What was your inspiration for this tree in Plumshuga?
This tree represents my initial designs of the trees that would be used in the show. My first thought was to create something more abstract, because it allows for the audience’s imagination to have the chance to really take flight. Using ballet barres as an inspiration, we started with a sketch, but eventually sculptures take on a life of their own as you go along. We had to wait and see where the branches wanted to fit – which was right up to the rafters!
What materials did you use?
This tree is made out of recycled 2x4s and over 64 dowels, or closet rods. It took a whole day for my team and I to build this. Stages’ Assistant Technical Director, James Ponder, and our Lead Carpenter, Joseph Blanchard, were particularly helpful with the screw guns, as it takes a lot of strength to get through the hardwoods. Celeste Cerenio, our newest Production Mentee, helped prepare the holes, and to hold up branches.
What about the trees that appear onstage in the production?
When you go into the Sterling Stage, you will see that the design changed into something much more realistic. That happens when you have the chance to collaborate with a group of artists. Our Lighting Designer, Bryan Ealey, suggested that the trees be able to light up. Our Technical Director, Joel Burkholder, suggested clear tubing for lighting to be run through, and to help create the trunk and branches, and Joseph Blanchard welded metal framework that could support it all. I added what is called “Chaos Cloth” – a fabric made from laminated strings that allows light to dapple through the tree bark. I think you’ll find the final trees are a little bit scarier and more creepy, to really convey the feeling of being lost in a dark wood.
How do you feel about your design changing?
Old spreading oak trees are everywhere in Houston. When Lauren mentions those Houston trees, I knew exactly what she was talking about. There is also so much evocative tree language in Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton’s writing that it was impossible not to see them. So I am pleased to be able to share this “first draft” with you, and I hope you look forward to the trees that the design has grown into, waiting for you inside!