“It’s confining but vast, tranquil but dangerous, simple and complex”… Set design through the eyes of Tony Ferrieri

Today on the Q-Blog we have a special interview with Tony Ferrieri, our Set Designer for The Golden Dragon.

The Golden Dragon marks his 16th year and 30th production with Quantum.  Awards and milestones include 33 years with City Theatre, New Works Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, “Designer of the Year” by the City Paper and Post-Gazette, “Frankel Award,” “Fred Kelly Award for Outstanding Achievement,” “Harry Schwalb Excellence in the Arts Award,” features in Live Design and Stage Directions, and set designs for 478 productions. Recent Quantum designs include last season’s The End of the Affair and Twelfth Night.

Tony Ferrieri -- His cabaret setting for City Theatre's "Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir" is the 475th production design of his career.
Photo from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 

Q-Blog: What is different about designing shows in Quantum’s spaces as opposed to a more traditional stage?

Ferrieri: Well, the biggest difference is you’re always starting from scratch in a barren space.  Not only is the scenic design about designing a set to serve the production, but a big part of the design is, how does the design compliment the space, rather than be disparaging to the space.  Another big part of the design is how does the audience relate to the space, where is the audience seating placed, and logistically fitting the proper number of seats required by the box office’s ticket sales goals.  And there is also the consideration related to seating of audience access, disability accessibility issues, fire codes, building codes and overall general audience safety.  In a traditional theatre space everything beyond the scenic design of a “set” is not even a part of the equation.

Q-Blog: Do you have any favorite designs that you’ve done for Quantum?

Ferrieri: With The Golden Dragon marking my 30th production with Quantum, that’s really a hard one!  I would have to say some of my favorites are probably The Howling Miller, Dark of the Moon and The Crucible because of their environmental feel.  The creation of those designs in the environment of the outdoors with nature as the surrounding background I think worked really well overall.   And as far as designs created at an indoor space I think I would say Therese Raquin, Dogface, Kafka’s Chimp and The End of the Affair.  Sorry, there’s just no way to pick one!Image
The Howling Miller, 2010

 

Q-Blog: What about The Golden Dragon drew you to work on it and inspired your design?

Ferrieri: I think mostly the piece itself.  The writing is very unusual and interesting.  Also the location…on a lake…how cool will that be!  Karla has a great eye for finding spaces that are very diverse and, in sometimes odd ways, so fitting to each production.  There is something about that lake that is perfect for this production.  It’s confining but vast, tranquil but dangerous, simple and complex, and it has an Asian feel, almost Kabuki- like…all of which just seem to be right!

Image
Lake Carnegie

 

Q-Blog:  What was the biggest challenge about designing a floating set?

Ferrieri: Basically, determining the engineering of it and finding the materials to allow us to be able to float the platforms.  R.J., Quantum’s Director of Production, had to do a lot of research to find the “billets” we are using to float our platforms – not only where to get them, but where to get them cheaply or even better for “free”!  Once we had the billets it was a matter of testing out our theory.  So we created a sample floating platform and tested it out…success!  Then with a bit of modification to make adjustments for the “resting” height and the determined size of the floating platforms, we tested our modified version and again…success!  A little bit of luck and a little bit of engineering and we were on our way!

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