bells are ringing



For this production of Comden and Green's classic musical star vehicle, Director Ethan Heard wanted to reduce the size of the cast to emphasize an ensemble approach. With the exception of the central couple of Ella and Jeff, played by real-life husband wife duo Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat, all of the roles were doubled (and tripled) by a fierce ensemble of actor-singer-dancers. The story centers around Ella Peterson, a young woman who works as a telephone operator at Susanswerphone, a telephone answering service. She does good deeds for her clients, while musing on the technology that allows her to be so intimate with complete strangers.

The set was inspired by the graphic art of the era, a post-war response to modernism and the ravages of World War Two. Clean straight lines, pops of vivid flat fields of color against black and white; this rigid geometry contained the willful optimism and squeaky-clean hopes of a generation. The New York City of BELLS is a world of lonely strangers, living in stacked boxes. They long for connection. The telephone is the technology that represents that connection.

The set was a versatile grid of white boxes with black lines, an abstract New York City inspired by the graphic and advertising art of the mid 1950s and by the abstract art of painters such as Mondrian. The floor was a vivid, high gloss turquoise with a geometric black pattern taken from a fabric pattern of the era. All of the white boxes were back lit lightboxes (100 of them!) which could be individually controlled and colored by lighting designer Oliver Wason. Some of the lightboxes functioned as windows and doors, on two levels. We also had 3 lightboxes that could function as shadow boxes - allowing actors behind the set on the second level to act out the offstage end of phone calls. Interior locations were represented by different flying rectangular fields of color and by simple architecture made up of geometric shapes and vivid flat colors. Taking a cue from our hardworking ensemble, all the furniture was doubled and triple cast in multiple scenes.

Directed by Ethan Heard

Set Design: Reid Thompson

Costume Design: David Murin

Lighting Design: Oliver Wason

Sound Design: Steve Brush

Wig & Hair Design: Dave Bova

Photographs: Reid Thompson