The Secret Garden

Theatre West Summer Repertory
Little Theatre at WNCC
July 2017

Direction by Lisa Betz and Patrick Newell
Choreography by Tiffany Tabor Mackrill
Lighting Design by Darren E. Levin
Scenic Design by Kris Kontour
Stage Management by Kari Warfield

The Secret Garden was staged as a concert version by Theatre West Summer Repertory Theatre. The show follows Mary Lennox and her journey to reunite her broken extended family after the death of her parents.  The Secret Garden is set in the early 1900’s in various locations in the Yorkshire countryside.  This particular production was presented as a staged concert with full costume support for principles, a chorus of approximately 35 voices, but with very little scenery. The lack of scenic elements as a result of the concert style staging also provided a great challenge to the lighting design, especially in the creation of time of day.

A great challenge of this production is the architecture of the space.  The space is a relic of the early 1960’s, and features large circular architectural acoustic shells over the stage and auditorium seating.  These “shells” impede the traditional lighting angles utilized to light a production.  In studying the space, I was forced to make concessions in the design, and rely on less dimensional angles of light for the production (front light and down light only in many cases).  Despite the lack of angles, it was still essential that the design possess dimension and as much nuance as possible.

To counter these challenges, I utilized two systems of front light for simple illumination of the stage.  This gave flexibility to the color story and time of day.  A system of led down light provided punches of color and important time of day information. A system of front specials and down template specials allowed for isolation and the creation of different sized spaces that could become isolated rooms in the manor, or the expansive gardens on the estate.

The chorus was omnipresent throughout the production, and became an important element in the lighting compositions.  Seated far upstage, the chorus was lit with a template wash, side wash, and led color wash.  This allowed for the chorus to become the “backdrop” of the production, communicating essential time of day information during the principle scenes.  The side wash and led down wash also provided adequate illumination and a dimensional composition to the chorus scenes.