Directed by Tony Award winner Darko Tresnjak, Anastasia premiered at Hartford Stage in 2016 and is currently running on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. The production received 13 Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations—the most for any musical this year—as well as nine Drama Desk Award nominations and two Tony Award nominations. Recognized for magical designs, the creative team includes Alexander Dodge, sets; Aaron Rhyne, projections; Donald Holder, lights; Peter Hylenski, sound; and Linda Cho, costumes.
Paris Holds The Key
“This production is a model in collaboration,” states Rhyne. “There is just no way to point to one specific designer or know when one’s work stops and another’s starts.” The designs are so seamless, in fact, that projections complete a double concave wall of arches in the Romanov palace as well as close the gap in the upper level of the balustrade during the opera scene. Rhyne won Outstanding Projection Design at the Outer Critics Circle Awards and a Drama Desk Award for his work.
The projection designer worked very closely with Dodge. “We walked through every look together, every step of the way,” Rhyne says. “It was a really exciting process.” Rhyne and his assistant Gabriel Aronson would take Dodge’s set models and input them into a 3D computer model and then reinterpret them to create other or adjacent rooms fitting Dodge’s style. Rhyne also included inspiration from his own research.
“I spent a four-day weekend walking around Paris, looking at architecture and shooting bridges and streets just to get some really specific, small details,” he explains. The scene on the Pont Alexandre III Bridge in Paris is entirely based off of Rhyne’s own photos. “In the show, the sunset is a beautiful, rich pink, which really reflects the emotion that Anastasia is feeling on stage,” he says. “You wouldn’t really see a sunset that color, but we heighten it enough to match what is going on emotionally on the stage. My personal design aesthetic for the show was to heighten everything a little bit and make everything feel magical, not like a fairytale, but just make it beautiful every place that they were.”
For Rhyne, the most challenging aspect of the show is the tech. “In the video department alone, we have near 30 computers running the show,” he states. “But it doesn’t feel like you’re looking at a computer screen. It looks like an environment, a field on the way to Russia or the Neva Club. The hardest thing is just making sure that every piece of technical equipment is successfully talking to the other pieces so that everything appears smooth and not like you’re watching a bunch of computers working.”
All content was created in Adobe After Effects, as well as Maxon Cinema 4D, and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator when appropriate. A d3 technologies media server runs the show’s three projectors: a 30K-lumen Panasonic laser projector for front projection and two 12K Panasonic laser projectors, hidden in the boxes on either side of the stage. An Absen A3 Pro 3mm LED wall encompasses the back of the stage. Additional video tiles are embedded into the left and right turntable set pieces so that the tiles are on both sides when it revolves. Sound Associates provided the video equipment.