A New Perspective on Sinking – Lindsey Mayer, Set Designer – “Titanic”

Lindsey puts the finishing touches on her set that was showcased recently in Prague

“…the second the audience expects something they lose interest. As much as it’s miraculous to see a ship sink onstage, if the audience is expecting it, it no longer is miraculous as it could be. So we give the concept of sinking a new life – a new perspective. The audience is not only going to be excited about what just happened, but they’ll remember it more.”

         – Lindsey Mayer, Set Designer, “Titanic”

When I first met Lindsey Mayer who designed the set for “Titanic,” I thought she was much older. Not that she looks older but it’s the way she communicates that makes her seem beyond her years. She’s well-spoken and poised. I was surprised to learn she’s going into her senior year of college at Point Park University in Pittsburgh where she’s obtaining a BFA.

That’s what Summer Stage is all about – providing a blank canvas, if you will, a place to showcase the work of talented young people.

And Lindsey is extremely talented. She’s been designing sets for Summer Stage since she graduated high school and she’s also designed for Pittsburgh Playhouse. “Titanic” is her first Mainstage production. She just returned from Prague where her set design for Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” was exhibited as part of the National American Student Exhibit at the world-renowned scenic design conference.

How She Has Wrangled her Creativity
She has always been creative but she didn’t know how to put her creativity to use. She always loved theater; her father took her to shows in the city from the time she was a little girl. She loved to watch the performers, but was always fascinated by the technical aspects of the shows. “When I was younger, when I looked at a set, I didn’t realize that designing it was something that I could do. It was a bit mysterious to me,” says Lindsey.

Lindsey grew up in Drexel Hill and participated in Summer Stage as a performer. But when she went into her freshman year of high school and auditioned for the high school show and didn’t get a part, she joined the tech crew. That’s when she discovered how and where to apply her artistic talent.

“The interesting thing about set design is that you are always aware of the audience. It’s not a personal art form,” says Lindsey. “I was well-prepared for pleasing the audience because my mother, who is a graphic designer, was always pointing out to me what made a design more attractive and appealing from a marketing perspective. She would tell me ‘no one’s going to pay attention to this, but they will pay attention to this, and here’s why.’ ”

The Power of Collaboration
One of the elements of set design Lindsey enjoys most is the collaboration, working with the director and other members of the creative team to develop the concepts and then utilize her talent to create the design. “The great thing about collaboration is that you sit in a circle of people and one person suggests one thing and it opens up all sorts of options that spring up to you,” adds Lindsey.

For the “Titanic” set, Director Marcus Stevens knew he didn’t want ship smoke stacks and hydraulics. He wanted a more abstract design. “The great thing about Marcus is he’ll come in with a list of ideas,” says Lindsey. “He’ll throw them out into the space and I try to make the connections.”

While they were brainstorming about the “Titanic” set, Marcus and Lindsey met and flipped through the pages of a book about the Titanic. The binding of the book featured the names of the victims, listed. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Well that’s cool.’ And that’s where the entire design comes from,” adds Lindsey. “If we hadn’t taken the time to sit together and agree that we both like it, we could have passed right through the final design of the set.”

“Just like he directs the actors, Marcus directs me. He throws out feelings, more or less, I get to make something of it. It’s unpredictable. As an artist, it’s extremely exciting. ”

An Abstract Design
Which brings us to the non-conforming, abstract set design that is the backdrop of the “Titanic” production.

“We all know the ship sinks,” says Lindsey matter-of-factly. “And the second the audience expects something they lose interest. As much as it’s miraculous to see a ship sink onstage, if the audience is expecting it, it no longer is miraculous as it could be. So we give the concept of sinking a new life – a new perspective. The audience is not only going to be excited about what just happened, but they’ll remember it more.”

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