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Picasso at the Lapin Agile Set Design

Imagine Picasso and Einstein debating the intricacies of art, science and genius in a pocket-sized Paris bar. The year is 1904, just a few years before two sea-change achievements: Picasso’s 1907 unveiling of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in 1905. What would the convergence of these two brilliant minds trigger? How would they interact with each other? Would they see a reflection of themselves in the other, or would they end up in a fierce intellectual jousting match?

Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) must have wrestled with these ideas as he penned the fictitious encounter between Picasso and Einstein in his play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The play, at times a gut-busting farce and at others a scholarly debate, captures the spirit of Montmartre, Paris in the early 1900s. Moreover, it challenges the assumptions of genius, talent, and progress.

Brad Bunkers set designWhen director Kory Gunderson asked if I’d be interested in designing the Lapin Agile set for the Blue Slipper Theatre in Livingston, Montana, I jumped at the chance. Not only is the subject matter right up my alley, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at constructing a theatrical environment. As an artist and graphic designer with construction experience, I’ve always  thought set design would be the perfect challenge and an opportunity to try something entirely new.

Conceptualizing the set design was the easy part. Working at such a large scale was much more difficult. Taking a sketch and scaling it up to work on an entire stage was very different than working on the largest canvas. Another learning curve in the process was lighting. In my mind I could apply my color theory knowledge, but ultimately the technical aspects of lighting were way beyond my comfort level. Luckily someone else figured out the lighting.

Overall I enjoyed working on a project with so many variables. Unlike painting or graphic design, set design has to mesh with so many outside elements. It has to enhance, not compete with, live performers in a way that hopefully elevates the story.

The process has been terrific! Kory and the crew at the Blue Slipper have been great to collaborate with and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking the project from rough sketch to the completed set.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile will be at the Blue Slipper Theatre in Livingston, Montana, April 5th-20th. For tickets and show times visit www.blueslipper.com or call the theatre at 406-222-7720.

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