Set Designer Derek McLane Takes Playbill Inside the Worlds of The Heiress, Last Five Years, Tiffany's and More

By Michael Gioia
16 Apr 2013

A design for Holly's apartment.

In Breakfast at Tiffany's, McLane's latest Broadway project, the audience is transported to the smoky streets of 1940s New York City.

"Not only is the story a love affair with Holly Golightly [played by Emilia Clarke] for Fred [played by Cory Michael Smith], the writer, but it's also [a love affair] with New York City," said McLane. "To me, a big component of [Breakfast at Tiffany's] is a love letter to Manhattan and that era… That period is so embodied by the photographs of Andreas Feininger. He was this great photographer of New York City in the 40s. His photos were black and white. He was the son of an immigrant painter. And, if you look at Feininger's photographs, he clearly has a love affair with NYC also. He's not a writer — he's a painter — but he seemed like a great visual corollary to [novelist] Truman Capote. We got the rights from the Feininger estate to use his photographs, so those scrim panels that tracked across the stage — and also, there's this big translucent drop upstage — they were all printed with collaged versions of Feininger's photographs… A lot of the time they were obliterated by projections that went on top of them, but when the projections were gone — what we were left with — was this kind of cityscape that's very romantic, I think. It was this nighttime cityscape — romantic and hazy and spooky and gauzy and a little faint because it's sort of recollected. It's a memory."

Like The Last Five Years, McLane's slight use of projections make New York City come alive.

"There’s a fabulous booked called 'New York in the Forties'…and a huge number of photographs in there are by Feininger," McLane continued about his inspirations for the piece. "What led me to it is [the question] of, 'What captures that feeling of New York more than anything?' And, it's those photographs."

Watch highlights from Breakfast at Tiffany's: