Meet Barrymore-Nominated Set Designer Dirk Durossette

My name is Tamanya Garza and I am a freelance director and producer here in Philadelphia as well as a the President of the Board of Directors for Azuka Theatre. I recently had the opportunity to spend a few minutes inside of the brain of Dirk Durossette our fantastic (and recently Barrymore nominated) set designer for THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE.

Tamanya: First, tell me a bit about the shows you have designed for Azuka and the elements you liked most about the shows you have designed with us.

Dirk: I have designed five shows for Azuka over the past seven years and I’ve worked both with Kevin and Allison. Two considerate and talented personalities who really know how to work with a designer.  Every show has been very different.  Their seasons showcase a diverse choice of plays that have allowed me the chance to really explore the visuals and the worlds of some very interesting stories.  Every show I’ve worked on at Azuka has been a very gratifying experience and I’ve always been treated like an artist and not just an artisan.  They also put together great teams of designers who work very closely worth one another.  I am very proud of every show I’ve done at Azuka.

Tamanya: What was it about last season’s Skin & Bone script that most piqued your interest?  What was most challenging?

Dirk: SKIN & BONE was a new play and I love working on new plays.  It was funny, heartbreaking and surprising. After reading it, I had definite ideas immediately.  I knew the characters needed to be surrounded by something that really spoke to their world views.

Tamanya: While we’re on the topic of reading a script, what are the steps of your personal process when turning a script into a design?

Dirk: When I first approach a script, I rely on the characters to tell me what the world of the play needs.  What they say about where they are, their attitudes towards one another, and how they move around the space.  Even if they say nothing directly about the space they are in, their words and actions still produce visual clues for me.  It can be very subjective and intuitive obviously. I try to hold off on research, and quickly sketch, in pencil, my initial impulses.  Then I get into the research and problem solving.  I like to work big and general then whittle down to the specifics.

Tamanya: Considering that there are so many memorable elements of the WATSON design which one are you most looking forward seeing onstage and why?

Dirk: My hope for the WATSON design is that it will feel very specific to many different places while serving as a visual anchor for the overall arc of the story line.  I hope it feels like a place in motion.  I’ve used forced perspective to create a sense of depth and movement.  The hints of train station architecture, contrasted against warm interior wood tones hopefully will feel natural and appropriate.

Tamanya: Congratulations on the nomination for your exciting work on SKIN & BONE. How does it feel to get that call that you’ve been nominated?

Dirk: It feels good to be nominated and that people were affected by the play. I really paid attention to details on this one and Jaqueline Goldfinger, the playwright, created characters that really helped me shape the room and choose textures and colors. Allison and I worked very closely and and her guidance was very helpful. It was the first time I had designed in that space and that always makes me feel a little nervous. And while it may seem cliche, this really was a team effort.  The work of the lighting, costume,and sound designers along with the scenic artists, carpenters, and electricians all has to coalesce to make the production what it is.

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