Orange by Aditi Brennan Kapil, currently playing at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. (March 5-26), was originally subtitled “An illustrated play.” That’s because its main character, Leela, is on the autism spectrum and keeps a journal where she records her adventures around Orange County, Calif. It’s the content of these journals, and of Leela’s mind, that the team of Orange is tasked with representing. As director Jessica Kubzansky explains, the drawings start out as simple geometric shapes, but “as the play goes on, her drawings start to morph, as we start to get more inside the perspective going on in her head. In her head, she’s having a much more vivid and richly colored experience, and the drawing starts to gain detail and color as the adventure goes on.” Projection designer Mike Tutaj explains more below:
“The idea of the scenic design [by Michael B. Raiford]: We wanted to keep this paper motif, that this is her journal. One of my favorite illustrations that Leela describes is a blank page that’s actually a cloud. A cloud’s white—there you go! So keeping paper as a principal element in the design was a real successful choice. There’s going to be a number of moving panels—three large ones*—that will be floating. They’ll be hanging from mostly invisible cables. I think they’re like 8 feet by 11 feet and there are three of them, and they can overlap and change their heights and move around in different positions to create different shapes on which the illustrations [by Lyuben Dimitrov] can then fall.
“There are a lot of different scenes that happen over this play—you’re on a beach, on a plane, in a store, on blimp hangars—so [we’ve found] some way of giving indications of that while not being so explicit. We want to make sure the set itself still feels theatrical—that if you were to take away the projections, we’d still have an interesting set there. The projections should lay onto it a sense of location and a sense of our character. Leela’s in every scene, so it should show that we’re in her world and that we’re seeing the world through her eyes.”
*In a previous version of this story, Mike Tutaj told us that Orange would have four projection panels. It’s actually three.