For several of this year’s Broadway designers, two job titles — and sometimes three — are better than one.
Santo Loquasto, for instance, created both sets and costumes for “Three Days of Rain” and “A Touch of the Poet.” The three-time Tony winner says he values being able to manipulate a play’s picture by crafting not only its space but also the appearance of the actors within it. Not that he doesn’t seek collaboration with other designers, as evidenced by his sets-only work on “Shining City.”
“I enjoy doing both,” Loquasto explains, “(but) I think of myself as a set designer who occasionally does costumes.”
John Doyle doesn’t usually consider himself a designer at all, though he created sets and costumes for the “Sweeney Todd” revival, which he also directed and conceived.
When this director first mounted the deconstructed tuner in a tiny London theater, he took on design duties as a way of staying true to his unusual vision.
“I never expected the journey ‘Sweeney Todd’ has had, (and) to find myself wearing all these hats on Broadway has taken me by surprise,” he says.
Doyle is not alone in the director-designer club. “Tarzan” is Bob Crowley’s first Rialto directing gig, and he also created the tuner’s jungle sets and clothes. (His costumes are also on display in “The History Boys.”) Regarding his multitasking for Disney, Crowley feels it gives the ape tuner “a unified vision.”
Most designers, of course, don’t show their range by filling two or more slots on one marquee. Set designer Michael Yeargan created a naturalistic beach for the heavily symbolic “Seascape” and, conversely, an expressionistic milieu for the realism of “Awake and Sing!”
The latter has caused a stir for placing Clifford Odets’ working-class characters in an apartment whose walls disappear, but Yeargen feels the approach was necessary. Describing the show, he says: “It was imprisoned in the stagecraft of its time. We felt (the design) made it a little bit bigger than just a one-set, sitcom kind of play.”
Similarly, Derek McLane and Martin Pakledinaz have received kudos for their vibrant sets and costumes, respectively, for “The Pajama Game,” which had to have contemporary energy while staying true to the musical’s post-WWII period.
And for metatheatrical tuner “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which flits between a modern-day living room and the stage of a golden-age tuner, set designer David Gallo and costumer Gregg Barnes were required to suggest two eras simultaneously.