PCS Blog

Behind the Scenes of “Clybourne Park”

Posted by Kinsley Suer | 18 April 2013


How does the set for Clybourne Park morph from 1959 to 2009 so quickly? How long did it take to build? How do those trees behind the set look so real? And does Sal Viscuso actually get to eat Neapolitan ice cream on stage every night? Group Sales & Promotions Manager Mandy Morgan takes us behind the scenes on the set of Clybourne Park.



About the Set
Clybourne Park takes place in a home in the fictional neighborhood of Clybourne Park in Chicago. The first act takes place in 1959, and the second act takes place in the same house in 2009. Like what you may have seen on stage for our last production, The Whipping Man, the set for Clybourne Park is hyper-realistic. In other words, you will almost believe that you’re glimpsing into a real home. The overhead roof of the living room of the house weighs just under one ton and is supported by four large chain motors. The set, designed by Michael Olich, is essentially a set-within-a-set, allowing it to morph during intermission from 1959 to 2009. It took four weeks to build the set and seven days to load it onto the stage, but it will only take six hours to tear it down at the end of the run. 
The Famous Backdrop
Because the set was made to look so real, PCS rented a backdrop specially made for television, as anything painted would look out of place behind the set. The television drop was designed to be lit from behind so that the trees on set remain dark while the sky lights up, helping your eyes believe that it is real. The drop is a star in its own right with a resume longer than some actors; it has been used in many TV shows and movies. It was shipped to us from Los Angeles and needs to be back by June, as it already has another job lined up at NBC  for a new pilot.
Painted Wood Floors
Wait a minute. That wood floor is actually painted? Incredible! The hardwood floors on the set are actually thin sheets of plywood painted to look like a hardwood floor. This process took our painters roughly one hour for every square foot. In addition, all of the trim and paneling in the house was hand painted. It’s some truly amazing handy work.

A Day in the Life of the Crew
About 75% of the show’s set changes occur between act one and act two. Every door, window, shelve, banister and even the fireplace will change–or “age”–between the two acts. The crew also further ages the wall paper, which the set designer wanted to be as authentic as possible for the first act. So we’re using real, vintage wall paper dating back to 1973. It takes six crew members to change the set during the 20-minute intermission. I recommend staying to watch--it's a show in and of itself. 
Hidden Lights and Sound
A few small speakers are hidden throughout the set to make everything sound real to the audience. Speakers are placed by phones and radios so that the sound actually comes from the direction of the source. Lights are also tucked away in hidden areas of the set to help illuminate the actors in a realistic manner. 
Neapolitan Ice Cream
The script calls for one of the actors to consume ice cream on stage. This presented a big challenge, as  real ice cream would melt too quickly under the hot stage lights. While ricotta cheese and Greek yogurt were tested, we finally setlled on non-fat yogurt. From the audience it looks just like the real thing, but is easy for our actor to eat!
See it for yourself! Clybourne Park runs through May 5 at PCS.
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