Illustrating a Travel Adventure: "Orange"

Tania Thompson
 | Feb 14, 2017
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Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Orange is an action-adventure story with a lot of humor and a huge heart. It follows Leela, a teen from India who comes to Southern California for a family wedding and then goes on a wild ride through Orange County with her rebellious cousin. Director Jessica Kubzansky calls Orange a “delicious directorial challenge because it’s so important that this play comes from Leela's perspective.” As a young person on the autism spectrum, Leela’s view of the world will be created through projections onstage of her journal drawings that illustrate her journey.

Recently, Kubzansky, set designer Michael Raiford and projection designer Mike Tutaj talked about bringing Leela’s story to life.

Kubzansky: Leela draws things she sees in her journal, and takes it with her everywhere. It is, in some ways, a record of her experiences. One of the things the play reveals as it goes on are the differences between what we see when we look at her drawings, which start as very simple geometric shapes, and how these drawings expand as we watch the world from more inside her perspective. As her action-adventure deepens and continues, we get more and more inside her head and the illustrations start to reflect how rich her experience is.

Raiford:  The starting point for the set design was inspired by Leela’s journal. The set has four large, blank moveable surfaces that function like stand-alone journal pages. We can combine those into different configurations and project illustrations of what Leela sees and draws. The large panels that you see on stage are all covered with the pages from Leela's journal.

Kubzansky: For example, Leela and her cousin find themselves at the Tustin Blimp Hangars, which, as perhaps you’re aware, are vast structures. All four panels can come together with a large projected illustration of both the fence in front of the hangars and then expand to the hangars themselves to help us see how she experiences this location. Conversely, a single panel may be used to show us an airplane window, which is a much more contained space. Essentially, we see what she sees on her wild ride through Orange County.

Raiford: Visually, the set will be spare, with two benches and a tower that come in and out to create various locations. For example, the benches can pivot to represent many different things like seats on a plane or in a car.

Tutaj: Michael has given me a lot of great tools to work with in his set design. The set feels very theatrical, so the projections will layer on the sense of location, like the hangars, a store or the beach. The illustrations help shine a light for us into Leela’s perception of the world.

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