Unrealized Scene Design
Scene Designer: Katherine Stepanek
The Merchant of Venice
Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University - 2011
Written by: William Shakespeare
Firmly placing this production in Venice with the Rialto Bridge, the rest of the set takes twists and turn, just like the plot line in the script itself. Inspired by M.C. Escher, there are stairs of different sizes that lead nowhere, a pattern on the ground that changes shape as it goes upstage, and set pieces that spin into different shaped columns. Even the backdrops are Escher-esque, continuing the staircase up into the sky.
Each location has different orientations of the scenic pieces, with three units spinning with different styles of architecture on each side. The red plaster that is falling apart is Venice, the home of Skylock, Antonio, and others. This is a visual acknowledgement of the strife and struggle of the Jews in the world of the Christians in Venice, which is a central, yet subtle influence on the play itself. In contrast, the finer doric columns are Portia's mansion in Belmont, signifying wealth, beauty and peace. The capital-style columns are the court where Skylock seeks his retribution. An extra archway in the Venice red rises up from midstage to tighten the acting area for Shylock's house.
Even though the scene changes location every scene, with this style of scene shift, everything can change from gritty, real-life to idyllic and dream-like smoothly and back, without ever going to black or breaking the stride of the action.