Scenic Designer Christine Jones Shunned the Movies While Designing the Sets for “Cursed Child”!
Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is proving to be an award magnet for both its cast and crew, and it’s already worked its spell on Christine Jones, whose work on the play’s scenic design has led to a nomination for a Tony Award! A professor at New York University, Jones already has one Tony Award for scenic design to her name for her work on American Idiot.
Jones became involved with Cursed Child after connecting with Steven Hoggett, the choreographer for Cursed Child. The two met while working on the 2010 Broadway production of American Idiot, a musical adaptation of Green Day’s eponymous album. Hoggett then introduced Jones to John Tiffany, the director for Cursed Child!
Jones gave an interview with Backstage about her work on the play, describing how she collaborates with the director to bring their vision to life and was able to work closely with the actors. Jones believes this to be important since she was able to be inspired by the individual actors themselves.
I created wands for all of the characters. I was able to sit in rehearsal and draw each person’s wand while I watched them and listened to them, so I was able to be truly inspired by their presence and their energy. And that is what I set out to do: create a space that has potential and possibility.
Jones made a particular effort to avoid referencing the Harry Potter movies and used focus groups instead to devise the vision of what the set should look like.
The thing that was really unique about this production was that we did three workshops, and then we had a 10-week rehearsal period, because it is two plays, really. All of the designers were in the room together, rehearsing and playing and devising and making stuff up. We were really creating it on our feet, just playing around with pieces of fabric and string and cardboard and using our collaborative, playful skills to figure out how to solve all the different challenges.
Jones may have actively avoided alluding to the movies, but she was certainly inspired by Rowling’s way with words in the novels themselves.
When you look at the books, J.K. Rowling doesn’t often describe what things look like, but she often describes what a space feels like. She imbues her books with so many emotional qualities that those become the source of inspiration. We realized we had an opportunity to use what theater has to offer, which is mainly the audience’s imagination, and use a different vocabulary to evoke the magical world.
Jones decided to become a scenic designer after a school teacher pointed out it was a viable career path. She had a few words of wisdom for anyone inspired to get into scenic design.
Try to find somebody whose work you love and offer your time to them as an intern. Try to see from the inside what their world is. That’s a wonderful way to have a foray into what this world really is. And then if it still feels of interest, there are some wonderful programs where you can study set design…see as much theater as you can, travel, and offer your services to the people who do the thing you want to do.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being shown at the Lyric Theatre on Broadway now! Don’t wait to book your tickets!