Topdog/Underdog

Nashville Repertory Theatre
Johnson Theatre at Tennessee Performing Arts Center
February 2019

Direction by Jon Royal
Costume Design by Colleen Garatoni
Lighting Design by Darren E. Levin
Scenic Design by Gary C. Hoff
Sound Design by Ned Singh
Stage Management by Teresa Driver

Topdog/Underdog follows the challenges and triumphs of the brothers Booth and Lincoln, named after two key figures in American history. Suzan-Lori Parks Pulitzer Prize winning script explores challenging family dynamics and the struggles that often exist between siblings as each search for their respective paths.  Their journey highlights the pain of loss, the power of family, the concept of legacy and inheritance, and the harsh realities of human nature. The Nashville Repertory Theatre production featured Broadway/National Tour actor Eddie George.

The lighting design concept for Topdog/Underdog draws heavily from the work of African American painters, especially Steve Huston, Hughie Lee Smith, and Jacob Lawrence. These artists depict African American Culture with great texture, incredible use of color, and simplicity. A great challenge of the production is to navigate six scenes which all travel through variations of evening/night.  I utilized a system of diagonals and flat front light to provide the angle flexibility to create multiple times of day.

The aforementioned angles combined with strong color choice/color theory provided the most obvious connection to the research.  I utilized systems of unsaturated amber, lavender, and cyan to anchor the show while providing for the time of day flexibility yet allowing for high contrast moments. Texture also plays a key role in the nuance of the production.  I utilized a system of down texture to replicate the texture of the wood grain, which also allows for intense isolation at any location onstage.  Additional systems of warm, cool, and neutral texture across the upstage walls adding additional emphasis to the wall paper and paint treatments.

Timing and musicality of the cues is of the utmost importance.  The story and script utilize the pace and rhythm of the monte card trick to alter the pace and flow of the show.  This also dictated my cue structure: punctuating and emphasizing the speed of throwing cards, juxtaposing the lyrical nature of the scenes depicting everyday life.