Collette Pollard’s Design Notebook
Inspiration for the Between Riverside and Crazy Scenic Design Last fall, Between Riverside and Crazy director Yasen Peyankov and I flew to New York City to visit playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis in his home. We knew Stephen lived in an apartment on Riverside Drive and we thought it would be helpful to not only get some face time with the playwright, but also to see an example of the type of apartment in which the play might be set. The trip was invaluable; we had not anticipated just how informative it would be and Stephen’s apartment quickly became the singular inspiration for my design. Here are some of the highlights of our trip.
Reading the script, I dreamt of stained glass windows in the apartment for the Church Lady’s entrance. Never expecting to see such a feature, it was a true surprise to be greeted by these windows and the window bench in the hallway. This style of windows, in which there is an air shaft that looks out to a brick wall, are very common in New York City. Though they never receive sunlight, these decorative windows were installed to create interest and beauty where there wasn’t a view. They allow the Steppenwolf design team to add magic to a moment and heighten the scene.
Here is a picture of the apartment’s flooring, French doors and chandeliers, with Stephen in the background. The parquet floor you see runs throughout the entire apartment. It was helpful to see the flooring in person for scale, color and wear, so we could later recreate it. Moreover, because the same floor runs through the entire unit, we were able to treat the whole stage deck with these tiles, allowing for a more fluid and flexible staging; scenes could take place in the kitchen, dining room or bedroom without having to delineate the space with different flooring treatments. Since this original floor can’t be purchased, each tile was CNC cut from plywood, routed, individually painted and hand laid. In this picture you can also see the original chandeliers that were throughout the apartment.
Whole Apartment View
Typical of Riverside Drive apartments, Stephen’s home had a great open layout, beautiful moldings and big windows letting in gorgeous light. Everything in the apartment, outside of the wallpaper and years of paint, is original to the building.
Here’s a picture of Yasen in front of this amazing period wallpaper. In order to keep focus on the actors in the play, we didn’t end up using green paper in the actual set. Still, we were inspired by the pattern and that inspiration found its way into the final vision.