Defying Gravity: Behind the Scenes with Set Designer Carissa Saia

By Tim Braun

Set design for "Defying Gravity" by student Carissa Saia. Photo: Marquette University Theatre.

Set design for “Defying Gravity” by student Carissa Saia. Photo: Marquette University Theatre.

“Defying Gravity” features a set design by Theatre Arts Junior Carissa Saia. Carissa previously served on the set design team for “Holy Days” back in November, but this is her first solo design project on the Helfaer Mainstage.

Carissa’s concept statement: “‘Defying Gravity,’ by Jane Anderson is a play that looks back at the 1986 Challenger disaster. Parallels between art and science are shown through past and present characters to convey the meaning that people need to be able to communicate with each other more clearly.

Through working with the director and the other designers, I developed two main aspects to my design: the free spaces and the constricted spaces. The free forms of nebulas are created to show how life can be relaxing and free, and the constricted spaces are constructed by truss work that can be seen on the shuttle platform. The more extreme spaces are higher up and the less extreme spaces are closer to the ground.

These design choices contradict the teacher’s thoughts of going up into space. She thought that when she would get to space she would be free and that on earth she is constrained to material objects and life. In reality, on the ground is where her life was free and safe and once she started getting higher up and closer to take off, she became more and more unsafe and her life was no longer in her control.

I also played with different surfaces like the front of the stage is on a rake because that makes the ground feel unsteady which messes with gravity and the projection screen is an abstract shape that represents the shuttle itself. The colors on the stage were pulled from realistic images of space, nebulas, the Challenger, and the shuttle platform.”

“Defying Gravity” runs through February 26, 2012 at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. For more information about this or other Mainstage Season performances, please visit our website.

Tim Braun is a student in the Theatre Arts department at Marquette University.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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