We’re pulling back the curtain to give you a sneak peek into the production process. Over the next few posts, you’ll hear from members of the cast and creative team as they prepare for the world premiere of Alice and the New Wonderful. Let’s set the stage. We had a chance to sit down with Brian Kessler (BK), Scenic Designer for Alice and the New Wonderful. Check out how he took the world of Alice from page to stage.
Q: What inspired the set design for “Alice & the New Wonderful” and how did you approach the task of bringing the story to life visually?
A: So this design was a very different approach for me versus my normal design process. For this show, we read thru the script as a production team and would stop every time we got to a change and discuss what our thoughts were and what we saw.
So having this unified vision from the start really made the process much easier as we were all on the same page. From that point, it became about how to create pieces that could be in this plain drab world but also be used if fun colorful ways for other scenes knowing space limitations at the DFT. which is how most set pieces are used in both worlds of the show.
Q: How did you collaborate with the production team to ensure that the set design complemented the overall vision for the show?
A: This process of me having Asana (which one day I will fully understand) help each other see our thoughts and visions really helped with the collaborations in the production team. From our first meeting, we walk through the show and I feel every scene is a compilation of everyone’s thoughts and ideas
Q: Can you talk about any specific challenges or obstacles that you faced during the set design process and how you overcame them?
A: One of the biggest challenges/obstacles to me was that we all know the story of Alice and Wonderland and how magical Wonderland was. Finding new ways to bring that magical feel into this production.
Q: What is the most striking or memorable aspect of the set design for “Alice & the New Wonderful” and why?
A: For me, it was really when I was doing the texture paint treatments on the set pieces in person. When doing the computer renderings I really got into the different ways layering spray colors looked. With a computer, it is very uniform and when doing spray treatments in person it is so random and easy to manipulate the colors.
Q: How did you incorporate the theme of reintegration into the real world into the set design, and what choices did you make to convey this visually?
A: From early on I wanted to find ways to make as many set pieces appear in both worlds. A lot of them do but each one has a different treatment but still bares resemblance to the other world. Like brick walls that have slanted bricks or Alice’s bed that is all a display in Maddie’s.
Q: Can you describe your creative process when designing a set for a theatrical production and how it differs from designing for other mediums?
A: Most of my design experience is in theatrical productions, however, from the little I have done a lot of the process is the same. First, you want to get to know the space and content of the project and then from there, it’s going into research looking for different imagery that speaks to your thoughts, such as fabrics, textures, colors, and patterns. then it becomes about bringing your visions to life.
Check out Alice & the New Wonderful at the Detroit Film Theater May 20-21, 2023.