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What Designers Across the Country Are Looking Forward To This Season

Designers tell us what shows they’re dying to see (and hear) in the coming season.

What better way to sample the pleasures of the new season than to comb through its highlights in the company of some of America’s most accomplished theatre designers? We asked a wide swath of design professionals to pick their most-anticipated projects of 2014-15, and here are the projects and personalities they chose.


NINA BALL, scenic designer, San Francisco:

“I’m excited to see Party People at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Oct. 17-Nov. 16). I saw it up at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore., two years ago and loved it. Liesl Tommy and UNIVERSES created a vibrant piece of theatre with beautiful music, movement and poetry. It’s a really interesting look at the history of the Black Panthers and Young Lords activist movements and their internal struggles and victories. Super hip and fun show–well designed and performed.

From left, Carrie Paff, Mark Anderson Phillips and Michael Ray Wisely in “Ideation” at San Francisco Playhouse (photo by Jordan Puckett)

“I’m also jazzed about Ideation at San Francisco Playhouse (through Nov. 8). This play by Aaron Loeb, directed by Josh Costello, had a run in the SF Playhouse’s small Sandbox series for new works last season–I couldn’t make it but heard it was fabulous. I want to see how artistic director/set designer Bill English reimagines the set for the much larger main stage.”


RAQUEL BIANCHINI, wig master, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland:

“I’m extremely eager to see The Unfortunates at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco–it won’t be produced in the upcoming season, but will continue to be developed at ACT and has been announced for their Strand space in 2015-16 (it had a run at OSF last year). Katherine O’Neill’s costumes are gritty and other-
worldly, and as a once-upon-a-time hairstylist, she has a really great perspective on how wigs and hair can aid the costumes in perfecting a character. The balancing act of real-world and comic-book-come-to-life in this show is totally her cup of tea. Also, I very much look forward to Hamilton at New York’s Public Theater (Jan. 20╨Feb. 22). The challenge of incorporating 1700s New England (especially the hair!) and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s incredible modern writing is enormous–can’t wait.”

Bradley Greenwald in “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at the Jungle Theater (Michael Daniel)


URSULA K. BOWDEN, set and props designer, Twin Cities, Minn.:

“I’ve got to see The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Jungle Theater (through Oct. 19). It’s a remount, but I missed it the first time, so I’m really excited to see all that theatre magic. I also love discovering what turns up at the Twin Cities Horror Festival (Oct. 23╨Nov. 2) at the Southern Theater, particularly because of the new Park Square space–a new room is always exciting because you have to figure it out. A new system starting in the new year at the Southern, called ARTShare, is also super exciting, seeing how 15 companies will work around one another to create a rep of theatre, music and dance.”


OANA BOTEZ, designer, New York City:

“At the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave, I’m up for Shakespeare’s Sonnets from the Berliner Ensemble (Oct. 7-12), with direction, design and lighting concept by Robert Wilson. Same venue: Kontakthof, a piece by Pina Bausch, performed by her Tanztheater Wuppertal (Oct. 23-Nov. 2).”


JAMIE BULLINS, scenographer, Atlanta, Ga.:

Erik Teague's costume sketch form "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" at Actor's Express
Erik Teague’s costume sketch form “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” at Actor’s Express

“Three shows in the South/Atlanta area I’m pretty hopped up to see this season are The Sleepy Hollow Experience at Serenbe Playhouse (Oct. 9-Nov. 1); Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Actor’s Express Theatre (through Oct. 5); and King of Pops: The Musical! at Dad’s Garage Theatre (April 23-May 30). Scary, sexy, silly. What else could one ask for?”


COLIN K. BILLS, lighting designer, Washington, D.C.:

“The sad thing is that the theatre event in D.C. I was most anticipating is not to be. The Festival of Radical New Theater from Moscow, to be presented at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in October and November, was cancelled due to the (still) deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Russia. It was to have featured the work of director/designer Dmitry Krymov, a magnificent artist whom Americans ought to know. At least for now, we’ll have to settle for watching his stuff on video. On a happier note, I’m looking forward to the opening of the Capital Fringe Festival’s new home in a brand-new theatre complex in Northeast D.C.–their new digs will offer three black boxes, a scene shop, an art gallery and a restaurant. The Fringe continually reminds me that good design doesn’t always have to be splashy and high-budget, as long as the inspiration is there.”


A scene from Bela Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle”


MAYA CIARROCCHI, projections designer, New York City:

“I’m interested in seeing the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle, directed by Mariusz Trelinski (Jan. 26-Feb. 21). Mr. Trelinski was inspired by classic 1940s film noir, one of my favorite genres, when crafting this work. As always, I’m curious how projections are integrated into the production from both a design and narrative perspective.”


JONATHAN COTTLE, lighting and scenic designer, New York City:

New York Theatre Workshop’s season looks incredible. Ivo van Hove is directing an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (through Oct. 26), and Ken Rus Schmoll is directing Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand (Nov. 19-Jan. 4). These are two of my favorite directors, and I’ve always admired how much space and light is present in the work they create. I’m also excited to see Dael Orlandersmith performing in her new piece Forever, which premieres at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn. (Jan. 2-Feb. 1), because I really dig her work, and her segment on one of the earliest broadcasts of ‘This American Life’ from 1996 is incredible.

“Also, La MaMa E.T.C. in New York is presenting three adaptations of The Tempest, which is my favorite Shakespeare, and all three look fantastic–but I’m particularly interested in the version directed and adapted by Karin Conrood (Oct. 2-Nov. 2), whose work I find visually stunning. It has music by Elizabeth Swados, so the whole thing will probably be haunting and beautiful.”


Adam Chanler-Berat and Kyle Beltran in "The Fortress of Solitude" at Dallas Theater Center (photo by Karen Almond)
Adam Chanler-Berat and Kyle Beltran in “The Fortress of Solitude” at Dallas Theater Center (photo by Karen Almond)

JEFF CROITER, lighting designer, New York City:

“I’m looking forward to seeing The Last Ship, Sting’s musical opening on Broadway Oct. 26, and I’m equally excited about The Fortress of Solitude, which premiered at Dallas Theater Center in March and is playing at New York’s Public Theater (through Nov. 2).”



MIKHAIL FIKSEL, composer and sound designer, Chicago:

Marine Lance Corporal Richard Gilligan, part of En Garde Arts's "Basetrack"
Marine Lance Corporal Richard Gilligan, part of En Garde Arts’s “Basetrack”

“I am intrigued and excited by En Garde Arts’s Basetrack at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival (Nov. 11-15). I’ve had the good fortune to witness Seth Bockley and Jason Grote collaborate before, and now they are joined by a lot of other very creative people, so I hope this project will offer up some bold and smart moves. Manual Cinema’s new work Mementos Mori, premiering at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Jan. 15-18), promises to be very ambitious and very beautiful. And Third Rail Projects has been cooking up something special on Governor’s Island in New York with nearly four months of House #17 this past summer–I hope to catch some of that in its final form. Finally, I’m very happy about the Goodman Theatre’s remounting of Noah Haidle’s Smokefall (through Oct. 26), and a bit curious how that sharply designed show will translate from the intimate Owen Stage to the much larger Albert.”


CECILE CASEY COVERT, independent costume designer, New Orleans, La.:

“I remember practically fainting from glee at the original Florence Klotz costumes for On the Twentieth Century with Judy Kaye and John Cullum at the St. James Theatre in 1978, so I can’t wait to see what the inimitable William Ivey Long will do with NYC’s Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival with Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher (Feb. 12-June 7). Long also did up my friend and client Varla Jean Merman (Jeff Roberson) in 2011’s Lucky Guy Off Broadway, so I’m anxious to see how Laura Sirkin-Brown is going to turn Roberson into Black Stache in our beloved local Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher, directed by Beau Bratcher (Nov. 7-23).”


PAMELA FRIDAY, costume designer, Austin, Tex.:

“Lola Pierson’s zombie adaptation of Three Sisters, directed by Yury Urnov at Salvage Vanguard Theater (Jan. 22-Feb. 14), is without a doubt the No. 1 show I am looking forward to seeing! I’ll also mention Liberty! Equality! And Fireworks!, directed by Judy Matetzschk-Campbell for Pollyanna Theatre (Oct. 10-19), a new play in collaboration with the LBJ Presidential Library about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, an important theme for young audiences. And I’m looking wildly forward to Ballet Austin’s Belle Redux/A Tale of Beauty & the Beast (Feb. 13╨15), with choreography by Stephen Mills and music by Graham Reynolds. What a team!”


BENJAMIN GANTOSE, lighting designer, Cleveland, Ohio:

The National New Play Network is sponsoring a rolling world premiere of Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea by Nathan Alan Davis. The play has elements of poetry and dream, and the Atlantic Ocean plays a major role. The show will be produced at Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles (Jan. 31-March 1), the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis (April 9-26), the Theater Alliance in D.C. (May 6-31), Cleveland Public Theatre (May 21-June 6), and the Oregon Contemporary Theatre (May 15-June 7). (Full disclosure, I’ll be working on the iteration at CPT.) I can’t wait to see what this diverse group of theatres and their designers do with such image-rich, non-conventional material. I’m also excited to see the Know Theatre of Cincinnati’s adaptation of Moby-Dick this fall (Oct. 8-Nov. 30). They’re a small, innovative company that just hired their resident scenic and lighting designer, Andrew J. Hungerford, as artistic director. I want to see their 99-seat black box turned into a whaling ship!”


JENNIFER BRAWN GITTINGS, costume designer, San Diego:

“I’m especially excited to see Deborah Strang tackle the role of Prospero in The Tempest at A Noise Within in Pasadena this fall (through Nov. 22). The show is set in 1920s Florida, and I expect the visuals to be breathtaking. I’m also looking forward to seeing Herbert Siguenza’s latest project, Steal Heaven, at San Diego Repertory Theatre (Jan. 3-25).”


JORDAN HARRISON, video designer, Pittsburgh, Pa.:

Tectonic Theater Project’s Square Peg Round Hole, a work-in-progress that won’t have its full-scale premiere until fall 2015, is an exploration of what it means to live outside the bounds of ‘normal.’ Tectonic uses its devised-theatre method, Moment Work, to externalize the experiences of people on the autism spectrum. There are interactive projections, contact microphones, an open-top baby grand piano full of marbles, costume sweaters that are Velcro-ed shut, a jungle gym of Plexiglas and steel, and dynamic, empathetic performances. Andy Paris is the director and cowriter (with Anushka Paris-Carter).”


“Tartuffe” at South Coast Repertory (photo by Debora Robinson)


JOHN IACOVELLI, scenic designer, Los Angeles:

“I’m looking forward to seeing the set by Tom Buderwitz for Dominique Serrand’s Tartuffe at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (March 13-April 12); the show premiered last spring at South Coast Repertory. Upcoming at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. is Stephen Belber’s The Power of Duff, in an amazing multimedia production directed by Peter DuBois that’s transferring from the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston. I am also personally looking forward to Mark Lamos’s production of A Little Night Music at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in the spring (May 20-June 14).”


LINDSAY JONES, composer/sound designer, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles:

Chicago Shakespeare Theater is one of my favorite companies in the U.S., not only because of their homegrown productions but also because they bring in so many incredible shows from around the world. To that end, I’m looking forward to Dunsinane, a co-production of the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Shakespeare Company (Feb. 26-March 22). It’s a sequel to Macbeth–and an incredible design challenge. Center Stage in Baltimore is doing Marley, a musical based on the life of Bob Marley (May 6-June 14). I’m curious to see how his music translates to a theatrical setting, and how they’ll work it into his life story, which is pretty complex. Then the Old Globe in San Diego is premiering Bright Star, a bluegrass musical set in the North Carolina mountains (through Nov. 2). As a native of North Carolina and a huge bluegrass fan, I can’t wait to see how the cast handles that music! Finally, I’ll mention Honeymoon in Vegas on Broadway–I’m a total sucker for musical comedy and I loved this movie!”


JAMES KRONZER, set designer, Washington, D.C.:

“Most looking forward to Signature Theater of Arlington, Va.’s 25th anniversary season–a mix of old and new. I’ve always been amazed at the excellence that comes out of this theatre company. Excited about a new musical by John Kander (Kid Victory, Feb. 17-March 22) and another by Nick Blaemire (Soon, March 10-April 26).”


Downtown Milton, N.C. welcome PearlDamour.
Downtown Milton, N.C. welcome PearlDamour.


PETER KSANDER, stage designer, Portland, Ore.:

“I’m excited about PearlDamour’s Milton (multiple productions, opening on dates to be announced through 2016, at community or civic venues in five U.S. towns). It’s a piece created by Lisa D’Amour and Katie Pearl about a bunch of towns with the same name…super antitheatrical…and yet the work-in-progress they showed at the Prelude Festival in New York City last year was, well, theatrical! And I hear videographer Jim Findlay has been making these durational shots of the sky. What for? Why? Whaaa? Looking forward to finding out!”


JARED MEZZOCCHI, projection designer/design faculty at University of Maryland College Park, Washington, D.C.:

Center Stage of Baltimore’s production of Marley, written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah (May 6-June 14), and Woolly Mammoth of D.C.’s Zombie: The American, written by Robert O’Hara and directed by Howard Shalwitz (May 25-June 21), are both original works by creators who truly inspire me and coax great work out of artists in a room. I mean, zombies? Bob Marley? What’s not to be excited about?”


ERIC NIGHTENGALE, sound/lighting designer, New York City:

“My unfiltered, off-the-cuff two cents: Charles Mee’s Big Love at Signature Theatre in New York (Feb. 3-March 15); St. Matthew Passion at the Park Avenue Armory (Oct. 7-8); Persians by SITI Company (now in process at California’s Getty Villa); DavidAdjmi’s Marie Antoinette at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in D.C. (through Oct. 12); and Carmina Slovenica’s Toxic Psalms at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (Jan. 8-11).”


MICHAEL B. RAIFORD, scenic and costume designer, Austin, Tex.:

Andrew Duran in "Tristan & Yseult," from Kneehigh Theatre (photo by Steve Tanner)
Andrew Duran in “Tristan & Yseult,” from Kneehigh Theatre (photo by Steve Tanner)

“I’m anticipating Kneehigh Theatre’s Tristan & Yseult at California’s South Coast Repertory (Jan. 23-Feb. 22 and on tour to ArtsEmerson in Boston March 5-15 and Alley Theatre in Houston April 24-May 24)–I’m a huge fan of Kneehigh’s use of visceral design, and this looks to be a wonderful mix of text, sight and sound. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Colossal by Andrew Hinderaker at Dallas Theater Center (April 2-May 3)–epic theatre in the perfectly flexible space of the Wyly Theatre. Football, drumline and Kevin Moriarty! And just for fun, The Originalist by John Strand, directed by Molly Smith at Arena Stage (March 6-April 26)–tackling Justice Scalia inside the Beltway just looks like a great adventure!”


Mary Zimmerman (photo by Liz Lauren)
Mary Zimmerman (photo by Liz Lauren)

SHAWN SAGADY, projection designer, New York City:

“Mary Zimmerman will be directing a production of Guys and Dolls at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Feb. 22-Nov. 1), which is bound to be an interesting new perspective on the work. I’m sure the style and grace of her work will lend unique qualities to an established and beloved musical. Considering the rigorous and incredibly challenging technical constraints and schedules of the rep at OSF, I am very excited to see what the design team comes up with to present the story.”


Lee Breuer's "Glass Guignol," from Mabou Mines, which is coming to Great Barrington, Mass. in February
Lee Breuer’s “Glass Guignol,” from Mabou Mines, which is coming to Great Barrington, Mass. in February (photo by Jesse Belsky)


JESSICA SCOTT, puppetry designer and director, New York City:

Winterreise by William Kentridge at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival this fall (Nov. 11). I’ve been a longtime fan of Kentridge since his work with South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. His visuals and illustrations are bleak and whimsical at the same time, and his drawings always have a real sense of motion to them (which is why his work easily translates into video, animation and puppetry). Next, Mabou Mines’s Glass Guignol by Lee Breuer and Maude Mitchell, which is in development and will be seen as a work-in-progress this coming February in Great Barrington, Mass. I love Lee’s original writing, and what he does with adaptations is always pretty wild–this show is inspired by the writings of Tennessee Williams, so I think it will stretch the original content to its limit; and Lee always makes sure there are plenty of perverse visuals to fill in the blanks. Finally, Send for the Million Men by Joseph Silovsky at HERE Arts Center (Dec. 3-13). Joe blurs the lines between robots, puppets and digital puppet/avatars, and uses projection mapping to make his sets come alive. He finds a natural way to blend classic object theatre with the newest theatre technology.”

Siobhan Redmond in "Dunsinane" from National Theatre of Scotland (photo by Ka Lam)
Siobhan Redmond in “Dunsinane” from National Theatre of Scotland (photo by Ka Lam)


LUCIANA STECCONI, set designer, Washington, D.C.:

“When I heard that the National Theatre of Scotland was touring the U.S. again, this time with David Greig’s Dunsinane (which plays at the Shakespeare Theatre Company Feb. 4-21 and Chicago Shakespeare Theater Feb. 28-March 22), it immediately became the top pick of the season for me. Their production of Black Watch was the most powerful and visually moving piece I’ve experienced in a long time. Another interesting show coming to D.C.’s Kennedy Center is Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose’s Last Tape (Feb. 6-7), conceived, written and directed by contemporary Japanese artist Miwa Yanagi. Her theatre projects promise an innovative mix of disciplines and historical fiction, and I’m very curious to see what she has to offer. Robert O’Hara’s new commission for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, called Zombie: The American (May 25-June 21), combines zombies, a gay president, and many, many more bizarre elements. O’Hara’s wild imagination always gives you surreal and unusual visual challenges!”


"Here Lies Love" at the Public Theater
“Here Lies Love” at the Public Theater (photo by Joan Marcus)

MEGAN TUREK, costume designer, New York City:

“The show that leaps to mind immediately when I think of next season is one I’ve already seen–Here Lies Love, which has returned to the Public Theater in New York (open run). I left that performance so exhilarated by what I had seen, from the music and costumes to the way the audience interacts with the show! Clint Ramos’s costumes are both playful and direct, and changes done before our eyes weren’t hidden behind a flurry of distracting stage magic–actors simply snapped them off and stepped out. I like sensing that a designer trusts his audience and isn’t afraid to employ some cheeky humor without pointing it out with a flashing red arrow. Shows like this keep me optimistic for the future of theatre!”


“The Iceman Cometh” at the Goodman Theatre (photo by Liz Lauren)

MELISSA VEAL, wig and make-up designer, Chicago Shakespeare Theater:

“I am looking forward to seeing the NYC transfer of the Goodman Theatre of Chicago’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh at Brooklyn Academy of Music (Feb. 5-March 15). Set designer Kevin Depinet does epic and beautiful work–coupled with this standout play, it is a winning combo. I also need to catch Lookingglass Theatre’s trademark Lookingglass Alice (begins Nov. 12)–I can’t believe I haven’t seen it in seasons past. Definitely looking forward to Mara Blumenfeld’s costume design–she is a great collaborator and always serves up great storytelling in her work.”


"Everything One in the Disc of the Sun" from Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (photo by Maria Baranova)
“Everything One in the Disc of the Sun” from Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (photo by Maria Baranova)

PALOMA YOUNG, costume designer, Brooklyn, N.Y.:

“Tei Blow and Sean McElroy of the Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble–they have performed at the Brooklyn arts center JACK and have upcoming shows at the Kate Werble Gallery in Soho (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) and the Gibney Dance Center in Manhattan (Nov. 3-7)–paint themselves gold and perform songs about the afterlife and self-help texts, via in-ear monitors, inside a gold LED pyramid. The audience sits inside the pyramid, too. Sound, video, set, costume, concept–it’s all there! And I love the tone: quiet, slow, inviting and satirical. Also, Kaneza Schaal has a new show based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and also inspired by the death of her father. She’s in Egypt right now researching it with visual artist Chris Myers. I saw a work-in-progress at Baryshnikov Arts Center with sound design by Justin Hicks, who not only played a mean synth/ambient-free/improv kind of electronic score, but also sang a dirge with his head inside a gigantic clay vase that would ring out harmonics when he hit a certain pitch. Sounds cheesy, but it was very moving and beautifully disturbing to witness.”


BEN WILLIAMS, actor and sound designer for Elevator Repair Service, New York City:

“The great Italian director Romeo Castellucci and his company Societas Raffaello Sanzio have two shows that are touring around–his takes on Schubert’s ‘Swan Song’ and on Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (through December 2014 at festivals in Italy, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland and France). For me, what Castellucci gets from his designers sets the bar on theatre’s possibilities. He’s just the best. Closer to home, I’m always excited to see the New York-based ensemble Half Straddle–their new show is Ancient Lives, at the Kitchen (opens in January), with musician, composer and performer Chris Giarmo and set designer Andreea Mincic back in action with that whole team.”

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