Stage Designs of Richard Finkelstein
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Diary of Anne
Frank - Scenic
Design by R. Finkelstein.
When this was designed, early in my career, The University of Cincinnati had two complete Theatre Departments on the same campus, at opposite ends. It was quite a situation. The Department of Theatre, Speech, and Communication had been there for many decades, but at some point in its history the separate College Conservatory of Music merged into the University of Cincinnati fold, bringing with it a world-class Opera Program. In time CCM became world-class in Musical Theatre as well. Although it was an excellent professional program, CCM could not offer the professoponal MFA degree as the older, more modest program across campus had the degree to itself. The situation was not mitigated until the two programs finally merged somewhere around 1984.
This production came right before that point. Although we had a few MFA students, we had very very few resources. Things would be pulled together like in the summer-stock theatres of old. The space itself was one of those massive Aztek-themed auditoriums of the 1930s seating thousands. Unfortunately there were no audiences in this era. So before my time there, the stage itself was turned into a black-box-type space with the auditorium area being simply ignored. It did allow for interesting experimentation, especially in the arena of audience/stage relationships. This production was staged along the long access of the stage, with this set being placed against the shop door situated on the stage-right side of the full proscenium stage. The audience was built in a steep rake making for a nice end-room configuration. The second level; here was simply built up from an existing stage storage structure in which the facility concert grand piano had traditionally been stored.
Thoughts on the Visual Choices:
About 8 years earlier in my first real professional work, I served as the Technical Director on a regional theatre production of Anne Frank designed by legendery designer Peter Gould (John Napier's Associate in the era of Cats and Sunset Blvd.) I loved his set but it was for a very very restrictive 10 foot ligh stage. My approach to space was very different. But I was able to pay hommage to Peter after his passing via two elements in this space: The dormer windows, and a very clever mechanism for making it appear as though the entrance was from below without using any trap doors!
I naturally like nooks and crannies in set design and this was a perfect vehical for that style. The scheme supports the idea of "secrets" and allows performers to disappear into the environment when not in the scene directly. Lots of shadows and interesting possibilities for the lighting also with a lighting grid set at an angle to further emphacize the idea of enclosure. Lots of places where light can filter in as well to offer a contrast between the inside and the outside.