, and I'm excited to bring more prominence to this little-known myth that explores the beautiful spectrum of human gender!

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