The Wild Party
by Andrew Lippa
Miami University Theatre • April 2017
About the Design
Queenie and Burrs are entertainers living in Manhattan in the late 1920’s, one of the most decadent eras of American popular culture. Their world is both glamorous and brutal, and they are creatures of it. Though Vaudeville stars, Vaudeville was on its way out. They live in relative squalor, either for lack of money or lack of will to do anything but enjoy the pleasures of life. At the start of the play they are living in a bubble that needs just one provocation to pop.
Joseph Moncure March sets his poem in this sensuous world of beauty and ugliness, and Lippa amplifies the emotions through music. The scenic environment is inspired by the American artist Reginald Marsh. Marsh’s work has been characterized as offering “…scenes of people acting out with unbridled gusto. He charts sociability as it tilts toward debauchery, as on the mixed-race dance floor of The Savoy, where everyone’s dancing the Lindy Hop. If he were alive today, he’d be out at Brooklyn raves watching artists take molly” (Andrew Russeth, The Observer).
The painting “Twenty Cent Movie” became the central inspiration.
The colors are vivid and gaudy. The movie cards call out the salacious qualities of pre-code Hollywood films. The destruction of Vaudeville in part by Hollywood is also significant. The specter of the future surrounds this party, and makes its way into the party space itself.
Adapting the visual vocabulary of Marsh’s painting, the graphic references to cinema are expanded to incorporate the world of Vaudeville. The Vaudeville graphics are less colorful, less vibrant, part of the unraveling tapestry of what was. The sexually charged movie descriptors are intermixed with snippets of March’s actual poem, matching them in their rawness. The style of Marsh’s text is carried through in the graphics incorporated into the design.
The paint elevations were created in Illustrator and Photoshop, then printed on a large format printer and pasted onto the walls.
Additional Design Materials
Production Team Credits
Directed by Ed Cohen
Costume Design by Melanie Mortimore
Lighting Design by Marly Wooster
Technical Direction by Curtis Mortimore