Apr 13

Setting the Stage for BENEFIT

by Aldona Barutowicz · 0 comments

A lot of work and talent goes into a single theatre production, and we had the pleasure to ask a few questions of the award-winning Costume and Set Designer Deitra Kalyn, who is currently contributing her creativity to Downstage’s next production, BENEFIT, which runs from April 13 - 30th at Motel Theatre in Arts Commons.

Kalyn has been designing for theatre, television and dance across the prairies for over a decade, and has worked with some of the best theatre companies across our great province, and beyond. This show in particular offers some exciting challenges, which Kalyn explains in further detail.

Tell us a bit about your work and history as a costume/set designer.

I’ve primarily been a costume designer in my career, but I have had the pleasure of designing sets for a few companies over the years. I started working in theatre about 12 years ago, and have worked with many awesome companies in Calgary and abroad. I have a Fine Arts Degree majoring in painting from ACAD, but had transitioned into the theatre world while in my last year at the college…..and literally haven’t looked back since.

Why are you excited to be working on this production? 

It’s always a nice challenge for me to do set design. The Motel space is a particular challenge with its particular dimensions and space restrictions. Simon Mallett (Director) and I chatted a lot about transforming the space as much as we could….so there in lies a challenge in itself. I like a challenge, and it’s exciting to figure out how to do something like this.

How is this piece unique? How is it pushing your boundaries as a designer? 

This show is unique in that we are creating an immersive space for the audience. It’s been fun to think about how small the space is and how to include the audience in the show in a clever way. Simon and I chatted a lot about how we could create a space where the audience can feel like they’re sort of flies on the wall….or in our case….flies in the wall. We are staging it in an alley configuration, so this also forces the audience to choose a side to sit on which creates an interesting tension throughout the show as the characters reveal their own challenging and complex relationships to one another.

How are you planning on helping to elevate the story/script with your design?

I hope to create a space that is both conceptual and somewhat set in realism. The show as written allows for some general interpretation in how the actors shift through time and space, so I hope that we’ve created a space that can allow the performers to effortlessly move in the space and allow the audience to come along for the ride.

What did you have to consider in order to make this set design work within the space and story line?

Practically there are many size restrictions in Motel…low ceilings, long playing space, awkward ‘backstage’ area are just a few challenges. Based on the physical space, I had to create something that was in scale with the space and seemed to also elevate the space into a grand ballroom. I also wanted to create a neutral enough space that the story can move from one time and place to another while allowing that performers and audience to understand these transitions.

What’s next for you? 

I’m working on Sherlock at Vertigo Theatre next, then Shakespeare by the Bow with Theatre Calgary, and then I head out to the Caravan Theatre in Armstrong to do Our Town this summer.

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