Men on Boats
Clarence Brown Theatre
Director: Ashlee Latimer
Scenic: Sophie Smrcka
Costumes Kaelyn Williams
Lighting: Kaylin Gess
A comedic, genderfluid-cast play, Men on Boats is a story of discovery, adventure, and duty. This play touches on a lot of themes ranging from how we interact with our environment, to the value of legacy, to the importance of how and by whom history is told. It recounts the mapping expedition of John Wesley Powell and his crew who are tasked with mapping the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. As they continue on their journey, they encounter many difficulties, including a lack of preparation, the dangers of the water itself, and philosophical questions about what it means to have a legacy and to have one’s story told.
Through my design, I hoped to capture the light hearted spirit of adventure that is the driving force of this play while also exploring the idea of how we interact with the natural world and more importantly, how it interacts with us. This is portrayed through beds of ambient nature sounds which can be either comforting or unnerving depending on the context. The river itself is a constant throughout the play, and has its own personality. It can be a source of sustenance, or a place of danger and death. It is present in some way throughout the entirety of the play.
I chose to represent some of the more fun, comedic, and adventure-filled elements of the play through music that is upbeat and has a playful and forward-moving nature to it. While this is a play based on historical people and events, it has many anachronisms that make it more relatable to a modern audience. I am using music that is reminiscent of folk music and its acoustic instrumentation, which alludes to the time period and the western frontier while also speaking to the jovial and grassroots tone of the journey.