Two separate plays on one bill: two separate casts, two separate directors. But one costumer, one lighting designer, and–most importantly–one stage, which must quickly convert from ancient Israel to a department store in 1945.
When Megan Arnold and I (Lauren Nichols) began talking about the stage design for our two versions of Ruth, we were hunting for a motif which would carry over from one play to the other, some visual element which would silently tie the two plays together. Eventually we landed on the idea of trees. After all, the opening line of The Redemption of Ruth references trees:
“A shoot with come forth out of Jesse’s stump,
a fruitful branch will grow up from his roots.”
It didn’t seem likely that trees would show up in a department store, however. So we called on our graphic designer friend Jordan Reynolds to come up with a logo for Fields Department Store, which would include a tree. He graced us with five or six choices, and we landed on the one whose tree I thought we could actually create in 3-D for the biblical story.
The logo shows up in Act 2 on the front of the department store counter, on the tile floor, and on Boaz Fields’ lapel.
In Act 1, there are three trees onstage. Creating them was a bit more complicated than a logo design.
- First we enlarged the image of the tree.
- Then we traced it onto a blank transparency.
- We projected it onto a wall with an old-school overhead projector.
- With a huge piece of paper taped to the wall, we traced the image to create a stencil.
- We traced the image onto double thicknesses of donated cardboard, about 5′ x 4′.
- The three trees were cut out, and attached to wooden bases and vertical supports.
- We covered each tree in a layer of papier-mache, then added texture with crumpled craft paper.
- We finished with a final layer of papier-mache, and then lightly painted the trunks in two shades of brown paint.
- Meanwhile, we also cut out the leaf portion of the trees, painted both sides (since the cardboard curled when only one side was painted), and nailed those pieces onto the wooden support.