We are so grateful for the talent that Claire Brenia, Charleston Stage’s Shop Technician and Scenic Painter, brings to the table in designing the scenes for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL, running July 22-30. Hear from her about her design process and artistic styles below:
Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and scenic design?
I got involved in theatre during high school, through my visual arts classes. The theatre kids knew I could paint and recruited me to help them with painting flats for their shows, and from there I became involved in our productions’ scenic design, performance, and even some costume design for my own roles! By senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to go to college for scenic design and I studied at the University of Southern Mississippi where I received my B.F.A. in Theatre Design and Technology.
Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?
I tend to enjoy working on weirder, niche shows, because they lend themselves towards more interesting themes and employ unconventional theatre techniques (or, at least, I find that a designer has more leeway to do something unconventional).
I’m still figuring out my “style” of theatre, but of the shows I’ve worked on so far, the ones that have resonated with me most are those that are poetic, and/or pose challenging stories. I take a very literary approach when working on my shows, so it’s valuable to me when the scripts I design from have depth with their themes and an interesting use of language.
What has inspired you as you create your designs The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s visual presentation of this special show?
Early in our process, our director (who is also our Director of Education at Charleston Stage!) wanted the show to be recognizable for our younger audiences, and so she steered us in a direction that took inspiration from the Percy Jackson graphic novels.
In the scenic design, I didn’t want to directly copy imagery from the Percy Jackson graphic novels, but rather reference the larger framework of comic book conventions. In the set I allude to comic book page layouts, print media textures, and our painting style especially takes textural influence from the first Percy Jackson graphic novel’s art style.
What has come easily as you design the show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?
It was easy to establish the “setting” of the show as an amphitheater because as a location it ties together the setting of Camp Half-Blood with ancient Greek architecture, which is relatable and recognizable to an audience.
For me, it was challenging translating all of the play’s different locations into the setting of our amphitheater. I think we landed in a really interesting place, though, that invites the audience to suspend disbelief and gives our actors opportunities to explore more actions that tell us where we are in the show.
What are your favorite shows of all time?
My favorite musical is Ragtime, which I saw for the first time when I worked on it in 2019. I loved the music and thought the themes were very powerful. My favorite straight play is War Horse, produced by the U.K.’s National Theatre because it is such a cohesive design. My favorite show I have worked on is Blood Brothers, a weird rock-opera, synth-pop musical based on wives-tales in England.
Get your tickets to see THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL, running for a limited engagement July 22-30, at CharlestonStage.com.