Taking Shelter
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

Taking Shelter

For the final week of Evensong‘s run, our set design duo (Christopher and Justin Swader) gives us a peek at their process and explain how APAC’s own performance space lent itself perfectly to Christina Quintana’s play.
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Actor Daniel Prado (Teofilo “Teo” Aguilar) on the set of Evensong, housed in APAC’s churchnasium at the Good Shepherd Methodist Church.

The two of us are thrilled to be back with APAC on Christina Quintana‘s Evensong. As designers, it is always exciting to work on projects that widen our perspectives and ask vital questions, and this particular production compelled us to the examine the increasing homelessness crisis in New York City. We wanted to get a firsthand sense of how shelters operated, so we arranged to visit The Friends Shelter, where Christina volunteers her time and used as a basis for writing the play. In order to be as truthful to the environment as we could, it was important for us to respectfully experience the room, such as seeing how the cots were arranged, what was stored on the shelves, the contents of the bulletin boards, and the food being served for dinner. We took all of that information, as well as our own visual research, and incorporated it into the play’s design.

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Top to bottom: Photos snapped during a visit to The Friends Shelter in New York City.

APAC’s performance space is a church gymnasium that is usually transformed to suit the needs of each production, and since a good amount of the play centers around a homeless shelter within a church gymnasium, it felt especially fitting to expose the room and embrace the existing architecture. Our conversations with the director, David Mendizábal, focused significantly on using the various pieces of the shelter to transition from place to place in a swift, fluid way. It felt right to keep the gesture of the shelter present throughout – the sea of cots serving as a backdrop for the imposing lifestyle that many of these characters cannot seem to escape. It was a strong, collaborative effort by everyone on the team to bring this play to life, and we hope that audiences leave feeling fulfilled and aware of the many issues that the play presents.

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