Nephelie Andonyadis Sets the Stage for Disgraced

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With 20 years’ experience designing sets and costumes for Los Angeles’ Cornerstone Theater Company, South Coast Repertory and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others, Nephelie Andonyadis knows what draws her to a project: a combination of intriguing, important material, an aesthetic challenge, exciting collaborators and the chance to work within the fabric of a community. With PlayMakers’ production of Disgraced,  she’s “grateful to have the opportunity to explore this remarkably insightful, challenging, and chiseled play with gifted collaborators who are dear old colleagues and new found friends.’

She and director Shishir Kurup have known each other since the early 1990s. Since then they’ve been frequent collaborators, usually in Los Angeles through shared experiences with Cornerstone Theater Company.  
She’s delighted to be at PlayMakers noting the theatre’s “wonderful” craftspeople who embrace the technical challenges of engineering and constructing every detail of the setting, as well as the impact of our strong graduate programs and the benefits of those students on the quality of work. She’s also impressed with PlayMakers’ commitment to community dialogue and efforts to create a space for meaningful conversation.
Nephelie describes her process as starting with text and action. She reads and re-reads the play, “un-structuring” the playwright’s work to find underlying stepping stones, clues and instigators for the actions that grow from the words. “My job as a designer is to imagine and create a physical, visual, aesthetic world in which the poetry and action seem perfectly surprising and inevitable. I start by building breakdowns of both the broad strokes and small details within each scene, each page. I digest the play, internalize and understand it to the point where I can imagine the space as a dynamic container for its action and poetry.” 

Nephelie’s model for PlayMakers’ production of Disgraced
The setting for Disgraced is the interior of a Manhattan apartment over the course of several months. There are very specific actions in the play, and moments of discovery, in which what was meant to be private is witnessed by another. Some of these are dark, ugly moments of human behavior. And therefore the geography of the set must be very particular: some actions must be hidden, while others must be revealed. Characters must see or hear, or not see or hear specific, significant moments of interaction between other characters. 
Another challenge is that the play was originally envisioned to be presented in a proscenium stage, with built-in mechanisms to control what is revealed and what is hidden from the audience. The PlayMakers stage is deep thrust. Nephelie describes the difference for us.
“The spatial dynamic of the Paul Greene Theatre brings the audience in close to the action, much like an ancient Greek amphitheatre (a space for dance, direct address and discourse) than like the Renaissance proscenium (a space for magic and spectacle) where the audience and performer operate facing out towards the other.” 

Another view of Nephelie’s model for the Paul Green Theatre
But ultimately, says Nephelie, the venue shares much with the principles of the ancient amphitheatre, where attendance to see a new play was an act of citizenship as much as an opportunity for entertainment. With this in mind, the main action takes place in the central space that is the physical, visual, vocal focus of the theatre. This is where the action and characters reveal themselves and serves as the focal point for the audience, keeping attention on the key questions of the play. 
“The hope is that [our production] will entertain (it has so much humor!) while inviting audiences to see themselves, and those we imagine as ‘others,’ in a fresh way. So we begin to talk about the ways in which we Americans are all interdependent and can begin to see and be seen, to be known to ourselves and to each other. Being a part of that conversation made me want to be a part of this production.”
Join us as Disgraced brings the conversation center stage beginning September 16th.
Click here or call our Box Office at 919.962.7529 for tickets or more information.