The Band’s Visit may be an intimate, smaller scale show than its counterparts this Broadway season, but putting together the design elements to tell a unified story was no smaller task. Tony-nominated scenic designer Scott Pask and Tony-nominated sound designer Kai Harada took us onstage and backstage at the Barrymore Theatre—home to The Band’s Visit—to see the up-close details, inner workings, and even test out the automation. Watch the full tour below.
Pask designed the show during its Off-Broadway run at the Atlantic and while the set size remains the same in one way (“The dimension of the set left to right is exactly what it was at the Atlantic,” says Pask) the designer had to re-envision his work. “The audience relationship changes because at the Atlantic you’re looking down on the set whereas here it’s much higher,” says Pask.
To incorporate an authentic Israeli feel for the desert setting in Bet Hatikva, Pask turned to technology to help in his research. “I was running around on Google Maps with a camera, you can take a tour through most of these streets in some of the towns in the desert in Israel,” he says. “I grew up in the desert Southwest, very different, but an ever-present horizon line was something I felt was really important.”
Pask wanted the motif of a mirage to permeate his design, including the paint and texturing of the set by Scenic Arts Studios. From aging techniques to creating water and rust stains for a gritty feel, Pask also collaborated with Tony-nominated lighting designer Tyler Micoleau to create depth.
Then, Pask took us on a ride on the turntable—also known as the donut because of its inner and outer turntables often used to create opposing rotations. “It’s the song called ‘Waiting,’ the lyric is in there ‘around and around,’” he says. “David Cromer, the director, said to me when I read [the script], ‘Think about what you want to do, but think about the idea of a lazy turntable’ and I said, ‘Perfect. Let’s start there.’”
Both Pask and Harada took their cues from Cromer, but the design of a show is an exercise in collaboration. “If you’re a performer, one of the challenges is always hearing the music,” Harada explains. “We have an orchestra that’s underneath the stage in their own special room as well as the onstage musicians. Scott and I determined a couple of places onstage where we could put speakers in the deck so the cast is always feeling comfortable. There are also speakers above. The worst thing as a performer onstage is not to know where you are pitch or rhythm wise, so we really tried to take care of them.”
Harada also had to balance instrumentals from the pit orchestra with those from musicians who move around the stage for the audience experience. He used aero-spacial technology software, like sound GPS, to create a full musical experience. “It does a lot of math that none of us want to do to create the illusion that, if the musician is onstage Stage Left, all of the sound is coming from that spot onstage,” he says. “As they move that system is also tracking it.”
Whether tracking a musician, simulating the dusk and dawn of the sun, or adding family photos to the walls of a café, Pask, Micoleau, and Harada prioritized authenticity and intimacy to convey the subtle story of Broadway’s The Band’s Visit.