Tony-winning designer David Zinn creates a playful medieval world for The Amateurs
David Zinn created an underwater extravaganza by designing the sets and costumes for the splashy Broadway musical SpongeBob SquarePants. But for his latest assignment, Jordan Harrison’s The Amateurs at Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, he’s working on a decidedly smaller, but no less imaginative, scale. The play follows a hapless 14th-century traveling theatrical troupe presenting the story of Noah’s Ark at towns and encampments as they make their way to their patron nobleman, whom they hope will provide refuge from the Black Death.
Harrison and the design team decided that Gregory, the play’s almost-mute scenery maker, was way ahead of his time. “So we sort of borrowed liberally from both the idea of a medieval pageant wagon and the theatre of our last few centuries, and smooshed it together to make Gregory’s vision,” Zinn explains.
Zinn says the hardest part of the design was getting the inside of the wagon just right, since it serves as the small stage for the troupe’s medieval pageant. The members tow it from town to town, and it holds their props. Working within the limitations of the Vineyard Theatre’s resources, the cast and creatives discovered “how beautiful the cart can be when it’s open by really leaning on how small it can be when it’s closed up,” says Zinn. There are majestic stage moments late in the play, when “it’s like the cart kind of blows up in scale to take on the whole theatre.”
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