Designing The Effect: A Love Story in Disguise

Lucy Prebble’s pharmaceutical romance shakes up the world of conventional meet-cutes, introducing its characters while they’re volunteering for a clinical trial. For Scenic Designer Luciana Stecconi, designing an environment for The Effect posed the challenge of creating a space that captured the clinical trial experience while leaving room for the deeply human, emotional aspects of the play. Studio’s Marketing and Communications Apprentice Hanya Bruner spoke with Luciana about her inspiration for the production’s design and what drew her to this project.

While the medical world and the world of a clinical trial in particular, might be unfamiliar to many people, Luciana was adamant that the story should never feel out of reach or alienate the audience. Her intention was to create an environment that is captures the modern feel of a medical facility. “We wanted to ground it in reality,” she said. “You need to relate to what’s happening.” In her research for this production, Luciana took inspiration from contemporary medical environments as well as art installations that evoke the florescent lights and white-on-white components of medical facilities; the words she echoes throughout our conversation are “sterile,” “minimal,” and “clean.”

Another unique challenge of this production is the need to create a set that provides context and specificity about the setting while providing a canvass for the work of other designers. The show incorporates specific lighting and projection elements to help create the feel of a clinical trial. For Luciana’s design, it was essential that she create surfaces that would lend themselves to the light and projection effects that will complete the world. “I give the surfaces and then the projection designer takes over,” she said. This meant keeping surfaces clean and rid of any distracting details (logos, light switches, etc.)

When asked what drew her to this project, Luciana referenced the production’s sly way with genre. “It’s interesting how it is a love story in disguise,” she mused. Prebble’s pharmaceutical romance has certainly toyed with the traditional concept of boy meets girl, and for Luciana that is what appealed to her. “In many ways it feels like a performance piece,” she said, “there’s fighting, there’s love making—scenes that are all about movement and imagery. It felt unique.”