Reiser + Umemoto Brings Unusual Play to Life
Design team used century-old notes to inform the “vibratory” set.
Meaghan O'Neill -- Interior Design, 4/26/2007 12:00:00 AM
Though it was written nearly two centuries ago, Alexander Pushkin’s play Boris Godunov only recently saw the stage, when actors at Princeton University’s Berlind Theater stepped up to the task. Whisking the set from 17th-century Russia directly into the present day, Reiser + Umemoto, RUR Architecture of New York created an interdisciplinary setting that interpreted the notes of 20th-century Russian theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold and various other source materials.
Meyerhold's transcripts calls for highly energetic acting with certain scenes overlapping, and the décor in constant motion. Barriers between auditorium and stage were to be eliminated, drawing the audience into the action. Faces would peek out from holes punched out of the walls and indecipherable chatter would be heard from the wings.
To that end, RUR principal Jesse Reiser, who also teaches at Princeton, took Meyerhod’s concept of the machine as object and symbol and rendered the entire stage a machine-like “vibratory mechanism.” Using hundreds of feet of surgical tubing, the design team created a tension field held in place like the strings of a harp, but flexible enough that to be “infinitely modifiable by the actors,” and becoming, in turn, the palace in the Kremlin, a tavern on the Polish border, the forest, a battle ground, and more. “A spatial ether somewhere between solid and void,” the staging elements were solid enough that images could be projected upon them, but permeable enough to accommodate the actors’ movements.
Reiser worked with students at Princeton to design and build the set, including assistant set designer Mitsuhisa Matsunaga and several graduate students at the School of Architecture. The production was a collaboration between Princeton and the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture in Moscow.
RUR is known for its specialty in large-scale, infrastructural urban developments. The firm developed a proposal for the East River front of Manhattan and was one of six teams selected to design for the World Trade Center design competition. Currently, RUR is getting ready to break ground on the Alishan Tourist Infrastructure project in Taiwan. In Dubai, RUR has kicked off 0-14, a 22-story office tower.