MFA Designer Making His Mark in NYC Experimental Theatre
Third-year MFA Design candidate Baxter Engle's year has been filled with work on some of NYC's most notable experimental stages.
Third-year MFA Scenic Design candidate Baxter Engle has spent the past semester on internship in The Big Apple, and now has earned a shout-out in The Village Voice for his work on a production at a legendary experimental theatre.
Engle designed video projections for the play The Room Sings, a new work by OBIE-winning company, The Talking Band, performed at the historic La MaMa Theatre from March 31 - April 16, 2017. Professor Nic Ularu, himself an OBIE-winner for The Talking Band’s 2003 production of Painted Snake in a Painted Chair, was scenic designer for the production.
Engle says he got the opportunity while acting as video and sound designer on Ularu’s original play, Fusions, which was produced at La MaMa in November and December of 2016. Fusions, sponsored by a UofSC Provost Grant, also featured lighting design by Professor Jim Hunter, and included theatre alumni Chad Henderson and Carin Bendas in the cast.
“I worked with Professor Ularu to integrate the video projections into the scenic design through the fall semester in an effort to present a cohesive design that highlighted the content that director/writer Paul Zimet had requested,” says Engle of his work on The Room Sings.
The play tells multiple stories of the inhabitants of a country house over a period of seventy years, using scenic design and projections to create, as described in the show’s synopsis, a “multiple, fractured view of a place” that shows the characters “not only from different points of view, but also at different moments in time.” A review in The Village Voice praised the “workmanlike construction” of the play, adding that the production was “cinematic in its rapid shifts among generations of occupants of the house.” The review ended on a rave, saying that the production team “steer[s] their new piece along tricky shoals between fantasy and reality.”
“The design for The Room Sings was a great experience that required planning for several different scenarios from the very early stages of design, and then allowing for flexibility once we actually started to build,” says Engle. “We worked through the design several times, adjusting content and engineering setup as the script was rewritten and scenic needs changed through the build.”
Engle has spent the Spring 2017 semester on internship in NYC with 3-Legged Dog Art and Technology Center, acting as Technical Director for the cutting edge theatrical production company. And, as soon as the La MaMa show opened, he began building 3LD’s next production. That show, 3/Fifths by James Scruggs, is described as “a radically interactive romp through America’s racist minefields.” The production combines video, performance and music to “explore…continued violence perpetrated against men of color.”
“It's been an amazing experience working with scenic, video and lighting designers as we work to mount this socially charged immersive experience,” says Engle.
3/Fifths runs at 3LD Art and Technology Center May 1-28.
Images at top of page and below are from the production of The Room Sings at La MaMa Experiment Theatre.
Photos courtesy of La MaMa and The Talking Band.
Scenic Design by Nic Ularu. Video Design by Baxter Engle.