Designer Hana Kim Intensifies Emotion With Abstract Imagery For Summer, 1976

Billed as a piece, “about connection, memories, and the small moments that can change the course of our lives,”  David Auburn’s Summer, 1976, follows two Ohio moms who look at the world through different lenses.

The Manhattan Theatre Club production transferred to the Samuel J Friedman theatre on Broadway in April with Daniel Sullivan at the helm. John Lee Beatty designed the scenery, Japhy Weideman the lighting, Linda Cho the costumes, and Jill BC Du Buff the sound, with original music by Greg Pliska.

Hana S. Kim, an immersive media designer and a visual artist for live performances, did the projections for the show. She set out to convey the emotional side of their journey. “It’s  a memory play, so we travel through time with them. The video is an abstract container…We’re in their memory space. So, rather than using a specific location, it is almost like a courtroom, where they make their case to the audience. It’s not really clear who did right or wrong, and it doesn’t matter. There are multiple versions of a story. The creative team was careful about putting too much of their own viewpoints into it.”

Kim says it was important for her to create a mapping technique that someone other than the original programmer could manage. “We were coming up with a pattern that was easy to see. It changed quite a bit during the tech process. There was a lot of discovery of what the set could do. The set had a lot of translucent walls. I worked very closely with Japhy and John Lee.  It was a rewarding experience because we all responded to each other in techs.“

Weideman agrees. “The design from the set to the lighting to the projection was very seamless.” He says that even without video, he could emphasize or remove structures through lighting positions and give the set an “abstract, mystical feeling. Then video added a whole other layer…. Hana used emotional textures of varying colors and patterns…When you have a good collaboration, one looks at the stage and can’t really tell what’s video and what’s done with lighting.”

A tree behind the set, lit from upstage “had an organic natural quality, but it wasn’t like ‘Oh, there’s a tree,’” he notes. He says Kim was able to create abstract projections, along with a few softened tree branches around the portal that “tastily grounded the abstracted upstage into the reality of being outside. What was brilliant was that none of it was heavy handed.  [Even an image of the Golden Gate Bridge suggested the bridge without being too literal] and was able to stay in the language of the play.”

Playback: Disguise

Projectors: 2 x Panasonic RZ12KU and 3 x Panasonic RZ970U