Building the world of Bright Star
By Leslie Simon
How do you transport audiences from a wooden stage in Arvada to different locations and decades in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina? Award-winning Scenic Designer Brian Mallgrave puts deep thought and colorful imagination into creating immersive environments, something he has done for over 100 Arvada Center productions.
Brian’s latest work is for our fall musical Bright Star, by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. His designs for this musical take the audience to a specific place – Appalachia – and portray the passage of time as the musical flashes back and forth between the 1920s and 1940s.
“The main vision of the setting envelopes the story through the use of a vintage 1930s map wall to “marry” all periods and locations- ascending into a silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flooring is representative of the porches and decking attached to our various cabin dwellings, grounding all moving scenic elements.”
Brian uses the floor to create various locations as well as add extra symbolism. “The flooring creates the symbol of a connecting star in the center- as all characters connect and grow- and starfields illuminate the sky areas above to encompass our Bright Star theme.”
In general, the set is representational – meaning it creates an illusion of reality rather than fantasy. Lighting creates an extra dimension in the two-dimensional buildings and cabins. “Much of the play is memory, and the cabin slatwork, being semi-transparent, offers interesting opportunities for lighting, representing the layers of transparency and fragments that our story often revisits.”
This use of light and movement works with the movement and passage of time in the musical. It covers a span of over 20 years – moving back and forth in the story. “There are many moving parts in the line set (used to move things up and down), background structural elements, and castered (rolling) furnishings that move to parallel the storyline as it seamlessly transitions through time periods.”
Based on music, book and lyrics written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star’s bluegrass and Americana-tinged sounds influenced the stage design that Brian created. “The musical style is a big motivator and regional influence, thus the band is featured onstage, to reinforce the impact of this element.”
Whether you are a lover of bluegrass or just a fan of a good story, there is something for everyone in Bright Star. Tickets are on sale now – it opens September 6!