Stage Designs of Richard Finkelstein

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Richard Finkelstein
630 Stonewall Dr
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
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Clytemnestra: - Scenic  Design & Projection Design by R. Finkelstein - Produced at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. North American Premiere of the Tadashi Suzuki Adaptation

Suzuki Clytemnestra






(scenery design / Projection design)


This production marked the North American premiere of the Tadashi Suzuki version of the work. The production was directed by Suzuki’s former student, Yukihiro Goto and was presented by The State University of New York at Stony Brook in a black-box theatre pre-configured as an end-room proscenium environment (SUSB has multiple black-box theatres so this one is semi-permanently configured). There was a small to modest budget for scenery of around $1500.

Description of the Setting and Projection Elements:

The setting consisted of a series of screens that could travel across the stage on cable. The screens could close off portions of the stage, or move in choreographic patterns with the actors, or situate into a traditional wing and drop style configuration.

The screens were of an innovative design. They were fabricated from plastic "safety snow fence" the orange net fencing material one most often sees around construction sites. These were transformed into high-gain projection surfaces through the application of a silver coating. Since approximately 60% of the area of the screen material consisted of holes, the screens took on a scrim function as well. When layered and interacting with actors, light, and projections, a myriad of moiré patterns were created.

Behind the planes of screen operation were situated 2, 8 foot high seats on which sat the "gods" through the entirety of the production.

At the rear of the stage, to create maximum depth and light dimensionality, we fabricated a rear projection cyc. Our budget was so very limited that I had to experiment with found materials. In the end I designed the RP cyc from black plastic garbage bags, slit, and re-assembled into a drop. It took a lot of experimentation with different brands to find the best product for this application. There was some wrinkling, but with the angle of projection being very flat, the wrinkles, as seen through the screens, took on a very shimmery quality.

Another innovative element was a series of bodies produced as props. These were produced in a stylized sculptural manner from raw 1" diameter Ethafoam.

Working Within the Suzuki Style and Sensibilities:

Support of the Suzuki style and methods became a paramount objective in this assignment. My understanding of this system came primarily through work with the director, Yukihiro Goto, and through extensive observation of the actors in training and in performance. My observations of the style and process were as follows:

  • The training and style is intensely physical

  • The style is about the performer within and interacting with, and creating SPACE

  • Within the movement style, stillness is celebrated as an important choice of movement.

  • The movement is oven very disciplined and stylized.

  • The style is very presentational (vs representational)

  • The actor is the focus, but within space.

  • The style presents classical theatre forms, but interpreted through modern structure. In this sense it is a very post-modern theatre form.

  • There are also elements of cultural fusion. In this case we were integrating three cultural sensibilities geographical and temporal, The classical Greek, Classical and modern Japanese, and modern western forms.

In the scenery and projection elements, I aimed to support the style, but I was excited to offer physical parallels to the style as well. The results were exciting especially as in the end, the acting/directing style also greatly supported the visual work. For instance the wonderful use of stillness allowed for the lighting by Richard Dunham as well as my projection work to be even more striking than would normally be the case. The disciplined blocking allowed for maximum control of light and spill.

In the design, as Suzuki does, I use a traditional framework, in this case the wing, and drop form, but re-interpret it through the use of modern materials and new perspectives. The set feels at once, Japanese, classical, modern, and Western.

The kinetic nature of the set allowed for a complete integration with the actors and their movement. The clear floor allowed the actors full control of their space. The projection elements allowed for strong support of the emotional texture of the work. They were all abstract images and textures from my collection of projection images.

A word on the Projection Technology

The photographs of Clytemnestra presented in this portfolio are not re-touched (except to remove photo blemishes like dust and scratches). Even at curtain call, the projections were quite bright and striking. Yet this was accomplished with a single, off the shelf, Kodak Ektagraphic III projector (before bright module technology) at the rear of the audience area.. Through an understanding and application of basic principles of optics, I have been able to develop techniques and methods allowing projections to be 2-8 times brighter than they would appear in most theatre instances. This show provides an example of my work in this arena. Even with the extreme wide angle of a 1.4" fl lens, the images are striking. One review even referred to the beautiful "painted drops" in the set when in reality all images were from the projection work.