Initial Design Ideas

Undertaking the lighting design for The Laramie Project turned out to be an enormous project. The design concept grew from the ideas on the set designer's scene breakdown and the short phrases below into an massively complicated finished plot of mostly isolation specials and pattern washes.

Excerpts from intitial design notes:

Scene 1 (tight focus pools):

  • Character's first line and narrator intro spoken as light fades up
  • Once they've been revealed, each Character either disappears or fades into blue-out (Director's preference?)

The play has 3 sections:
1. Description of Laramie before Matt's death (eg. barbershop on Main St. next to the hardware store and diner, typical small American town -- the whole nine yards)

2. Description of Laramie during and immediately after (ugliness revealed -- sharply divided: parents against children, sister against brother, one faction pitted against another

3. Laramie seemingly healing -- but audience is left wondering if community really heals or just covers over the ugliness again.

The Laramie

Lighting Design

Project
(Above photo by Matt Gentry, Roanoke Times. Used with permission)

"The Word," Moment 11

These sections divide roughly along act lines:

I. The perfect little USA town (order)

II. Image of the perfect little town shattered

III. Recovery.. or maybe not..

  • As play progresses from section 1 to 2 & 3, patterns slowly move from angular to smooth with hint of angular underneath.
  • Little to no color -- Complete theatricality -- Seeing snippets of these people's minds and lives. Some things they'll tell willingly, others that they'd rather stayed hidden.

----

Concentration on keeping it flowing smoothly -- ONLY NOTICEABLE BREAK SHOULD BE INTERMISSION!

A town's inner monologue surrounding Matt Shepard's death

Storytelling light, devoid of place or time

Mottled or patterned light

One idea of "mottled or patterned light" for Moment 2

Several ideas for "isolation spots"

"The Fence," Moment 16

"Gem City of the Plains" Moment 21

Concept Sketch for the angel wings moment
Moment 39 as performed

Angel wings --

Our original idea was to find some way of abstracting this idea and make it happen on stage. The director and I agreed that boxing Phelps in a small square of light with a dark spot in the middle while hilighting Romaine downstage center would work wonderfully. This would hilight the angel idea, yet not put more light or attention on Phelps. The idea was eventually cut due to a lack of technology to make it happen. The compromise was to kill the light on Phelps entirely while still hilighting the funeral in the background and separating Romaine a bit from that action. The neon posters Phelps was holding and the ambient light were enough to ensure that he was lit for theatrical purposes.

Matt Shepard's Funeral, Moment 39

"After seeing Fred Phelps portesting at Matthew's funeral and finding out that he was coming to Laramie for the trial of Russell Henderson I decided that someone needed to stand toe to toe with this guy and show the diffferences.... that there is a better way of dealing with that kind of hatred. So our idea is to dress up like angels. And so we have designed an angel outfit -- for our wings are HUGE ... and there'll be ten to twenty of us that are angels -- and what we're gonna do is we're gonna encircle Phelps... and because of our big wings -- we are gonna COMPLETELY block him." -- Romaine Patterson

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Cathy L. Darrow
Lighting Design & Stage Management
cathy@cathybowren.com
8301 44th Street, Lyons, IL

Last Updated 7-30-2003