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Philadelphia Designers on Display at Set Model Theatre

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • June 9, 2021

1812 Productions is pleased to present a one-of-a-kind digital theatre experience, Set Model Theatre. In early 2021, they gathered more than a dozen Philly theatre designers and technicians together with a one-of-a-kind task: find the funny in Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy King Lear. The only rule… there are no rules! (Oh, except that the entire production has to fit in a space the size of a breadbox!)

Set Model Theatre is a documentary series that pulls back the curtain on the creative processes of 15 Philadelphia theatre designers as they work in distanced collaboration on a fantasy production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The end product is a set of three comedic interpretations of King Lear that celebrate the work of theatre designers, bring big laughs to audiences, and take advantage of the freedom of digital theatre.

Set Model Theatre will be released in five half-hour installments beginning with episodes one and two on Monday, June 14th at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Episodes three and four will follow on Monday, June 21st at 7:00 p.m. EDT, with the final episode on Monday, June 28th at 7:00 p.m. EDT. All episodes will be available on-demand at thru July 11th. Live watch parties hosted by members of the creative teams will be held at each episode’s release. Tickets to Set Model Theatre are $35 and include access to all episodes. Tickets are available at or 215-592-9560.

“I’ve always had this fantasy that if 1812 ever did a Shakespeare play, it would be Henry V… On Ice!,” says Producing Artistic Director Jennifer Childs. “The opening scenes with the introduction of the court and the clowns would be like the Ice Capades, the battle at Agincourt would be played out by two rival hockey teams, and the ending love scene between Henry and the Princess of France would be a routine by a pair of ice dancers. This idea, while really fun to imagine, made zero sense financially, so it became this ridiculous thing that we liked to talk about but would never in a million years do. And then the pandemic hit. I was looking at one of our old set models and I thought… we couldn’t do it life-size, but I bet we could do it in miniature. I was also puzzling at the time about how to work with designers during quarantine and, somewhere between that and watching far too much reality television, this idea of a King Lear design challenge with multiple teams was born.”

Fifteen Philadelphia theater professionals were invited to the project and randomly divided into three teams, each consisting of a director, scenic designer, lighting designer, costume designer, and sound designer. Each team collaborated on a concept for an original approach to King Lear, designed to fit into a model box version of Plays & Players Theatre. The scope of each team’s concept was given no limits. The only requirements were that it should support the text, consider relevance, and 1812’s comedy mission. Director Briana Gause says, “When Jen Childs described her dream of wanting to do Henry V On Ice, I knew whatever shape this project took, it was going to be magical and fun. We took a tragic, oppressive, nonsensical Shakespearean piece and flipped it on its head. All our conversations centered around how to make this play joyful, accessible, and just plain entertaining, and now I can’t wait to share that same energy with our audiences!”

Set Model Theatre grew in three phases over six weeks in January and February. Phase One focused on determining a concept, with each team of five assigned randomly by name-draw. Nine characters from the play were included in each team’s concept and each team was assigned a different scene from the play. Phase Two focused on the design and construction of the assigned scenes including casting, rehearsing, and recording voice actors for each scene. Each production design developed just as it would for a full production with costume sketches and renderings, complete light plot, and sound designs featuring full scores for each scene, including the actor’s dialogue. Phase Three centered on tech and performance with each team being given two days in the 1812 Studio to have their scene captured by the Video Designer.   All directors and designers worked through tech remotely, giving direction, instruction, and feedback to the Stage Manager and Co-Creators who executed design plots and cues and operated all moving parts in each scene.  Director Tanaquil Márquez says, “It was an interesting process to tell the story with a focus on design. My usual practice is to explore with the actors first and hold off on finalizing design work too early as we discover so much in the room together. This Set Model Theatre process was an awesome new challenge and stretch of the imagination.” Jennifer Childs adds, “Even being in a virtual room with designers again while we were filming this series was so exciting.  Audiences usually only see the end product of the design process.  Part of the goal of this series is not only to have some fun but to really look at what goes into creating the worlds that we see on stage.”

Co-created and administered by:
Production Manager: Ben Levan
Technical Director: Lance Kniskern
Video Designer: Jorge Cousineau
Producing Artistic Director: Jennifer Childs

Featuring work by:
Directors: Tanaquil Márquez, Brett Ashley Robinson, and Briana Gause
Costume Designers: Natalia de la Torre, Jill Keys, and Leigh Paradise
Scenic Designers: Jennifer Hiyama, Colin McIlvaine, and Sara Outing
Sound Designers: Elizabeth Atkinson, Damien Figueras, and Daniel Ison
Lighting Designers: Shon Causer, Aly Docherty, and Maria Shaplin
Voice-over Performers: Brian Anthony Wilson, Pax Ressler, Jaedto Israel, Anita Holland, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Jo Vito Ramirez, Frank Jimenez, and Andrew Criss

Further information from 1812 Productions:

1812 Productions presents Set Model Theatre, June 14th thru July 11th, 2021 Pictured (l-r) (top row): Jennifer Childs (Producing Artistic Director), Thomas E. Shotkin (Stage Manager), Lance Kniskern (Technical Director), Jorge Cousineu (Video Designer) (second row): Damien Figueras (Sound Designer), Daniel Ison (Sound Designer), Sara Outing (Scenic Designer), Elizabeth Atkinson (Sound Designer) (third row): Natalie de la Torre (Costume Designer), Brett Ashley Robinson (Director), Jillian Keys (Costume Designer), Colin McIlvaine (Scenic Designer) (fourth row): Briana Gause (Director), Shon Causer (Lighting Designer), Tanaquil Márquez (Director), Jennifer Hiyama (Scenic Designer) (fifth row): Alyssandra Docherty (Lighting Designer), Leigh Paradise (Costume Designer), Ben Levan (Production Manager), Maria Shaplin (Lighting Designer)



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