You’re in Rome. Before you is a baroque suite in an expensive hotel overlooking the fountain of the Piazza di Spagna, the cascading beauty of the Spanish Steps. With the desperate and complex characters of J.T. Rogers’ Madagascar, you almost feel trapped inside the hotel room, trying to look around them, beyond them, to get a view of the world. But like the play’s characters June, Lillian, and Nathan, you’re in a shrouded place, a place obscured by secrets.
The challenge for Scenic Designer Steffi Mayer-Staley and Assistant Scenic Designer Atticus Adams was this: transport that cast—and the audience—to this suite on the Spanish Steps. With the selection of The Carlyle building in the heart of Downtown, half their work was done. Three towering columns dominate the old Union National Bank lobby, where the play will be staged, and the room’s classic, marble-inlaid architecture recalls another era.
The shrouds also cover the lower part of the lobby’s big windows, giving audiences a view of the surrounding architecture without the visual noise of modern signs and lights. “It will feel subterranean,” Mayer-Staley says. She and Adams draw a parallel between the underground feeling of the space and the play’s references to the Vestal Virgins. If a Virgin were found to have violated her oath of celibacy, she would be buried alive.
Steffi Mayer-Staley, an associate professor of Stage Design at Point Park University, has worked as a designer for a number of national, international, and Pittsburgh-based theater companies, including three Quantum Theatre productions. Atticus Adams is primarily a sculptor and installation artist whose work has been shown nationally, and is currently on exhibit at be Galleries in Lawrenceville. Madagascar is the artists’ first collaboration since Quantum Theatre’s After Mrs. Rochester in 2006.