1812 Productions Revives SET MODEL THEATRE

-Courtesy of Bryan Buttler Media Relations, LLC
Photo by Lance Kniskern


1812 Productions is pleased to revive their one-of-a-kind digital theatre experience, Set Model Theatre. Conceived at the height of national quarantine, Set Model Theatre is a documentary series that pulls back the curtain on the creative processes of 15 Philadelphia theatre designers as they work in distanced collaboration on a fantasy production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The end product is a set of three comedic interpretations of King Lear that celebrate the work of theatre designers, bring big laughs to audiences, and take advantage of the freedom of digital theatre.  The production will be offered to audiences to stream for free from January 10 to February 7, 2022.  This revival has been made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor.

“I’ve always had this fantasy that if 1812 ever did a Shakespeare play, it would be Henry V… On Ice!,” notes Producing Artistic Director Jennifer Childs. “The opening scenes with the introduction of the court and the clowns would be like the Ice Capades, the battle at Agincourt would be played out by two rival hockey teams, and the ending love scene between Henry and the Princess of France would be a routine by a pair of ice dancers.”

“This idea, while really fun to imagine, made zero sense financially, so it became this ridiculous thing that we liked to talk about but would never in a million years do,” adds Childs.  “And then the pandemic hit. I was looking at one of our old set models and I thought… we couldn’t do it life-size, but I bet we could do it in miniature.  I was also puzzling at the time about how to work with designers during quarantine and, somewhere between that and watching far too much reality television, this idea of a King Lear design challenge with multiple teams was born.”

Fifteen Philadelphia theater professionals were invited to the project and randomly divided into three teams, each consisting of a director, scenic designer, lighting designer, costume designer, and sound designer. Each team collaborated on a concept for an original approach to King Lear, designed to fit into a model box version of Philadelphia’s Plays & Players Theatre.  The scope of each team’s concept was given no limits. The only requirements were that it should support the text, consider relevance, and 1812’s comedy mission.

Set Model Theatre grew in three phases over six weeks in January and February 2021. Phase One focused on determining a concept, with each team of five assigned randomly by name-draw. Nine characters from the play were included in each team’s concept and each team was assigned a different scene from the play. Phase Two focused on the design and construction of the assigned scenes including casting, rehearsing, and recording voice actors for each scene. Each production design developed just as it would for a full production with costume sketches and renderings, complete light plot, and sound designs featuring full scores for each scene, including the actor’s dialogue. Phase Three centered on tech and performance with each team being given two days in the 1812 Studio to have their scene captured by the Video Designer.   All directors and designers worked through tech remotely, giving direction, instruction, and feedback to the Stage Manager and Co-Creators who executed design plots and cues and operated all moving parts in each scene.

Set Model Theatre was co-created and administered by Production Manager Ben Levan, Technical Director Lance Kniskern, Video Designer Jorge Cousineau, and Producing Artistic Director Jennifer Childs.  Tom Shotkin was the project Stage Manager and served as a narrator for the series. Featured designers and team leaders for Set Model Theatre include Directors: Tanaquil Márquez, Brett Ashley Robinson, and Suni B Rose, formerly Briana Gause; Costume Designers Natalia de la Torre, Jillian Keys, and Leigh Paradise; Scenic Designers Jennifer Hiyama, Colin McIlvaine, and Sara Outing;  Sound Designers Elizabeth Atkinson, Damien Figueras, and Daniel Ison; and Lighting Designers Shon Causer, Alyssandra Docherty, and Maria Shaplin. Voice-over Performers include Brian Anthony Wilson, Pax Ressler, Jaedto Israel, Severin Blake, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Jo Vito Ramirez, Frank Jimenez, and Andrew Criss.

For more information, or to stream Set Model Theatre, visit 1812productions.org.

Set Model Theatre Performance Details

Production Manager: Ben Levan
Technical Director: Lance Kniskern
Video Designer: Jorge Cousineau
Producing Artistic Director: Jennifer Childs
Stage Manager: Thomas E. Shotkin
Directors: Tanaquil Márquez, Brett Ashley Robinson, and Suni B Rose, formerly Briana Gause
Costume Designers: Natalia de la Torre, Jillian Keys, and Leigh Paradise
Scenic Designers: Jennifer Hiyama, Colin McIlvaine, and Sara Outing
Sound Designers: Liz Atkinson, Damien Figueras, and Daniel Ison
Lighting Designers: Shon Causer, Alyssandra Docherty, and Maria Shaplin.
Voice-over Performers: Brian Anthony Wilson, Pax Ressler, Jaedto Israel, Anita Holland, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Jo Vito Ramirez, Frank Jimenez, and Andrew Criss

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