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projection design for White Noise Joan Marcus

By Design: Lucy Mackinnon’s Projections For White Noise

Video plays a large part in the design of Suzan-Lori Park’s new play, White Noise, now at The Public Theatre, through May 5. Designed by Lucy Mackinnon, the projections add to the emotional impact of the play, which was directed by Oskar Eustis with the design team also including Clint Ramos, sets; Toni-Leslie James, costumes; Xavier Pierce, lighting; and Dan Moses Schreier, sound. Read about the sound design and set design for White Noise, as Live Design covers all the creative aspects of this visceral play about racial tension in a contemporary context.

Live Design: What role does the video play?

Lucy Mackinnon: Video works in three distinct ways in White Noise. First, it serves a practical purpose by bringing Misha's live-stream show, “Ask A Black,” into the theater. To do that, I combine live-feed from the stage with hip, slightly retro, well-polished graphics invented to match the character. The “Ask A Black” sequences are displayed on eight television monitors hung around the stage. And on these same screens, I display graphics for the bowling alley known as "The Spot." This is the other practical, prop-like element in the video design. The bowling graphics are important because they help establish location early in the show, but by the end, the hyper-aggressive animations embody the tension and rage seen on stage—rage that's close to turning into violence. Second, video tallies days between scenes. And third, static and digital noise blanket the stage during scene transitions. Using a bright projector hidden at the foot of the deck, I light up the space with projection and cast incredibly crisp, towering shadows of actors onto the back walls.

LD: What did you use for content creation and playback?

LM: I created all the graphics in Adobe After Effects. We used Dataton Watchout to program the show. The displays were composed of a 15K Epson projector, an 8K Epson, two tiny in-house projectors, and eight Samsung TVs.

Stay tuned for interviews with Toni-Leslie James and Xavier Pierce.

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