The musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson recently won two Lucille Lortel Awards for both Best Musical as well as for best set design by Donyale Werle. Just yesterday, the Broadway version was nominated for a Tony award for best set design as well. Since I was the assistant props master on the off-Broadway incarnation (and the Broadway production was almost a direct transfer), I thought I’d write a bit about the props and set dressing of this award-winning scenery.
The props themselves were not too challenging (well, maybe some of them were); really, when you think of the set for Bloody Bloody, you think of the set dressing. It did not just cover the stage, it exploded out into the audience.
It’s interesting how the set dressing evolved during the show’s journey to Broadway. The show had a 2006 workshop at Williamstown Theatre Festival and a 2007 one at New 42nd Street Studios. It premiered in an LA production by CTG in 2008. We first did it at the Public in 2009 (I did some artisan work on that production) before its off-Broadway premiere in 2010. Every step of the way, the set design evolved and grew, and elements of the set dressing traveled from production to production.
So when the show got to us in 2010, we not only built, bought and otherwise acquired a whole theatre’s worth of stuff, we also unpacked several boxes worth of detritus that had accumulated during the previous incarnations. I took a few photographs of the upstage wall and assembled it into a panorama so you can see just a tiny portion of the amount of dressing and detail which went into this show.
To place that wall into context, I also have a photograph of the set taken from the back row of the Newman Theatre.
I could try to remember the details of all the set dressing pieces, but it turns out Time Out Magazine has a wonderful slide show of the Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson set with descriptions by Donyale Werle, so check that out instead. Amongst the clutter was the horse from the Public’s production of Kicking a Dead Horse as well as parts of the body I worked on for The Bacchae.
When this production closed, it was time to pack it up for Broadway. Normally when preparing our show documents, we would photograph and list all the set dressing; that would have been a monumental and difficult task in this case (we would have to write sentences like “a piece of duct tape is attached to a rope and stretches down to a horse which has a beer bottle underneath it”). Luckily, Donyale is highly organized and took most of her own reference photos and described them in a way that made sense to her. We just had to inventory, pack and label everything so the Broadway team could unpack it in their theatre.
They obviously added a whole lot more as well; the sum of all our items would only fill a small portion of a Broadway house. The New York Times covered the set design of the Broadway version as well as creating an interactive tour complete with narration by Donyale and her team.