Now in its final week, First Folio Theatre’s The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe: A Love Story takes audiences on a unique theatrical journey as the play moves from room to room at Oak Brook’s Mayslake Peabody Estate. I caught up with the production’s scenic designer Kyle Gettelman to explore the inner-workings of this interesting work.
Janet Arvia: How do you go about handling scenic design when the action takes place in a house?
Kyle Gettelman: The process is really the same as doing any other design. Within a given space, we create a world in which an actor performs a play for an audience. The difference in this case is that instead of having one stage with multiple settings, we have multiple settings each with one set. Interestingly, the Peabody Mansion creates much of the scenery just by existing as it is. Because we utilize the historic rooms within the mansion, much of the design is focused on the details of dressing the rooms so they have all of the items needed to set the scene.
JA: How does it differ from designing a set on stage?
KG: In a way it is easier while at the same time it is more challenging. When designing for a stage, we quite often start with an empty stage and literally create everything. It is like working with a blank canvas. When you consider most of First Folio’s indoor productions, literally everything has to be designed and built from the stage up. For this play, there is a certain level of ease as the various rooms of the mansion provide us with a background that by the nature of being a historic building cannot be altered. That being said, the challenge is that we have to work within these rooms to create settings to convey the story of the play.
JA: What type of research went into creating a home that is supposed to belong to Edgar Allen Poe?
KG: In researching the play, it was much less about trying to recreate the home that Poe lived and more about trying to create the environment his stories existed in. It is worth noting however, that this is a remount of the Madness of Edgar Allen Poe. The fun part of working with the remount is that the research and the energy are focused into putting up what was seen before, but with some new artistic variances and adaptations that can allow a scene to experienced in a way it might not have ever been experienced before.
JA: How do sets affect the performances of actors as well as the experience of the audience?
KG: For the actors, the set needs to become a place to do their work. It needs to be a place where the characters they portray can exist as comfortably as if it were there own home. For the audience, the set needs to enhance the experience without taking center stage. The interesting part of this production is that because the rooms in general are so small, the audience and the actors get to exist very intimately, almost as though they are in the same world.
Audiences can experience this intimate theatrical setting until November 4. For tickets and more information, visit www.firstfolio.org.