Working in the Theatre: In the Field – Environmental Design


All set design is about creating a world,
and here at Serenbe it’s about creating a living world inside another living world,
which is nature. Serenbe Playhouse is a site-specific outdoor
company that producers in outdoor locations exclusively, and we choose different locations
for every performance, and never perform in the same location twice. Literally anywhere in Serenbe can be a performance
venue for Serenbe Playhouse. [music] So Miss Saigon, clearly our largest project
to date. It was amazing. Yeah, it’s cool to be walking in the space
again. I think the thing that you do so brilliantly
is that you capture this experience from the second that people step into the area where
we’re walking now. I know, I remember the first time you took
me to the site I couldn’t picture it, but now I can’t picture it any other way. Now it’s gone. So when we choose a production we typically
choose the setting hand in hand, and with Miss Saigon we chose an open field, because
we wanted to land a helicopter, so that was at the top of the list. So once we figure out where the helicopter
can land, then we figure out where the set goes, where the audience goes, where the front
of house goes, where the parking goes, and then Adam draws up a site plan and a set design. And from that, we start a conversation with
our technical director and production manager, and it’s a negotiation of what we can do
within the means and what we can do in the space. Being outside, I mean, it comes with a hundred
blessings, but it comes with a hundred challenges. The best productions that have come out of
Serenbe are the ones that really answer the question, like “why are we doing this outside? What can we do that has never been able to
be done before, that we almost have to do?” That’s why you see, I mean, Miss Saigon,
helicopter, army trucks and all that, the corvette. So I think it’s, I feel a little spoiled
because it is such a special experience, and it’s so beyond just theatrical, it’s like, life. I mean the whole audience is in it. Serenbe Playhouse is outdoors, actually initially
out of necessity. But, day one there wasn’t a physical structure
for us to perform in, so I said “hey, let’s try it outdoors, and see if we can get a following.” And it really happened naturally, you know,
I would love to say it was part of this amazing brainchild I had for years but, I just
listened to what the audience was responding to, which I think is really is important when
founding a theatre company. And I capitalized on what they were saying,
and just kept building it. And Hair was the production that really blew
us up and took us to the next level. The first thing you saw was this school bus,
which had been converted to a hippie bus, in a field, and we recreated Woodstock, and
the audience was completely immersed. So from season four on, we strove to become
more immersive and really capitalize on being outdoors, being site-specific, and being an
environment where there aren’t rules. Every part of the process, from when we go
to dreaming, to concept, to pen and paper, to actually building things, becomes more
and more exciting each step of the way. It’s like every puzzle piece and layer makes
it more like it’s actually gonna happen, because a lot of times you create these things
that seem really impossible, and then there becomes a moment where you say to yourself,
“oh my god this is actually going to work, this is gonna happen the way we dreamed it.” [music] Seeing a show here, it’s more than just
going to the theatre, you’re like, being a part of an experience that will probably
last a few weeks, and you enjoy it with the community you’re with, and then it’s gone.

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