Scenic design for A Murder of Crows, Mac Wellman Playwright
Scenic design for A Murder of Crows, Mac Wellman Playwright, Peformed in 2015. Set: wood, corrugated tin, steel, lauan, and trash bags. Photo courtesy of Alessandra Mello.
A Murder of Crows, a play by Mac Wellman, imagines a world in which the air is mustardy, the land is laden with oily sludge, and the sea is wiggly like a bowl of custard. My challenge as scenic designer for the production by UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies was to articulate this scale of pollution and toxicity through a little set on an indoor stage. One core aesthetic focus was materiality, evoking the inescapability of this environment through the textures collaged across the set—rusty corrugated metal, bleached and splintered tree trunks, peeling and yellowing clapboard, gunky slime oozing off the stage. I was also very inspired by installation art in fleshing out a world that is disrupted, uncanny, and off-kilter, where logic is exposed as an illusion. The apocalyptic America in A Murder of Crows, corrupted by pollution, xenophobia, and greed, desperately clings to its old tropes for hope and doggedly ostracizes anyone who challenges the status quo. In this artist’s mind, the most absurd part of Wellman’s play isn’t the titular philosophizing, soft-shoeing crows; it’s the startling clarity of our own reflection staring back at us as we gaze into the slime.