All / Lists / Photo Galleries / October 11, 2016

Notes from a Scenic Designer: Matthew Steinbrenner on Scorsese: American Crime Requiem

Playing at The Wallis through October 16, Scorsese: American Crime Requiem is the latest in the For The Record show series to hit Los Angeles stages. For The Record — described by its producers as “a genre-bending form of live entertainment” — is a production that utilizes soundtracks of iconic films to create theatrical concert experiences. Accordingly, Scorsese features songs from GoodFellas, Casino, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street and more.

The unique format aside, what’s been standing out for audiences is the distinct way For The Record scenic designers have transformed the Wallis into a nightclub-esque space, loaning itself to an immersive part-rock concert, part-musical, part-bar feel.

We contacted Scenic Designer/Art Director Matthew Steinbrenner to see if he’d share some images of his creation, and the inspiration behind his choices.


Matthew Steinbrenner: When designing For The Record shows, our goal is always to blur the line between a rock concert and a musical, between a theater and a bar, and between the actors and the audience. Our shows started in a tiny 50-seat bar in Los Feliz, so we are constantly considering how to incorporate and envelop the audience, allowing for the raw and honest performances that have defined a For the Record experience since our beginning. When we are designing each FTR set, we also consider how the scenery can activate and illuminate. Lighting allows the scenery to be as dynamic and interactive as the performers on stage. The lighting infused into the set can then reach out and grab the audience, pulling them into the action.

The set for Scorsese: American Crime Requiem provides a space that is as intertwined, dynamic, and powerful as the films we are honoring. It is grounded in the grit and glamour of Mr. Scorsese’s films. Incorporating the styling of an old Italian restaurant, our set feels heavy and established — carrying the weight of the complex characters and the history for their storied pasts. Looming over the set is a dense rig of lighting — both a sky of power and a ceiling of restrictive metal pipes. In plain view, the set resembles a Venn diagram, creating circular paths onstage where the stories and characters intersect and overlap — where cinema, theater, and music coalesce.

2. The set features hidden lighting in many architectural features within the design. For example, the step fascias light up to mimic the chasing light bulbs of a casino facade to help support scenes from the film Casino.

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2. The walk-in look for the show reveals the set as an extension of the theater, using architectural lighting techniques to highlight the various textures and materials of the set. Seating onstage reinforces the immersive quality that is a trademark of a For the Record show.

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3. White model digital model of the FTR: Scorsese set.   

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4. At the epicenter of the set is an area nicknamed the “Table Stage.” Surrounded by a curved banquet on the upstage side and stool seating around the downstage side, this stage was used as a literal table (pictured above) or as a performance stage. 

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5. The Scorsese set is a hybrid of theatrical architecture and rock-n-roll lighting to visually blend the worlds of a rock concert and musical storytelling.

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Tags:  cabaret for the record musical scorsese the wallis

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