This week I had a chance to talk to Dr. Kelly Bremner from Emory & Henry College about their involvement in the 2012 Plays for Presidents Festival. I was immediately struck by two things: 1) She is incredibly dedicated to her students and has definitely woven this production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents into her educational vision; and 2) she’s got a very clear sense of purpose and focus when it comes to art, voting, and college-aged citizens.
GGB: You said that the concept of a Presidential debate had inspired the set design. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
KB: It happened almost out of necessity. We have a charming black box theatre here was is being renovated, so we unexpectedly got the news this summer that our first production of the year would need to be in College’s auditorium. Normally the word “auditorium” evokes images of bad high school assemblies, but we decided to use that vibe to our advantage.
Our designer, Professor Daniel Wheeler, used theatrical flats to build artificial wings onto the performance space, and went with two projection screens one on each side. The back of the theatre is lined with pillars that simultaneously seem to evoke the front of the White House, and the row of podiums that get set up for a presidential debate. The presidential seal is hung up center. We couldn’t put it on the floor because the stage is too high for anyone to see it. This makes for some beautiful moments where the actor playing the president is framed by the seal when they stand in front of it. To fight the aesthetic distance of the proscenium stage, we built a 6 ft. apron off of the stage, which keeps my actors nice and close to the audience. My one regret, I will miss the actual presidential debate because I will be in my final dress rehearsal.