Arts

BEHIND THE SCENE

‘Albatross’ sets sail

Garrett Herzig

What: A series of evocative, abstract images projected on patchwork sails in “Albatross,” the dramatization of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Where: “Albatross” runs through July 3 at Gloucester Stage Company. Tickets: $25-$38, 978-281-4433, www.gloucesterstage.com

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“Albatross,” the stage adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lyrical ballad of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” represents that breathtaking alchemy that can only happen in the theater. In the midst of Coleridge’s strange and haunting storytelling is an extraordinary performance by Ben Evett, enhanced by a deceptively simple set by Cristina Todesco and a series of projections, including maps, that provide a concrete sense of place, and then an illusory suggestion of emotion.

“The language is very evocative,” says projection designer Garrett Herzig, who is returning to the show he originally designed for New Repertory Theatre. “When we first talked about projections, I thought, well, we could be literal and have an actual albatross flying across the screen, but when Cristina came up with the idea of these patchwork sails that Ben hoists up into place, we knew we needed to make sure the imagery felt like part of this magical world. It needed to be larger than life without ever taking away from Ben’s performance or Coleridge’s poetry.”

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Herzig says he was brought in to production meetings early in the design process.

Director Rick Lombardo “had a strong vision for the piece,” he says. “There is an arc the story takes from realistic to increasingly weird. The challenge was to make that transition feel smooth.”

Lombardo, who also designed the sound, worked with co-adapters Matthew Spangler and Evett on the tone of the piece while Herzig studied the popular Gustave Dore woodcuts that appeared in published 19th-century versions of the poem.

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“The engravings are very detailed,” says Herzig, “whether they are outlining clear descriptions of the water and the ship or the swirling, uncomfortable weirdness of images that are coming right out of someone’s mind.”

Working with Lombardo’s vision and Todesco’s shapes within the set, Herzig designed a series of projections that support Evett’s performance and the text in unexpected ways.

“My job is to tailor my ideas to fit Cristina’s set,” says Herzig. “For this production, I am also designing the lighting, and we are all thinking about creating a production that can tour.” TERRY BYRNE

After Gloucester, “Albatross” heads to the Edinburgh International Festival and then to Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.
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