Skip navigation

After a great opening weekend, Lydia sat down with Melancholy Play’s scenic designer, Mac Young. Fans of Holland may recognize Mac as Derek in Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls and a Dark-Dweller in Kid Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh.  They discussed making a living in theater, growing facial hair, and the overuse of the word “organic.”

Mac working on the set, sans shoes.

LA: You’ve actually acted with Holland Productions, but how you’re doing scenic design for us. Which came first for your, acting or design/tech work?

MY: As far as working in the theatre goes, acting came first; in highschool and more seriously in college. I’ve been designing and building things since I was a little kid, but it’s only recently that I realized I could apply that to the stage. Why it took me so damn long I don’t know. Nowadays, my money-making day job is in the theatre as well. (Of course, as anyone familiar with theatre knows, when I say ‘day’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘daytime.’)

LA: You’ve tended to play kind of wacky and unstable characters in the last two Holland Productions shows (Kid Simple and Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls). How do you feel about that?

MY: I feel pretty great, thanks for asking.

LA: What’s your process for designing a show?

MY: My general design process (this is the first time I’ve done a whole show) is long and organic. I know, I know, everyone likes to say their process is ‘organic,’ but I totally mean it.

I have my initial inspirations, but it’s quite a boon to me if I don’t have to go straight to the building phase. This is because my initial inspirations are pretty crappy. The germ of it will be something that excites me, but it’s usually overall flawed and impossible to execute. But, because I do get excited about it, it commandeers my brain for a while; I may not be sitting down at the drafting board, but whenever I have a chance to think, I’m thinking about the project. I like to stay busy and this helps with that. The idea improves a lot at this unhurried pace, and the practical solutions start to emerge. I decide on the right materials, test out the engineering, eventually arrive at math and drafting. By the time I need to start building, I’ve usually figured out my every move. The trick, of course, is to start early enough that you can do this!

I always love the finished product more than my initial idea. The details it gains in becoming real are the most interesting; they’re the things I couldn’t have imagined to begin with. The aspects of the idea that I have to cut, I don’t miss. If they don’t survive contact with reality, it’s usually because they were only superficially interesting.

LA: How did you approach Melancholy Play?

MY: We knew at the outset a lot of the elements we wanted: chandeliers, a mobile floor plan, etc. Those things could have been done a lot of different ways, though, so the job was to find the design and materials that would convey the right emotional tone. I really believe that materials, objects and places have an immediate feel — for example, I’m sure you feel different about natural fibers than about steel. Once I knew how I wanted (for example) the chandeliers to hang, and to fill up the airspace, I spent a lot of time sourcing old-fashioned manila rope and tackle from nautical salvage. I could have hung the chandeliers in the normal way, from steel cable, but it would have seemed like a concession to technical necessity, rather than part of the play.

LA: What’s been the biggest challenge with this show?

MY: Logistics. Getting everything I needed into the same room at the right time. I had to spend more effort doing that than I did actually building, and I found that frustrating. That kind of uncertainty, as in ‘where are we going to get that, and what will it look like when we do,’ leaves you with a lot of blank spots in your design — you need to start building with a lot of questions unanswered, and figure it out as you go.

LA: What’s been the best part of working on this show?

MY: Seeing my chandeliers under [lighting designer] Aaron Sherkow’s lights for the first time. I had intended for the chandeliers and the ropes to catch incidental light, but how it ended up looking was beyond my expectation.

LA: What do you do when you’re melancholy?

MY: Unlike certain hairdressers, I don’t get to take melancholy days. Besides, I’m more often phlegmatic, if not a little choleric. But when it does happen, I like to be alone and go somewhere outside. I admit, I have gone to the extreme of reciting Shakespeare at night, on a beach, in a storm. I’m with Sarah Ruhl on this; melancholy should be indulged.

LA: What else are you working on now?

MY: I’m over at the Huntington Theatre every night, as part of the run crew for Becky Shaw. I was involved in building it, too, so it’s been a long journey for me, one that has run parallel to Melancholy Play.

I’m also looking forward to doing another show with Imaginary Beasts, as an actor once again. Matthew Woods is a great director, with a visual eye I really appreciate. It might mean a few more marathon days for me, but I’ve offered to help with the design and build too.

LA: What’s your favorite nut?

MY: Just a coincidence, but it’s always been almonds for me.

LA: Anything you’d like to add?

MY: Apropos of nothing, I’m participating in 826 Boston’s Moustache-a-thon, which is a very clever fundraiser for a very clever organization. I invite you to check them out — they do a lot of good, and they do it with an appealing sense of humor. I teach there, and I love it. If you’re moved to chip in, the money goes to a great place.

See those chandeliers, and maybe catch a glimpse of Mac’s moustache, at Melancholy Play. There’s only one weekend left, so get your tickets now!


Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: