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Did You Notice That Set?


by Manuel Mendoza 23 Oct 2008

Whenever I go to a play, I try to take a close look at the set before the show starts, especially if I’m reviewing. Sets are often integral to the action, whether they’re simply alluding to the plot or themes metaphorically or literally setting the stage for the story to be told. In the 2006 […]

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Whenever I go to a play, I try to take a close look at the set before the show starts, especially if I’m reviewing. Sets are often integral to the action, whether they’re simply alluding to the plot or themes metaphorically or literally setting the stage for the story to be told.

In the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game on Broadway, the set was amazing. Colorful and wry, it not only re-created the look of an old-fashioned factory, it had moving parts that were sources of entertainment in themselves. The set became another character in the musical.

The set of the current revival of On Golden Pond at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, designed by Pocket Sandwich Theatre co-founder Rodney Dobbs, is purely, deceptively functional. Lots of work went into making the summer home of the elderly Thayer couple look naturally lived in. If you don’t notice it, that’s probably a good thing.

“Shows are not about sets,” Dobbs says. “A bad set can lessen a good show. A great set can add to a good show, but it can’t save a bad one. Most of the time, when my set does not get mentioned in a review or by departing patrons, I have taught myself to think, ‘The set must be OK.’ Thanks for noticing On Golden Pond.”

We talked to Dobbs about how he came up with the set and why he’s a set designer. We also asked him to name his favorite sets. The rest of the interview is this week’s artist Q&A over in our features section.

Photos: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas

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