Wendall Harrington’s career has embraced many diverse and exciting disciplines including theatre, publishing and multi-image/video design and production. As a designer of scenic projections for the stage, her work has been seen around the world. Wendall has designed the video projections which will be integrated with the hard set for the world premiere of Don Quixote, opening this Wednesday, October 12th.
Q. How did you get involved in your line of work?
A. I was an unemployed filmmaker who took a job in advertising making slideshows for corporate clients, when I got a call to make some slides for the great lighting designer Tharron Musser. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q. You have an extensive professional background and have worked on productions around the world; how would you say that you have developed a global reputation?
A. I just keep doing the work that is offered. I am endlessly curious and love to see and do new things. I also do my best to work with a budget!
Q. Could you tell us about what you are creating for Don Quixote?
A. I am trying to make the drawings of Gustave Dore come to life, as well as to flesh out the story a bit more. Using the Dore drawings, Don Quixote himself comes forward which is unusual in a ballet.
Q. What is your creative process for creating a projected set?
A. Once I see what the set designer is doing, I work within it. Having worked with Jack Mehler on the Othello, I knew that I wished the mage was taller and so we created a higher ground row than usual and as I have an extensive library I was able to give him a lot of visual information about locale and furniture and such.
Q. Were there any challenges integrating your projection sets with the hard sets?
A. That is the work of my life: to make a flat projected image look dimensional. I work as much as I can to create depth and diagonals.
Q. The nature of ballet is to use the dancer’s body, the music the set and costumes to tell a story, while most theater has the added component of dialogue. Do you feel that you have more creative freedom with Don Quixote than say, a piece Broadway work?
A. I love that about ballet and opera. By its very nature it is an abstraction and it gives the audience room to dream.
Q. How will your projections contribute to making this production unique?
A. We are able to tell the story with more detail and we need not change the furniture to tell the story. Also, I think the windmill will be thrilling and cinegraphic.
Q. I know that having a projected set will make Don Quixote ideal for touring, are there any other benefits to having a primarily projected set?
A. The ability to create shifting moods and sense of place without bring in a curtain and taking the audience out of the story while we bring on the new piece of scenery.
Q. What is your favorite part about your job?
A. Being in the room when the dancers take flight. I’m always always excited to see great dancers, great singers and hear the live orchestra. Even after doing this for 30 years, it never ever gets old.
Q. What is something the audience might not expect about this production?
A. I think most dance-goers are not used to seeing ballet with projection. I think they will be surprised by how seamless it is and, I hope, how penetrating the story becomes. One thing you can do with projection is a close up. In this case, it’s not exactly of the dance, but of the expressive images of Dore. I hope will create a greater connection to the story. After working on it, my associate was so intrigued he went out and bought the book.
Q. Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A. I love working with the Joffrey. They are a brave company with high standards, and great intelligence. I think what Ashley is trying to do is so commendable, and I am happy to be a part of the process.