Rattlestick Stair: Sketches

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I was introduced to Daniella Topol by a dear friend after a performance of Ironbound. Mesmerized by the play, I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet the playwright and the director after the show.  I had never experienced anything like that performance in theater - vibrant, intelligent, intimate, off center and totally on edge.  And the acting was phenomenal.  Having recently moved to the West Village I was thrilled to learn that there was a creative sphere thriving in the center of my community.

As an architect I have worked on the design of museums, exhibits, towers, houses and even a new palace for the Ruler of Dubai. Although always interested in the narrative underpinnings of architectural design, I had never worked on set design and when Daniella asked me to host the first Rattlestick Actors/Writers lab, I jumped at the opportunity. For 3 days actors (I mean really good actors) sat in a circle in my living room and read pieces they were working on ranging from personal letters to poems to plays in progress to a screenplay. The idea was to create a safe place where actors were able to develop their creative voice through writing. The intensity, honesty, and support these artists gave each other's work was phenomenal. I mostly sat quietly observing in awe for the the first two days. At the end of the second day, Daniella gave me an assignment to put together my visual ideas for each of the playwrights to discuss on the following day. Basically Daniella grabbed me by the back of the next the threw me from the sidelines into the center of the discussion. I was so inspired-in one hour after everyone left I wrote up my set design ideas for each of the 6 plays, and was given to opportunity to discuss my visual ideas for the plays at the end of each reading.  It was a creative break through for me and one that emerged through being submerged in the Rattlestick process. I was hooked.

As an artist, it is critically important to become a part of a community that embraces your quirks as you find and re-find your creative voice.  Rattlestick is my community, it is where I go to test ideas, to be a apart of the swirl that propels you forward, calls you out, celebrates your voice and catches you when you fall.

This is what I propose:
WHAT IS BEYOND THE RED DOOR? Perhaps there are should be 2 red doors, the building entrance at the bottom of the stair and the theater entrance at the top of the stairs.

The sets up the next question: WHAT IS BETWEEN THE RED DOORS?
-All that glitters is gold - paint the north wall and sloped ceiling of the stair gold/copper.  I experimented with applying a gold paint with a coper wash over it - I think that is the effect we are looking for.

The terrazzo floor remains untouched - but fill the entrance area with a jute rug that turns up the first riser.  And then make the first riser gold - so the first step you take is different than all the others (it already is because it is made out of wood)

SHAKE THE STICK is a puzzle that you put together as you climb the stairs with single letters off center on the stair risers.

Wall of Words - the south wall is for words - written, projected, scribbled with chalk or light, permanent and temporary.  One way to structure it is to apply a horizontal reflective bands every 2 steps that stop and go.  I really like the idea that words can be superimposed over a reflective surface so the audience can see glimpses of themselves in the words.  Also, at the bottom of the stairs can be cast photos between the reflective strips

Moment of reflection before entering the theater - put a mirror on the ceiling at the top of the stairs. You will be able to see others entering the theatre from a different perspective as you climb up the stairs.  

Moment of reflection after leaving the theater - put a mirror on the south wall opposite the theater entrance.  I really like the idea of self refection after seeing a play.  Also you will see an image of yourself with the red door in the back ground which locks in the place and experience

Symbolic Curtain - every theatre needs a curtain - cover the door at the top of the stairs with a curtain- I see this as some type of mesh (metal or fabric) that can be translucent so you can perhaps see something behind it - image or text - very provocative but illusional.  Attach the curtain rod to a hing so it can rotate to cover the mirror when you need to use the storage room - or if the space becomes a box office - cover the box office and expose the curtain after the performance.

Scott Johnson