Taking Risks-My favorite and Least favorite show ever.(College Essay) / by Braden Williams

“Why don’t we set it in the World Trade Center.” When the director, Mr. Sweeney said these words, I knew the design for Godspell was about to get interesting. We decided to set the show on 9/11 from 8:46 until 10:28, the time between when the North Tower was struck and when it fell. As we began to design the show we decided that the most important piece of the set would be the wall, which would be columns, spaced similarly to the World Trade Center with windows in between. In place of blank windows, we decided to project a number of images, the most important being a view from the top of the tower, with the other in sight. Mr. Kirby, my design teacher, suggested that I start projecting these images at the beginning of the rehearsal process, so that the the cast could acclimate to the potentially jarring images. I heard Mr. Kirby’s suggestion, but I mistakenly chose not to act on it because I assumed the cast had bought into the concept of setting the play in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and didn’t think members of the cast would have the negative reaction that they ended up having. As the rehearsal process went on, I could tell that members of the cast weren’t quite as enthused about setting the show in the World Trade Center, or had a reluctant acceptance of this idea. I realized late into the process that members of the cast had a significantly different vision of the final product than I, or even the director did. This significant difference of opinion was a constant source of contention throughout the rehearsal process. Tech Day, the Saturday before the show went up, I hooked up the projector and put the image up on the windows. As I worked my way down from the projector position, I heard the cast chattering, and as I approached them, I heard them complaining about the image. They told me they were uncomfortable with the image and that I should take it down. Having shown and discussed the image with Mr. Sweeney, I was reluctant to remove it just because some cast members’ vision of the show was different from what I had thought we, as a production, had agreed to. The cast was nervous that the image might upset some of the audience. I agreed with Mr. Sweeney, who argued that if we didn’t have the image, the concept of the show would be lost. Tuesday evening before the Friday opening, rehearsal was running late. The whole cast was sitting around the stage. Mr. Sweeney pulled me aside and said he had some bad news: he had decided that we could not show the image. I’m still not sure if he resisted because of cast member’s objections, or because of pressure, or the fear of pressure from the administration. As I look back on it, I am sure it was some combination of both. I was disappointed. However, I spent the next two days polishing up the remaining parts of the show, making sure the set was complete, and that the lighting was spot on. On Thursday afternoon, before the dress rehearsal, Mr. Sweeney sat me down and told me that he had changed his mind; and asked me to add the image back to the slideshow. I was relieved. I was able to see a somewhat controversial design concept that I had spent a considerable amount of time thinking about and then implementing come to fruition. In the end the show and the design got mixed reviews. As we feared, some people were upset by the fact that we had set the show in the World Trade Center. As I look back on this experience I’ve come to realize I could have handled my interactions with the cast with more understanding. I could have introduced them to the images in early rehearsals, and I could have been more diplomatic and empathetic in fielding their objections.This was the first show in which I felt my design played a significant role in the storytelling of the show. If the projections, set, and lights weren’t designed like they were, the audience would have been told a different story. In the end I was lucky that Mr. Sweeney understood the potential of the image and that we got to present the show as we had originally planned.