Behind-the-Scenes

Set Design with Adam Koch

Walk us through the set design process. What is your favorite part? Most challenging? Most rewarding?

The task of bringing a story and script from the page to life on stage through set design is a fascinatingly creative journey that perfectly marries abstract artistry and concrete skills.  It is also my life's passion, so I'm delighted to be able to exercise that passion here at Ogunquit Playhouse, with their all-star production departments who I am convinced can build anything.  

The design starts with a culmination of ideas inspired by the author's written script and music as well as research, along with the collective visual approach to the show from the director and set, lighting, and costume designers.

My favorite part: I've always loved to draw and dream in pencil, so I began Saturday Night Fever with a scene-by-scene storyboard of each location in the story (there are almost 50 scene changes!). 

The most challenging part: At first, I just have a vague idea in the back of my mind of how it will all fit backstage and work technically, but once the conceptual storyboard looks have been approved, I turn the sketches into scale technical plans and color elevations that communicate the details of how to build the sets and how all the scenery is arranged to fit on stage.

The most rewarding part: The moment of real joy that take me back to the high of childhood is sitting in the theater during rehearsal once the sets and lighting are up and running, transforming the stage into a dream world, and being swept away by the story, until I remind myself and I was a part of bringing it to life! It's 100% hard work and 100% fulfilling.

Where did you draw your inspiration from for this show?

The heart of every musical is it's music, and it is the unique spirit of that music through which I find endless inspiration. Saturday Night Fever, born out of the classic Bee Gees songbook, is like a sparkling electric time capsule of America, New York and the rise of disco era. The electric music of disco inspired a set, rippling with texture, as if we were seeing the pulsating sound waves of the dance beat. The textures, geometry and images of New York City and the 2001 Odyssey Club in the show are inspired by the industrial neighborhood and dance club near my home in Brooklyn, where still to this day the old world meets the new world through music and dancing every Saturday night.

How do you think the sets help tell the story of Saturday Night Fever?

I wanted to design stage settings that reflected how the mundane metal world of New York City can be magically transformed into a vision of the future through music and electricity. The fun of Saturday Night Fever is rooted the  ecstasy and freedom the characters find through dancing, and so much like a ballet, I wanted the sets to cinematically dance from one scene to another. Saturday Night Fever is so interesting because, just like New York City itself, there are so many mini-worlds within the world of the story, and, like the different characters, I wanted the different settings to have unique identities; from the traditionally shrouded wood dining room of the Manero home to the magically cosmic dance club to the pulsating industrial streetscapes of Brooklyn in the heat of summer.  The fun of this story and the heart of this design dances halfway between its grit and its glitter.