Recently, I was fascinated by the use of turntables to stage the new Broadway play Grace. The entire set is built on two enormous, concentric platforms that encompass almost the entire floor of the stage; the narrow, outer turntable holds a door and a window, and the larger, inner turntable holds all the furniture and living space inside the characters' condo.
The staging combined perfectly with the slow burn of the play's plot, which builds to a climactic finale that the audience has already seen (it's also the first scene in the show) by the time it comes around again in correct chronological order. A set in such slow, slow motion allows the audience the illusion of imagining themselves looking into the condo(s) from a variety of different viewpoints and angles, just as Craig Wright's text gives us grounds to step into each character's shoes and varying beliefs throughout the play. It also creates a parallel to the text itself; as characters who believe in God process experiences and situations that cause them to slip over to the side of the non-believers, and vice versa, the slow-moving set reinforces the shifting platforms of the characters themselves.
There's also a single fan hanging from the ceiling at the center of the stage, spinning lazily around, which adds to the circular motion and feeling of the scenes playing out onstage, several of which are performed forwards, then backwards, then forwards again.
In other plays - Manhattan Theatre Club's An Enemy of the People, designed by John Lee Beatty, and Playwrights Horizons' Detroit, designed by Louisa Thompson, come to mind - turntables are used for a more practical purpose. While scene changes can be made smoothly with the use of tracks and/or stealthy stagehands, I've found more often than not that turntables provide the least distracting way to transport the audience from one setting to the next without removing them completely from the context of the play, even with the use of blackouts. I will never forget seeing Leap of Faith, for, among other reasons, the incredibly distracting use of "ensemble members," i.e. stagehands in disguise, to erect the giant revival tent upstage while another scene took place downstage. (No offense intended to those hardworking stagehands, of course.) Turntables allow complete, ornate, and detailed sets to be permanently constructed and moved on- and off-stage with the least amount of commotion possible. What's not to like? If Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? contained an additional scene in Honey and Nick's living room, the current Broadway production, designed with an appropriate, enormous amount of clutter by Todd Rosenthal, would be well advised to utilize a turntable in order to maintain the carefully placed stacks of books, newspapers, and drinking glasses scattered around George and Martha's house. In my limited experience, there's no other way to achieve the same "lived-in" feel of a home on stage when props and set pieces are constantly on the move.
|An Enemy of the People|
|Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?|
|If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet|
|Through The Yellow Hour |