Gilpin's scenic design selected for exhibit

Douglas Gilpin’s scenic design for Other Desert Cities was selected for the 2016 USITT Design Expo Exhibition, a biennial juried design exhibition.

The exhibition is part of the national United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) annual conference held this year in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Gilpin, professor of theatre arts at Henderson, was one of 143 designers to showcase their design work in the invitational portion of the exhibition.  The work included scenery, lighting and costumes from designers across the nation and ranged from students to working professional designers.

Out of the 143 designers entered, 16 were selected for the juried exhibition.  The winners for all the categories will be featured in the summer issue of TD&T in June.

Other Desert Cities was one of three shows for which Gilpin served as a guest set designer for the Circuit Playhouse/Playhouse on the Square in Memphis during the past two years. 

“On all three shows, I had to design the scenery some seven to eight months out from the opening of the show,” Gilpin said. “In each case, there were two design phases and then I went on site for the scenic painting phase during the last nine days prior to the play opening.

“The challenge of this production was to design and bring to life a mid-century modern family home in Palm Springs, California, and make it fit the small stage that is the Circuit Playhouse in Memphis.”

Gilpin said he found it was an interesting design challenge to research and understand the work of those mid-century modernist architects working in the western United States, especially California. 

“These architects were trying to embrace the desert environment and create homes that evoked a lifestyle of simple elegance and informality,” he said. “They were the same architects designing homes for Hollywood movie stars and politicians in the 1940 and 50s.”

Gilpin said he had multiple discussions with the director and then sent the production team a full set of design drawings in two phases, a model, watercolor indications and paint samples.  Then the technical staff did all of the building of the set pieces.

“I showed up to paint and help to prop the space -- my favorite two parts of the job,” he said. “Memphis Playhouse on the Square has a very good management and technical staff and they made my job very easy.  They do beautiful work and the scenery turned out gorgeous.”

Gilpin has been a member of the Henderson faculty for 28 years and also serves as designer/technical director for Henderson.  He is a member of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), USTTT/SW and former ACTF Region VI design chair.  He received his M.F.A. in design from Texas Tech University in 1988.

This is Gilpin’s third selection for the Design Expo catalog as his scenic designs for Titus Andronicus in 2006 and Time Stands Still in 2014 were both featured in the Design Expo Exhibitions and national journal TD&T of those years.

Other recognitions for his work include: designs published in Creating Comics as Journalism, Memoir & Nonfiction, in Scene Design & Stage Lighting 8th ed., a 2007 Arkansas Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, two Memphis Ostrander nominations for his theatre work in Memphis, and numerous Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival scenic awards.

In addition, Gilpin has designed for Minnesota Repertory Theatre, Emporia Summer Rep, University of Central Arkansas, Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, University of Memphis and, most recently, for the Circuit Playhouse in Memphis.

Recent designs include Glass Menagerie, Proposals, and What I did Last Summer.  He is currently working on the musical Avenue Q, set to open at the Henderson State University Studio Theatre on April 14.