Photo by Joan Marcus .

Design Statements

Designing Charlotte’s World

A Deeper Look at the Lighting and Costume Design

Something Clean:

Design Statements

Valérie Thérèse Bart, Costumes

Selina Fillinger’s script is fluidly and beautifully written, and with it comes the challenge of making sense of the 36 scenes between three characters. I wanted to evoke the idea of Charlotte’s world revolving around her and progressing almost without her.

We decided Charlotte would never change in the span of the story, which takes place over six months—always with the same outfit, coat and purse. We would instead show the seasonal and time of day shifts through Doug and Joey. Designing contemporary costumes is just as difficult as period costumes. In some ways, it’s actually harder to make character statements with small and nuanced details, so that the costumes become natural and effortless.

I looked at a lot of family portraits and pictures of regular families from the Midwest, focusing on sports families for Charlotte and Doug. I noticed similarities with how men tend to wear the same cuts and colors, how women accessorize, and how they style their hair. For Joey, I turned to some actual friends that I felt had the right kind of fashionably put-together style with pops of color and patterns—in direct contrast to Charlotte and Doug’s more solid, subdued classic elegance. I’m hoping to create hyperrealism and inject slices of real life in a space and script that is abstract in structure.

Jiyoun Chang, Lighting    

I see lights in the space for Something Clean as not necessarily unnatural, but more psychological, more internal, than environmental. The play allows me to navigate myself as Charlotte in the space, lightwise. The color, shape, and scale of the lights in the space will be determined by the state of her mind.

We’ve talked about isolation: as Charlotte feels more distant from the rest of the world, the space will be tighter around her and other people. We’ve also talked about the feeling of lingering -- as Charlotte is present in one place, she co-exists in another place in her mind, or imagination, or memory. There are constant collisions and invasions between the two places.

Lights can also show the level of her discomfort; the space can feel colder at times or brighter than it should, to make her feel uneasy with her surroundings. While isolated lights will make her feel lonely but safe, ove-explosive and invasive lights will terrify her violently. And that will apply to the audience as well, since the set is in tennis court orientation. Audiences will be aware of other people sitting on the opposite side, and we will explore that more so at times, to control their level of discomfort.

Finally, we found it important that the dumpster in a dark alley evolves each time we visit it. Whether it’s more real and terrifying, or not, we hope to find out during rehearsal and tech process.

Something Clean is now running through June 30 at the Roundabout Underground. 

Photos by Joan Marcus.