The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta begins with a familiar phrase: “Once upon a time.” The setting: “a fishing village along the Amazon.” The play is about two sisters, one about to be married, the other done with love. This month Kinan Valdez is directing a production for Arizona Theatre Company (Oct. 21-Dec. 3).
According to lighting and projection designer David Lee Cuthbert, the fable-like elements of The River Bride meant he had more room to play.
“You’re not just going, ‘Oh, we’re in this interior apartment and it’s 6 o’clock in the evening and the light looks like this,’” he explains. “It gives you more freedom to play with quality of light, with the way the light falls off between the action and the rest of the stage.”
In thinking about the light in the play, Cuthbert used the Amazon River as an anchor. “We’re looking at really emphasizing the Amazon, and tying into those colors,” he notes. “So having the reflective water color, how that might look, even when they’re not near the river, that still affects the quality of light in the sky.”
Cuthbert is also designing the show’s projections, which will help situate the audience, and he is adamant about not having static images of forest and villages. Instead, he’s going for more cinematic techniques, like “film cuts.”
For example, in moving from one scene to the next, the design “might push through the forest, through some trees. Or, as a piece of scenery slides in, the media might support that by sliding down a couple of different layers, as if they’re adding depth to it, with the trees, and the hills, and houses being on that.”