The Mystery of Irma Vep

Lakeshore Players Theatre - White Bear Lake, MN, USA - Oct. 2017

          The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam is both comedic farce and loving pastiche of the victorian gothic romance. The play, performed entirely by two actors inhabiting multiple roles with the help of quick change costumes, is an ever rotating procession of hunchbacks, werewolves, mummies, vampires, and fainting women. As such, a light touch to the darker corners is required, resulting in creative representation of various scenic elements. 

Top right: Early concepts for "Egypt" cardboard cutouts, to be held by stagehands. Bottom left: Grided painter's elevations for final cutouts. Bottom right: Actors bring "Egypt" to life.

          To accommodate the costume quick changes, there are five main apertures in the set (four entrances, and a bookcase that opens to reveal a dungeon cell behind). Corridors between these openings had to be kept as short as possible for character changes, without obviously undermining the layout of the set's architecture or opening in directions that provide the audience sight lines of the backstage area. 

Above: Sliding bookcase opens to reveal a dungeon behind. Below: Floorplans indicating major apertures of the set.

          Many special effects in the set were achieved in close coordination with lighting design. The mantel portrait is entirely projected onto a linen screen, allowing for different subjects as the show progresses as well as effects of a spookier nature, such as a skull overlay or bleeding. 

              The set also contains several practical lights built into the wall. 

          The landscape painted outside the french doors was painted with a wide variety of undertones that allowed it to appear as though daytime, dusk, or night, as the show went on depending on the lighting effects.

Counter-clockwise from Top: Full set under work lights. Projection technology used to implement portrait special effects. Set under "Nighttime" show lights with lighting design by Kurt Jung.