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Williamstown Theatre Festival

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

INTERVIEW | Alexander Dodge, Scenic Designer

[Dramaturg] Amy Lipman: How do you usually start a set design?

[Scenic Designer] Alexander Dodge: I usually start with the text and I familiarize myself with the play. I talk with the director about where they want to go and what kind of response they got when they first started working on the piece, and I take it from there. Usually, ideas spill out pretty quickly.

AL: For this design, did you visit The Knickerbocker [a restaurant] in New York?

AD: I did, actually. We ended up taking a lot of pictures there to use on the set; it was sort of an unusual situation. When I got there, I saw a lot of stuff that would work with the piece and it was great to have that first-hand research.

AL: I had a chance to see your model. Could you talk about the sliding panels? What significance do those hold for the progression of the characters?

AD: Initially, we discussed how the play is very static, very talky. So the director and I were looking at ways to include movement in the transitions, like a cinematic wipe. The panels serve as transitions, and show a passage of time.

AL: You have a history at Williamstown, what keeps you coming back?

AD: I started out here when I was intern myself, and I really enjoy being up here with the people and the whole atmosphere of the festival. I find it recharging, and everybody works their asses off, and that’s kind of the fun of it. I have a great time doing it. It’s beautiful up here, it’s like a vacation from the city.

AL: You work mostly in New York?

AD: Yes, I’m based out of New York, but I work internationally as well as all over the country.

AL: Is there a part of your style that you consider signature?

AD: I get asked that every now and then and I find it hard for me to pinpoint. I try to be as eclectic as possible. When I’m doing my work, I approach it freshly, and I consider that a challenge for me. Looking over my work, I see themes that I’ve found work well.

AL: You’ve worked in opera, dance, and theatre. Do you have a favorite?

AD: I love to work with music, and so opera’s always great, the musical scale makes everything epic. Working on classic plays is fun. I like being able to stretch my legs and do different things, I think that’s exciting.

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