An Inspector Calls
Emory University (student-produced production), Atlanta, GA
Director/Scenic Designer/Costume Designer: Michael Lewis
Lighting Designer: Ari Shaw-Faber
Photographer: Ian Trutt
Description of production: An Inspector Calls occurs in the midst of a battle between social order and destruction. The strongest action images surround this central battle-- actions that either support or defy bourgeois upper class etiquette. The play centers around a series of recognitions. It is a world in which public and private virtue are equated; it is expected that every person maintain an elevated manner at every moment. The challenge of designing the play is to portray the degradation of the family over the course of the evening. I envision the set as a luxurious, grandiose dining room painted in carnal, sickly colors. It is important that the room be presented as a common room within the house (furthest upstage there should be an arch flanked by two doors-- one leads to the kitchen, the other leads to the front hall-- in order to enter the kitchen, one must walk through the dining room). The room is filled with semblances of an older era-- the house belongs to Sybil's family (of older wealth than her husband). There must be some sense of heirlooms and furniture from a past family, and various portraits gazing at the family in harsh judgment. But these tangible objects are ephemeral. As the degradation of the family reaches its peak, the world beyond the house must impose on the family's luxuries.
The lighting should somehow display the rich superficialities of the room. As the inspector begins his investigation, the lighting should shift into a noir shadow-cape. The richness of the room should disappear, replaced with the somber cool lighting of the approaching storm. Finally, the entirety of the back wall of the room should become transparent, as if part of an interrogation room. As the luxuriance of the house is lost to the storm, the world of the play shifts out of the Edwardian bourgeois and into the post-war world in which Priestley wrote the play. Ironically, the family members attempt to build a wall between themselves and the lower class just as the physical walls of their home become obliterated.