Tag Archives: Set Design

All Good Things

So much love for these Fools (photo by Jessica Sherman-Prince)
So much love for these Fools (photo by Jessica Sherman-Prince)

I studied theater in college, because of course I did. I mean, I didn’t get this weird entirely on my own, right? Then I fell in love, moved away from Albuquerque to Chicago for a few years, fell out of love, and eventually found my way back to New Mexico. It was then that I really immersed myself in the theater scene there. I helped found a Shakespeare company, directed for the first time, and found a passion for theatrical production design.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, ostensibly to start an acting career, but also because all of my friends made a mass-exodus to the west coast. I quickly found myself discouraged by the constant rejection. This isn’t making art, I argued in my own head, this is a business. There were so many other people who wanted it more than I did, and were far better at it than I was. I stepped away from pursuing acting, put my nose to the grindstone at my retail management job, and didn’t look back.

Fast forward a few years. Continue reading All Good Things

The Warp and Weft Part 4: Happy Endings

Neil Gaiman and Michael James Schneider, on the set of "Neverwhere"
Neil Gaiman and Michael James Schneider, on the set of “Neverwhere”

Fourth and final in a series. Here is Part 1, Part 2, where I speak to the inspiration and construction, and Part 3, where I interview the playwright.

The project I’ve put so much of myself into, alongside an amazingly talented cast and crew who did the same, is finally up and running! Designing the set for Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” (adapted by Rob Kauzlaric, see my interview with him here) has been a dream project, I’ve learned so much from it, and it’s strange to suddenly be done.

And then last night got even stranger: Neil Gaiman himself came to see the show… Continue reading The Warp and Weft Part 4: Happy Endings

The Warp and Weft, Part 3: Mind The Gap

Who reading this hasn’t had a labor of love, a creative project that they’ve been thinking about for months, or years, or their whole life? Well, designing (in Part 1 of this series), then creating the model (in Part 2 of this series) for the set of the West Coast premiere of Robert Kauzlaric’s masterful stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, directed by Scott Leggett, was that project for me. And this week, that dream got even better when I connected with Mr. Kauzlaric, and asked him a few questions about his writing process, Neil Gaiman’s fanbase, and what role staging plays in his imagination when he’s writing.

After the break, check out our chat, a great “teaser” video with some of the people who helped bring this production to life, and a first look at the finished set!

Michael James Schneider, in London Below
Michael James Schneider, in London Below

Continue reading The Warp and Weft, Part 3: Mind The Gap

The Warp And Weft, Part 2: Stitching Together The Art Of Neil Gaiman and Lee Bontecou

As anyone who has been reading this blog for the past few months already knows, I’m designing the set for the Robert Kauzlaric adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”, at the Sacred Fools theater. I’ve gone into great detail about the musical, artistic, and cinematic inspiration for the scenic design in this previous post. As I type this, auditions are underway at the theater, and I’m going to deliver the set model this afternoon to director Scott Leggett, the intrepid leader of this creative expedition. This set will be heavily influenced by the sculpture of Lee Bontecou, and I’m finally ready to reveal the set model to the public! Some snaps of it follow later in this post.

To be honest, it’s kind of a dream of mine to mash-up the art of two of my “artistic heroes”, Neil Gaiman and Lee Bontecou. The former, because I enjoy the hell out of his storytelling, and the latter because find her art moving. Below is an example of her canvas-and-metal sculpture that I’ll attempt to replicate for the set:

Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1962...the jumping-off point for my set design for "Neverwhere"
Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1962…the jumping-off point for my set design for “Neverwhere”

The process started with a simple sketch (more after the break), Continue reading The Warp And Weft, Part 2: Stitching Together The Art Of Neil Gaiman and Lee Bontecou

In Between The Warp And Weft, or, A Sublime Monstrosity

Sculpture by Lee Bontecou. My set for Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere will be heavily inspired by her artwork.

UPDATE: I’m ready to reveal the set model for the upcoming Sacred Fools production of Neverwhere! Click here to see the post revealing the set model.

This past week marked the start of my working in earnest on an upcoming project: the scenic design for the Sacred Fools Theater production of Robert Kauzlaric’s masterful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, directed by Scott Leggett.

It could seem like a daunting project: there are a couple dozen locations in the play; the set has to represent both the overworld and the underworld. And I have taken inspiration from an artist, Lee Bontecou, whose steel-and-canvas sculptures defy logic and challenge complacency. I can only hope to come close to replicating her art on such a large scale, but I will do my best. My enthusiasm for both Lee and Neil’s creations far outweighs any concerns I have about the challenges ahead.

Lee Bontecou in her Pennsylvania studio, June 2003
Photo by Josh Titus, courtesy UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

After reading the script a few times, and also getting inspiration from Neil’s book and graphic novel, I set about sketching the set. I have included other inspiration, too: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s work on The City of Lost Children inspires so much of my creative work, and I can’t help but include their influence. Here’s the trailer for that film:

I listened to a lot of Sigur Ros and Radiohead while sketching (when the set is complete, if you put your ear up to it and listen very, very closely, you may hear the strains of “Treefingers”). My first pass is a sublime monstrosity, both organic and mechanical, both refined and grotesque. In other words, better than I could have hoped! Continue reading In Between The Warp And Weft, or, A Sublime Monstrosity

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Sculpture by Lee Bontecou, the inspiration for my set design for Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”, coming April 2013 to Sacred Fools Theater

Wow, what a busy month August has been! If it felt like a permanent vacation before, it sure doesn’t now. I’m in the “building my portfolio” stage at the moment, so I’m taking on a lot of projects, but I’m also saying “no” to a few things that I wish I didn’t have to.

I’m usually not a fan of listing projects like this, it doesn’t sound very…humble. “Humblebrag, anyone?” But seriously, people have been asking a lot about what I have coming up, so for those who are curious, here’s the rundown of what I said “yes” to:

I’m going to Assistant-Direct The Coarse Acting Show, written by Michael Green, directed by Paul Plunkett (who also wrote a segment for this production), at Sacred Fools Theater. The theater is my homebase, and Paul is going to be great to work with.

A couple of my paintings are being carried at The Juicy Leaf in Venice, on Abbot-Kinney! The store is a gallery/gift-shop concept, that’s eclectic and sophisticated at the same time. The team there is enthusiastic and smart, and I’m happy to have my work shown there. Continue reading 0 to 60…

Plumbing the Depths

He paused for a moment, hands poised above the keyboard, wondering if he was going to write another story about talking possums, or dumb but lovable deer. “Ah, f**k it,” he muttered, and started another story about a dyslexic lemur that just couldn’t catch a break.

Or maybe not. I started this blog to chronicle my big life decision to leave my retail career after 20 years, and only do doing things that fulfill me creatively and artistically. I know: BOR-ing! No one has ever had that impulse, right? Continue reading Plumbing the Depths