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Designer's Notebook

by Kevin Depinet

Amy and I began with the idea of a small basement junkshop. A basement served our purposes twofold: it seemed to appropriately illustrate the social position of these men—either perceived or actual—and it allowed us to add visual interest by suggesting the structure of the entire building. I began the process by trying to stay as gritty and real as I could and my earlier designs, like the one pictured, were appropriate in presenting a recognizable location. However, we felt the space needed to go beyond the walls and be a bit less prescribed. The set became a balancing act—not too big, not too small, not too clean, and not too dirty. I toured many resale shops throughout Chicago and found many that were trendy and clean and a few that were downright shady. The balance of this junkshop was precarious, it could not indicate any sort of trendy appeal however it needed to be an open working shop, ready for customers. I wanted the place to feel dark, forgotten, and dusty but not to the extent that this shop would be a necessarily dangerous place—I wanted it to feel more like a basement than a condemned building. The clumsy staircase entrance and the skeletal nature of the set contain these characters in the bowels of this building and the labyrinth of rooms and rows and rows of merchandise. The requirements of the play are minimal, and the shop itself begs to feel cramped and small. The stage, however, is deceivingly large and trying to fill a large space with small needs is challenging. The black portal that surrounds the set helps to focus and define the playing area and allows the space behind to fade into black. The set recedes in clarity and definition as it recedes in space creating a sense of uncertainty—did these men choose this way of life because of who they inherently are or have their lives degraded because of their surroundings?