We spoke with Adam Jehle, our Resident Scenic and Projector Designer, bringing his skills to the Dock Street Theatre once again in designing our set for THE PROM. Get your tickets to the show here, and read on to learn about his artistic process in creating the sets for this special musical!
Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and set design?
I have been doing theatre since middle school, always acting at first. It wasn’t until college that the world of scenic design was expanded for me, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The creative expression and the seemingly endless amount of ways to create a show differently was all incredibly exciting and fascinating to me. I’ve always been a visual storyteller, but scenic design really felt different. I eventually graduated from Missouri State University with a BFA in Design, Technology, and Stage Management and immediately started at Charleston Stage doing what I love.
Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?
I have always been a modernist and an expressionist when it comes to the theatre I enjoy designing. I like to create things that have never been seen before and are emotionally story driven. I want the audience to be immersed in the world I create – not just because it is beautiful, but because I want them to empathize with the characters, feel what they are feeling, and be inspired by the journey. It’s one of the many reasons it’s so fulfilling if I’ve done my job right.
What has inspired you as you create your set designs for The Prom? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s visual presentation of this special show?
For The Prom, there are two I really jumped into. One was this idea of “openness.” All the characters, whether they want to or not, experience or need to experience an open mindset in order to grow. So to translate that visually, I wanted to keep the set very open and spacious, leaving literal room for the characters to grow. It’s like they are plucked out of their fully realistic world and placed in this abstract open space where they are forced to open up to each other and grow.
The other concept we chose to focus on is the idea of “assumptions.” Again, almost everyone in the show has strong assumptions about those unfamiliar to them. The Broadway stars think the Indiana folks are backwater hicks, and the Indianians think the Broadway stars are narcissistic. Scenically, that means making the set and props almost stereotypical. What does Indiana look like stereotypically? Corn fields, disheveled schools and ghost towns. What does New York look like? Broadway signs, neon lights, and a more liberal atmosphere. So I tried to make all the scenic pieces recognizable – something you have seen before and would say, “oh yea that’s exactly what Applebee’s looks like.”
What has come easily as you design this show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?
The easiest part for me was creating the school. I made it look and feel like my own high school I grew up in. The hardest part for me, as it is for any big musical nowadays, is the large number of different locations. Musicals nowadays are like movies – every scene is in a different location that is very distinct from the others. The challenge is to create a set that weaves in and out so the audience can follow what is going on.
What are your favorite shows of all time?
My favorite shows are Macbeth, M. Butterfly, Titanic, Cabaret and Hamilton.
THE PROM, Charleston Stage’s MainStage opening musical, runs August 25 – September 17 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, visit click here.
Adam Jehle, originally from Nixa, MO, is the Resident Scenic/Projections Designer and Assistant Technical Director for Charleston Stage. His credits include Projection Design for Murder on the Orient Express and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Scenic Designs for The Addams Family – A New Musical, Native Gardens, Charlotte’s Web, Black Pearl Sings! and Kinky Boots for Charleston Stage. Technical Direction for all of Charleston Stages’ 45th Season. Other credits are scenic designing shows such as Cinderella and Mamma Mia! at Crane River Theatre in Nebraska, and Titanic, Cabaret, and Groundhog Day at Stagedoor Manor in upstate New York. He received his B.F.A. in Design, Technology and Stage Management from Missouri State University in 2020. Adam is excited to be Designing other shows for Charleston Stage this season including The Prom, Clue: On Stage, A Christmas Carol, and The Trip to Bountiful.