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The Well of Horniness 

By Holly Hughes

Produced by Indiana University Theatre and Dance 

September 2021

Directed by RJ Hodde

 Scenic Design by Rachel Rose Burke 

Costume Design by Jerrilyn Lanier-Duckworth

Lighting Design by Corey Goulden-Naitove
Winner of USITT Midwest Chapter Digital Design Competition December 2021

Awarded Third Place in SETC Graduate Lighting Design Competition March 2022
Sound Design by Andrew Hopson

Photos courtesy of IU Theatre and Dance


Concept Statement

           Holly Hughes’ The Well of Horniness is a campy romp through a 1940’s era noir radio drama. This unorthodox combination of camp and noir was central to the design of the production in many ways.

           One of the central comedic elements in The Well is the subversion of classic film noir tropes, like a ‘femme fatale,’ who attempts to seduce the heroine instead of her husband or a female gum-show detective, Garnett McClitt. To highlight the comedy in the subversion of these tropes, we wanted the production to be brimming full of the visual tropes of noir. To that end, I employed classic elements of film noir including chiaroscuro-like contrast between light and shadow, silhouettes and shadow play, and signifiers of the genre noir: windows, streetlights, and venetian blinds in the lighting. This also served a double purpose of creating a distinct world for the characters of the radio drama to inhabit which the narrators could step into and out of as they needed.

           By creating a serious, noir-inspired world for the campy characters of The Well to occupy, the lighting highlighted the comedy in the contrast between the characters and the subversion of the tropes that they represented and the world they inhabited. Additionally, while film noir is traditionally black and white, I chose to employ the bright, saturate colors present in the camp performance genre that inspired the wild cast of characters in Hughes’ show. In this way, the lighting also played into the comedy by subverting and turning the tropes of classic noir on its head, while still paying homage to them.

            In addition to the characters, The Well also has a performative almost to the point of being Brechtian quality that is borrowed from the camp genre. In the play, it manifests itself in the form of the radio drama and the way that the narrators (who sit somewhere between Joel Grey’s Emcee in Cabaret and The Man in Black) comment on and interact with the action of the characters within the radio drama. The lighting played into this performative quality by using tools like follow-spots, musical theatre-like flourishes on the organ stabs (performed live by the cast) and other recurring comedy bits throughout the show, and framing the action in LED windows placed within the set. By playing into this quasi-Brechtian nature with the lighting, I was able to play up the comedy, heighten the drama, and give a visually distinct quality to the radio narrators that melded easily into the world of the radio drama they narrated and back out.

           The LED windows in the set mentioned above were an element that the Scenic Designer, Director, and I collaborated on from the start of the design process and became crucial to the design of this production. We were interested in their ability to help set the scene by controlling which frames were on, in what combination, and in what color. With the addition of the material behind them, they also gained the ability to become shadow boxes to allow shadow play to occur behind or in conjunction with the action on and in front of the set. The addition of the Visqueen in the frames also heightened the effect of the LED tape in the windows and allowed for them to be treated with light in the same way as the rest of the set, bringing them fully into the noir world at times (while still maintaining their ability to be separate when necessary). The functionality of the LED tape allowed for the addition of the performative flourishes mentioned above throughout the play. They also became crucial to the visual composition of the show by allowing for action to be framed in a way that pays homage to the camp genre of performance and, at times, gave a nod to the literal framing of film noir in doorways and windows and the use of Dutch angles to frame shots.

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Visual and Conceptual Research

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Light Plot

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