By: Laura Humble – Staff Writer
Centre’s campus is abuzz with anticipation for the spring showing of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The Drama Department is pulling out all the stops this spring by bringing in Centre alumna Krit Robinson ’09 to design the set. Robinson currently lives and works in New York and has been communicating with the Drama Department via Skype about the design process. The Cento recently caught up to Robinson to find out about her involvement in the play and design decisions.
Already, she has put a lot of work into the scenic design for Macbeth. The final decision by the design team was to stay with a medieval Scotland setting. “[Director and Professor of Dramatic Arts] Tony Haigh presented the idea of setting it in Medieval Scotland. It was a great design challenge to craft a space that … could be space that enticed our imaginations and demanded a great physicality of the actors,” Robinson said. “[It was] a space that spoke to us on a subconscious primitive and primeval level.”
The design is not purely medieval. “One of the things I’ve been interested in is the intersection between the historical Macbeth, the period in which the play was written, and our time today. I was also interested in the interplay between the natural, the unnatural, and the supernatural,” Haigh said. Haigh’s artistic vision draws on the atmosphere of smoke and violence during the time in which the play was written, adding to the unnatural and supernatural themes present in the plot.
So what is the process for building such a set? “Lots of frustration and internal confusion,” Robinson said. “Each play, opera, dance piece is [a] sort of continuing puzzle, [and] some are easier and some are harder. The fantastic part of this job is the process changes with each production, and each creative team. Some directors feed you ideas, some are deep collaborations where nobody knows who had what idea first. I love this work because it is so hard. It’s great to give your all to something that can be profoundly rewarding.”
“A good designer will ask you hard questions with what you’re going to do with a play. That may be a question you haven’t thought of. That may lead you in a direction you hadn’t thought of,” Haigh said about the interaction between a set designer and a director. According to him, Robinson excels in this area. “She’s a creative dynamo,” Haigh said.
The set will be very large and composed of a number of moveable parts, somewhat invading the audience’s space to draw them in. It is designed to challenge and excite the actors in the play while taking the audience to an entirely new world.
Robinson’s interest in scenic design began at a relatively young age. “I designed and built sets in high school. I remember having a revelation that I was meant to travel this path but it took mentors to help verbalize it,” she said. “[I had] both mentors from high school but also [from] Centre. Both [Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts and Chair of Dramatic Arts Program] Matthew Hallock and [H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art and Chair of Art History & Studio Art Programs] Sheldon Tapley allowed me see the world and the possibilities and pushed me to go after them.”
And perhaps these mentors are why she has decided to return to her alma mater to complete this six-month long project. “[It is] great to connect with old professors in new and meaningful ways, but I think what is more exciting is the ability to connect with the current student body. Hopefully [it will] be useful to them in some way in the future,” Robinson said.
She’s already inspired one member of Centre’s student body. Sophomore and Dramatic Arts major Cassie Chambers is currently working as Assistant Scenic Designer and Head Painter on the production of Macbeth. “She inspires me. She’s a younger person doing what I hope to be [doing] … It gives me hope,” Chambers said.
Robinson has the rare ability to use her art to inspire others to do the same. “Even when Krit was a student, she was a very serious artist and had an artist’s sensibility,” Haigh said. “She was challenging and creative and energizing then, and she’s even more so now.” Today, she serves as one of many examples of students using the skills they learned at Centre to make their mark on the world beyond their undergraduate work.