What does it take to build a set for Broadway? We spoke to Edward Pierce, the TONY nominated scenic designer for Angels in America about the challenges of transferring a show from the West End and where he draws his inspiration from.
What was the inspiration for the Angels in America set design?
Well, a lot of the work that we would have done on the production has to do with adapting from its preliminary production at the Littleton Theatre at the National in London. This version of the show premiered there last summer, and a lot of the work over the last year has been to adapt the design from what was a very massive stage to a not‑so‑very massive stage here on Broadway. And to really find a way to continue to deliver the same energy and the same concepts, but in a much more limiting fashion here on Broadway.
We basically took all the design concepts that were initially conceived for the London production, along with a lot of new ideas that wanted to be included as enhancements to the original production and then balancing that with the actual real estate and logistics of how we would make this work for the Broadway stage. That involved a fair amount of design and technical study and ultimately resulted in a physical excavation of the stage of the Neil Simon and in the trap room below to be able to incorporate all the machinery and the method necessary to deliver the same design concepts, just more enhanced and in a more sophisticated fashion for how to store the show on Broadway.
The whole design is conceived to start with something that is generally more realistic, and ultimately over the course of the eight hours of the two plays, starts to get stripped away and starts to become more minimal. Ultimately to the very end when we come to the epilogue, we fly out all of the stage masking and reveal the bare theater itself, and in doing so, we have hidden every piece of scenery, every piece of furniture, every prop, every costume. All that is revealed at the end when Prior comes forward for the epilogue is the empty space. And that’s a huge challenge because we have had so many different pieces of scenery and scene changes over the course of eight hours, that to try to find a home for all of these items squirreled away in all the little nooks and crannies of the theater was probably the single most difficult challenge.