The Scenic Design of The Night Watcher

Charlayne Woodard’s moving one-woman play about the relationships she developed with her godchildren kicks off Studio’s 2013-14 Special Events Series. This highly personal show, based on Woodard’s own experiences, examines the impact that a non-parental role model can have on a child’s life. The transformative power of such a connection is twofold: not only does Woodard help shape these young people’s lives, but her own identity shifts as she relates to the many children she lends her love, advice, and life to.

Woodard and director Bart DeLorenzo rehearsed the show in Los Angeles and will resume technical rehearsals at Studio Theatre at the end of October. Meanwhile, the preparations in DC are well on their way, with a focus on realizing Luciana Stecconi’s set that evokes the universe of the play. Argentinian set designer Stecconi is a former student of Studio’s Director of Design Debra Booth, who is overseeing the preparations. Booth remembers Stecconi’s school years fondly, saying, “Luciana worked harder than any student I’ve ever had. Her work is exquisite; she’s a terrific designer with a strong background in architecture and fine arts, very visual.” According to Booth, designing one-person shows is not easy; it requires careful calibration of the scale so the set supports rather than overwhelms the scenic picture and the performer. The other challenge is to make the space right for the particular actor. Stecconi has done multiple designs for one-person shows in the past, and Booth suspects she has a knack for it because she is “a careful listener with a keen eye for a performer’s idiosyncrasies.”

The Night Watcher set reflects this special ability in being “a memory collection.” The main ingredients of that collection are boxes modeled after the small-scale installations of artist Joseph Cornell, who worked with found objects, reframing ephemera as art. In Stecconi’s design, these boxes, attached to a metal supporting structure, display various objects that populate and illustrate Woodard’s story. The boxes fall into three major categories based on their content. The first contains objects: a bunny, a rose, coffee cups; the second features images of landscapes and locations that reflect the different settings of various vignettes; the third set contains portraits of the children featured in Woodard’s stories. By lighting different boxes at different times, the set aims to make the space alive and fluid, capturing and augmenting Woodard’s extraordinary energy.

Elizabeth Dinkova