Switching It Up!: Behind the 4×4 Set Design

By Gabrielle Stephenson, Set Designer for 4×4

Set Designer Gabrielle Stephenson and ATD Ethan Weathersbee strike the Backstage and Other Stories (show 1) set to then become the set setup for Stiff (show 2).

If you got to see Wayfinding, you actually got to partially see the sets for 4×4 in person – we decided to recycle and reimagine it.  The main inspiration for this series was stages without any dressing: no set onstage, no temporary risers for performances, no lit drops, simply the original architecture/bones of a theater.  4×4, at its core, is truly a celebration of theater and art continuing to push forward through the uncharted waters of what 2020 has brought us.  

Part of the challenge on designing a unit set for four completely different shows was figuring out ways to differentiate each from the other with minimal yet creative changes.  The Wayfinding set was repurposed in this case so that more budget could be allocated towards said unique changes you will see throughout the run.  We kept the back wall & moving wall structures but refaced them with faux brick, added 2 side walls to maximize projection surface options, and removed all the fabric from the metal structures to suggest truss structures that you would typically see in wings of theaters behind the curtains.  We also repainted and laid down a faux wood floor, one of many elements that will change before the next show, Chorus of Bears, comes to the stage.

For Backstage and Other Stories, we utilized every small trick in the book, with rolling furniture, flashing proscenium lights around the center moving wall, fishing wire that hung frames containing pictures from Terry Burrell’s respected career and moving the red house curtains in and out at times.  I wanted Stiff to feel more intimate, so we pushed the two smaller platforms together, shifted the moving walls more downstage, brought the house curtains in, and added some different dressing to give it a more relaxed ambiance. 

Stay tuned to see the exciting further changes in the remainder of the productions!

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