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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

October 15, 2009

Ghostly Lighting and Set Design for Blithe Spirit

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:36 pm

by Stefanie Christensen, Lighting and Set Designer of Blithe Spirit

When designing a show like Blithe Spirit, set in a real home with characters having real problems and situations, and then the story having so much fantastic ghostly elements, the scenery and lights had to be considered together to achieve the right balance needed.  When we first meet Charles and Ruth, their home had to appear as a normal mid-century English home of a well-off writer and his wife having a nice dinner party with friends and acquaintances. 

Much of the furniture I chose came from the Art Deco design period or was a reproduction of pieces from that time.  The twist came with our color scheme, black and white.  This was a fun challenge for me to find the right balance and interest with only two colors.  Now, I have to admit that a few hints of grey snuck into the design as well, but for the most part, I stayed true to the non-chromatic theme.  By not using any other colors for the set, we also carried this idea into the characters’ costumes, designed by Barbara Young.  By doing this, there was a great impact visually when the ghosts finally appeared on stage, in full color.  They really looked like they were from another world and didn’t belong in the world of Charles’s home. 

The lighting design also helped with the ghostly entrances.  When something was about to happen, fans, which were positioned backstage, started the curtains fluttering.  The lights dimmed and ghoulish shadows appeared from outside the room projected on the walls and curtains.  Massive flashes of lighting also accompanied ominous thunder.  These were some of the ways we made the entrances of the ghostly characters really stand out from the rest.

The other fun challenge this show presented to me as a designer came at the end of the play when the two ghosts had been exorcized from the house, or had they?  Well not quite, the unseen spirits proceeded to destroy the house in an attempt to have Charles join them on the other side.  Do you want to know how to have a set completely destroyed each night by unseen forces and still be able to put everything back together for the show the next night?  This is just some of the theatre magic I won’t share the secrets to.  But I hope you’ll come see the show and try to figure out the tricks behind the magic.  Only 4 performances left! 

Happy Halloween!


(In this photo, black and white colors are featured in the set and Charles' costume. The ghosts wear purple costumes.)



(In this scene, Elvira and Ruth tear the room apart while Charles dodges a curtain rod.)


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