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How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
How I Learned to Drive Set Design
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How I Learned to Drive Set Design


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I created this Power Point presentation to show my classmates in DRAM 120 at UNC-CH the set model I made for Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive. Enjoy! (But please remember that this is MY …

I created this Power Point presentation to show my classmates in DRAM 120 at UNC-CH the set model I made for Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive. Enjoy! (But please remember that this is MY intellectual property.)

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  • For my Creative Interpretation of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned To Drive I chose to design the set. For the background of this slide you see the model car I made for the closing scene. It is a ‘56 Bel Air. Throughout the set you will see a theme of minimalism, especially in the portions of the set where Li’l Bit does not have much interaction with Peck. To me the play does not call for extravagance, rather a basic set should be used so that the emphasis is on the characters. I wanted the set to be traditional, going with what the playwright intended because I found it to be very affecting the way it was written. Of course, the budget is always a significant factor in the production of the play as well.
  • Most of the play takes place in the “car,” two seats facing front that the audience should imagine as a Buick Riviera. For the set I chose to have more of a bench, a single seat so that in certain scenes Peck and Li’l Bit would have no obstacle to getting as close to each other as needed, especially in the scene after the Celebration Dinner when she lies her head on his shoulder.
  • Here is another picture of the Riviera, not as close up. You can see that the “car” is located downstage center. As you can see there is much space near the front of the stage without any furnishings. The characters will speak their monologue as close to the front of the stage as possible, in a spotlight. All other lights will be out, so that the set does not detract from the acting. With the set I have designed, the lighting coordinator will need to understand when and how to illuminate certain parts of the set while other parts should remain unseen.
  • Here we see the basic set up for the kitchen. There is a countertop with a sink and a cookie jar. There is a trash can and a dining table with five chairs and a table cloth. A lot of the scenes take place in the kitchen, so there will be a few slight variations as you will see in the next couple slides. If you look closely you can see the plates on the table. This is the set-up for the typical family dinner. I thought it was important to include plates for this scene because after Li’l Bit storms out Big Papa asks for her plate. I think the director would find it better to seat the men in the chairs that are more upstage so they don’t overshadow the women. This is also the reason that the chairs are slightly pulled out from the table.
  • For the scenes where Li’l Bit and her mother and grandmother talk about sex, the plates should be removed from the table as no one will be eating. The most important addition is the cookie jar, from which Big Papa will get a cookie on his way out of the kitchen. Grandma will have the broom to shoo Big Papa out and the cast-iron fry pan the Lucy mentions should also be visible.
  • In another slight variation of the kitchen, the table is empty with a single chair facing out. Li’l Bit may or may not sit in the chair when she comes to talk to Uncle Peck who is washing the dishes on Christmas. The playwright includes stage directions that say Peck continues to work on the pots. For this reason, I have pots in and beside the sink, as well as a dishcloth that Peck would be using. You might be able to see the faucet I created as well.
  • On the other side of the stage from the kitchen, I have constructed a wall (the big white rectangle on the right side of this picture). To me this wall is important because it is the place that Li’l Bit storms to when she storms out of dinner, but also it serves as the high school. The wall is important because it defines the hallway where Jerome has his “allergy attack”. If the director would like, I could add a poster or something else that could be easily removed and thrown behind the wall. For the dance another fabric “wallpaper” is pulled over this white fabric. See bottom right picture. And when the girls are “showering” they can pull the towels out from behind the wall.
  • Another reason I chose a more basic set is that the playwright chose not to divide this play into scenes. To Vogel this was a very important part of the play. She intended to break from traditional “male” play structure. However, this presents some challenges when executing the play. There isn’t much time for a change of setting. Therefore, less furniture would be easier to get onto the stage in the time allotted. In this picture you see the placement of the smaller table. All tables and chairs are on well-oiled wheels, so that they move quickly, easily, and quietly. The furniture will be behind the curtain (and/or wall) until just before the scene starts. Like the other scenes, this scene requires that the lights only illuminate the small table and two chairs, the wall, “car,” and kitchen would not be seen.
  • Here we can see the table up close. I chose to use a red table cloth and include candles to make the scene feel romantic. On the table you can also see two menus, Li’l Bit’s martini glass an Peck’s glass with his iced tea. The waiter might hold a napkin and/or serving tray, but he will bring these props out on stage with him.
  • After the celebration dinner scene, the table, chairs, and smaller items are removed. In preparation for the photo shoot which follows the “Sock Hop” scene these items (imagine me pointing at the picture here) will be wheeled out onto the stage, again quietly and in the dark. With a quite, practiced crew the change may seem like magic to the audience members. I have constructed a stool on which Li’l Bit sits for the poses. The strange-looking black and white figure on the right of this picture is the back lighting, which will become obvious to the audience when Peck goes over to adjust the lights. Peck’s comment about the lights warming up was the reason I felt that backlighting was important. Music is another component that Vogel finds central to her plays, therefore I did my best to construct a reel-to-reel, something that fell out of use fifteen years before I was born. The reel-to-reel sits on the same table that was used for the scene in the restaurant, minus the table cloth. Peck would stand behind the tripod. From this location he would easily be able to observe Li’l Bit standing against the wall at the dance.
  • Again, in the center of the stage furniture will be brought in from behind the curtains/wall. This is a picture of the hotel room that Li’l Bit and Peck met at after her first semester of college. I chose a fabric for the bedding that I thought would remind the audience of the sixties, with brightly colored flowers, hearts, and peace signs. Next to the bed is a table with an ice bucket holding a bottle of champagne and two chilled champagne flutes. The champagne is very important as Li’l Bit has become an alcoholic. Next to the table is a mini-fridge containing a can of ginger ale for Uncle Peck. A mini-fridge may not be necessary, but I think that it would be useful because Peck says “let me get a ginger ale, my bubbly.” He needs somewhere to get the can from while Li’l Bit downs her champagne. I think this is the most detailed setting that I constructed. I wanted it to be that way because for one it is the most recent memory, but also because this is the last time that Li’l Bit saw Peck before his death. She has replayed this thought over in her head repeatedly, so the details would be nearly true-to-life in her memory. You will also see the end of the kitchen counter. The kitchen table and the rest of the counter are hidden with the curtain. At the end of the scene, after Li’l Bit walks out on him forever, Peck moves from the bed to the counter where the male chorus member serves him shots.
  • In this picture you can see the shot glasses.
  • The final scene calls for a different car. This time we will use a real 1950s car. For my construction of the set I was able to find and build a 1956 Bel Air model car. (I’d be beaming if this presentation were in the classroom. I was impressed with myself about building the car.) I think the chose of the car is so significant because it has so much symbolism for Peck. Li’l Bit doesn’t let go of Peck even as an adult and her driving this car would express much more than her actions. If I had the opportunity to build this set for the performance I hope I would be able to find a ‘56 Bel Air then too.
  • Transcript

    • 1. to D rive I L ea r n edHow Written by: Paula Vogel Set Design by: Billie Ryan
    • 2. Buick RivieraThe lap rug needed tocover a drunk Li’l Bit inthe scene after she andPeck have dinner.
    • 3. Cookie JarTrash can Sink
    • 4. On Men Sex and Women Broom
    • 5. Li’l Bit’sThirteenthChristmas
    • 6. Hallway The Sock Hop
    • 7. A Celebration Dinner
    • 8. at the hotel restaurant...
    • 9. PhotoShoot
    • 10. Shot glasses
    • 11. Driving in Today’s World