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Setting the Stage for Barbecue

The most powerful live theater experiences are those that immerse audiences in the world of a story. Writers, directors, actors, music supervisors, costume designers, dramaturgs, stage managers, and set designers are all essential players in bringing the play to life. At the Geffen, where each of our shows is an original production, the creative team is assembled by our Artistic Director Randall Arney and his staff and in collaboration with the playwright and director.

When building the team for Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue (on stage through October 16), Arney tapped Geffen alum Sibyl Wickersheimer to design the set.

From Some Girls to Wrecks to last season’s Sex with Strangers, if you’ve been to see a show here, you’ve most likely seen Sibyl’s work — typically before an actor even takes the stage. Set design is serious business and we were thrilled that she returned to the Geffen as we launched our 2016/2017 season.

Centering around the dysfunctional O’Mallery family, Barbecue takes place almost entirely in a public park. “The set for Barbecue was almost instantly imagined in my head as I read it.” Sibyl said. “Ironically the image that [director] Colman [Domingo] and I landed on as our favorite was a photo from my hometown in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. In fact, I looked up the parks in that area because I had a hunch they would be the perfect type of aesthetic for our onstage park and iconic of Mid-West parks in general.”

Before they were installed on stage, the live plants for Barbecue took over the Geffen’s Glorya Kaufmann Patio.

What was Sibyl’s favorite part of collaborating on this production? “Reading the script and laughing aloud at the transition to Act 1, Scene 2. Second favorite thing was working with [director] Colman Domingo. This was our first collaboration and he was a joy. The design team was great. Kara’s [Kara Harmon, costume designer] renderings made me believe the characters before I heard any of the performers speak. The minute the first rehearsal was underway, I knew that we would laugh our way through tech!”

Geffen Playhouse Barbecue; Day Lighting.

Geffen Playhouse Barbecue set; Night Lighting.

And indeed, the audiences are laughing, too. Kicking the Geffen 2016/2017 season off with a bang, Barbecue has been delighting patrons since first preview. With two weeks left of this production, our 21st season is off to a hilarious start. Be sure to see Barbecue before it closes!

By Kristina Leach


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