This is a guest post provided by Jennifer Fawcett of Working Group Theatre.
The information below is scenic designer Shawn Johnson's thoughts
on his set design for The Syringa Tree
It seemed immediately clear to me that the set should make a real, solid reference to nature and should create an abstracted idea of space to support the play's treatment of the cycle of life and death. My first instinct was to consider the use of organic material. I thought of various ways to delineate space by creating structures out of diverse organic materials (wood, leaves, jute, hemp). In thinking more about structures that might successfully reference death as well as life, I finally settled on a large sculptural backdrop made out of wood. Carved and whittled into an abstract irregularity, the wood could reference living trees and sticks, dead and fallen limbs, and brittle bones. The sculpture could be painted in a way that might refer equally to sun-bleached bones or to driftwood, and reducing it to a static backdrop element while assembling the pieces into something like a nest or a mass blow down would reference both the movement of life and the stasis of death.