GETTING LOST IN THE WOODS
Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart is the set and props designer for Snow White. From Toronto, Christine has designed for Young People’s Theatre, Tarragon, Saga Collectif. This is her first time working for MTYP.
Q The stage is set up as a thrust for Snow White (which means the audience is on three sides). I love the intimacy of that AND that the audience becomes more apart of the experience of seeing the show. What challenges and benefits does that provide for you as a designer?
A I work in non traditional spaces often, each configuration owes something different to audience experience as well as performer provocation and becomes just as important as any design element you put on stage. This is my second time working with Stephen (Director) and both times he asked – so what do you think about not doing it proscenium? It puts you right on the same page to challenge convention, rethink journey and find the essentials of the design elements as there really is no space to hide, in this case, when you have audience on three sides – both with sightlines and the proximity to the action that the audience can enjoy.
Q How does your set design bring the audience into the story?
A My hope is that the set design will draw an audience in visually, then position them back out again to provoke a more critical, visually driven view. What did I expect to see, and what do I see now? There are impressions and multiplicity – a ‘less is more’ approach. I find suggestion much more interesting then a reflection of reality. The story owes itself to being stripped back and finding new meaning in things you typically see in a more traditional production of Snow White in particular is the glass box. It confines Snow White, but in this design it’s exploded out and played with, liberated.
Q I love it when props can be used in more than one way. Do you have some examples of the props “multitasking” in the show?
A The woods and the trees exist in different ways in the design (coloured screens, real branches, and as a shadow) to break away from the idea that it’s an impermeable ‘thing’ in the story that everyone gets lost in or is scared of – but the trees in the set design are moveable and subject to the perception of who is interacting with it.
“Does that looks scary to you? It looks beautiful to me.” This multiplicity is a reflection of Snow White – she sees the beauty and colour in all things. A distinct object that is used in a multiple way is the Stepmother’s mirror becoming the glass box that Snow White sleeps in – it’s a satisfying and dramaturgically appropriate double useage.
Q How has your view of Snow White changed or morphed while working on this production?
A This production is inherently changing and morphing Snow White, but of course with it only being performed by two actors (Beverly and Tom) you somehow see more of the tropes for each of the characters as they work to keep them distinct but coming from the same performer – the Dwarves, Huntsman, Prince, Stepmother – the distinction between each of these character drives and flaws is really important to understanding the story no matter what character’s viewpoint you take or sympathise with. My favourite unappreciated cameos are the woodland animals (I mean, don’t the woods belong to them!) and here are all these people having a hoot and running around without really seeing them – but Natalie (live Bassist) reminds us that they are always there and they chime in at just the right moment. If you take a closer look at the set design you might see some of these little creature hiding on the stage!
Snow White runs from October 13-22 at MTYP. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office at 204-942-8898.