5Qs: David Korins, Scenic Designer, Hamilton

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(James Burns)

Anyone who has seen the game-changing musical, Hamilton, knows that the design elements are just as revolutionary as the spectacular direction, music, choreography, and acting. With a current US tour, productions in New York, London, and Chicago, plus another in Puerto Rico as of January 2019, scenic designer David Korins has been busy creating new iterations of the room where it happens, as he explains in his exclusive chat with Live Design.

1. For Hamilton, what is the basic concept of the Broadway set? How did that evolve from The Public?

We realized early on that we were not telling the story of the people who built the foundation of our country, but rather we were telling the story of the people who built the scaffolding from which the foundation of our country was built. The basic metaphor is that we are seeing an aspirational work site made up of a tapestry of early American architecture created with shipbuilding methodologies. I hope that in this space we can see a shimmer of the foundation of the country we know today. From The Public, we evolved the space to fit the parameters of the new environment. We were able to get several steps deeper and more nuanced into the design. I like to think we further enriched the storytelling.

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2. How do you proceed for each new theatre, in terms of adapting the set?

The goal for each adaptation is that we try our best to honor and recreate the feeling and emotional storytelling of the Broadway production. So really, except for the engineering, we build what is meant to be a permanent structure in such a way that it can be assembled and disassembled in a theatre in eight hours. The end result is, of course, no visual difference for the patrons between the touring and the Broadway productions.

3. City-by-city changes?

There are tour-by-tour changes that we’ve adapted from each of the previous iterations, and we try to incorporate those new discoveries into the overall build. We don’t change city-by-city once it’s been sent off for the individual tour because we know the tour route beforehand and can design for the most challenging physical parameters.

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4. What about London?

Well, we knew that London was going to be a sit-down production, so we designed specifically for that theater. Because there was a complete renovation of the theatre before we went into it, we worked specifically with the Mackintosh team to make sure our set would be integrated perfectly into the newly renovated space.

5. Any particular challenges along the way?

Every show has its own set of challenges. The best challenge with Hamilton is that because it has become this supernova-sized hit that we are tasked to deliver a premium, A+ experience to every theatre, venue, and audience around the world. It's fun to try to live up to the impossibly high standard that the audience holds of Hamilton, and I like to think that we meet these expectations year in and year out, venue to venue.

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