Building Bridges: Set Designer Lawrence Moten on Creating Space for RAISIN
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

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Building Bridges: Set Designer Lawrence Moten on Creating Space for RAISIN

Set Designer Lawrence Moten delves into the research behind his creative process for Raisin, and how its important themes bridge the gap from 1950s Chicago to today.

 

'Raisin' Set Designer, Lawrence Moten, III

When I first started thinking about this project I wanted to focus on the Chicago nature of the story. I was interested in finding the story a way of existing solely in Chicago.  However, as Dev and I started to dig into the story we realized that this story is one that can, and has, played out in many cities across this country.  It’s a story that everyone should be able to connect to and so I wanted to create a world that allowed as many people to connect with these characters as possible.

So, I started the same way that I always do: research, research, research.  I delved into 1950s black Chicago and I immersed myself in the imagery.  It was a really great learning experience to see what the architecture, art, and culture of Chicago during this time was. I pulled a large amount of research together and then Dev and I reacted to what I had found. Some of it was good and some of it was terrible, but that is the nature of research — we pull a wide range and then we focus in.

Based on our reactions to the research, I wanted to create a space that gave the feeling of “city neighborhood.”  That run-down brick façade of a building and how that can tower over the storylines of city life became so powerful to me that it became the major texture of the set. We spend the majority of our time in the Youngers’ apartment and we wanted that space to always be present onstage, but since we go to so many different locations we need to be able, as storytellers, to bring the audience along to those places without having massive scene changes, so we kept the furniture light and mobile so that we could rearrange them as we needed to set up different locations throughout the show.

LMotenPhotoset

At left, a piece of research for ‘Raisin’; right, a scale model by Moten.

It really came down to texture informing location and furniture informing space; allowing the textures of the cityscape (brick walls, wooden floors, aged and distressed wallpaper) to let us as audience members know the quality of the spaces that we were in, but then allowing the layout of the furniture, in combination with the actors, to tell us where we were exactly — be it the Younger’s apartment, a bar, or a church.

My favorite part of working on Raisin is twofold: One, the APAC team has been amazing to work with. Dev is a fantastic director and working with her and the rest of this creative team has been a blast. Furthermore, this show at this time is important; it is important that we allow POC to take center stage. It is important that we tell stories that create empathy with people that we may no be familiar with  —  that we build bridges, not walls; this show does that and I am proud to have worked on it.

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