Angela Balogh Calin
Design rendering for the gala stage.
Idea board for the gala stage.
Design rendering for the gala lobby.
Idea board for the gala stage.
When patrons walk into the South Coast Repertory Gala, "Play Your Part," at The Westin South Coast Plaza on Sept. 7, 2019, they will enter an immersive, interactive and glamorous world, where they’ll enjoy a fun evening of theatrical experiences, delicious cuisine, live entertainment and dancing.
Angela Balogh Calin, who is well-known to SCR regulars as a set and costume designer for more than two decades, most recently designing costumes for Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience (Theatre for Young Audiences), Sugar Plum Fairy, Ella Enchanted: The Musical (Theatre for Young Audiences) and The Monster Builder, marks her third consecutive year designing for SCR’s annual Gala.
In our Q&A, Calin reveals her thoughts about designing this year’s Gala—and also about creative design work in general.
The theme for this year’s Gala is “Play Your Part”—tell us what that means to you.
This year’s Gala is an open invitation to both the SCR team and the patrons to join forces in looking ahead and helping promote the thriving future of South Coast Repertory.
How have you gone about designing for the theme—such as your process and your inspirations?
Once the theme is chosen, I begin my design process by drawing inspiration from various artistic mediums. This process is very similar to what I do when I design sets or costumes for the theatre. I try to translate words into visual imagery. In the theatre, I work with a play and, as an event designer, I work with a theme. My research in this case is mainly visual. I use as many tools as possible from online surfing, to using books, photography, and more. Yes, I still have a passion for books and use them as research! I always try to learn how other artists convey their vision about words, themes or stories. For example, I take a word and I Google it in images (such as photography, fine art/visual art, literature, in fashion, architectureor nature). It is a fascinating process, one that I enjoy immensely and spend as much time with as I can. With each project, I learn something new and exciting about the way people/artists think and express feelings, moods and ideas.
The next step is to process all the information and then create my own visual concept, my own way to bring to life the theme picked for the event. This phase is followed by a number of meetings with the committee and the theatre when I present my ideas and visual material. It’s a chance for me to get valuable feedback from the committee. Based on the feedback I receive, I make the necessary revisions and then turn in the final project.
What questions did you ask yourself in the initial design planning stages?
'What is the most relevant aspect of the theatre?' The main objective is to find a way to make my design exciting for the guests and, at the same time, be relevant to SCR’s aesthetic and mission. I try to incorporate elements specific to SCR. For example, I like to incorporate production photos, costumes, wigs and props in the event décor. This is an evening dedicated to this theatre and its accomplishments, while looking ahead to the next season and the future. I want guests to feel connected to SCR while enjoying this event. It’s kind of like peeking through a window to see the various SCR departments at work.
Touch on elements of the Gala, including lighting, and how they all work together.
When designing for an event like this, many departments have to work in unison in order to make the evening a success. When the guests begin to arrive, it is still light outside, so the entrance and lobby area need to have just a minimal amount of lighting, but once the event moves into the ballroom, the entire space will transform, thanks in part to our very talented lighting designer John Acton from Brite Ideas. I work closely with him, Jon Lagerquist, SCR's technical director, and David Saewert, SCR's prop mater. I’m always in awe at how a simple room can turn into a magical place, thanks to lighting to create a whimsical, moody, unique setting for this special night.
What are some cool things that Gala attendees may not know about the work you do?
I’d like them to know this event is very dear to me. I look at it as my chance to celebrate SCR, the theatre I love and admire. I am very fortunate to have a 20-year artistic collaboration with SCR and I am grateful for it. Designing the Gala is my chance to give back to an organization that has been at the forefront of theatre in California and the country.
What will we see at the Gala—in broad terms?
This year we are trying a more interactive approach in the lobby area. We’d like to engage the guests into playful photo opportunities. We’ll have freestanding frames with photo backdrops from various SCR productions, so the guests can create their own photo setups. This will give patrons a chance to meet and interact and have some fond photo memories from the event. In the ballroom, we’ll have a combination of costumes and scenic drafting on display to reflect the creative work at SCR. And, of course, we do have a stage for the speeches and for the band.
How do you “set” the design for a ballroom and a foyer space at The Westin?
Just as when designing for the stage, event design has its challenges: I have to tconsider the physical space and its limitations. The Westin ballroom and foyer have low ceilings, so the concept for the Gala has to transform and enhance the space as much as possible. There are limitations on how much rigging/attaching can be done in this space, so the design/décor needs to be self-contained. There is also a time limitation, as the “set” needs to go up fast and be taken apart in the shortest time possible. Usually we have one day to decorate the space, have the Gala and then wrap everything. This entire process involves a lot of planning.
Tell us about working with the artisans at SCR on the Gala build?
SCR has some of the most talented and dedicated artisans around, and I’m blessed to have known and worked with some of them for 20 years. Ours is a collaborative effort and I welcome their feedback and suggestions. I value and trust their opinions, experience and friendship.
Jon Lagerquist, technical director, is my biggest ally and most valued collaborator. He is the one who coordinates his team of masters and, with “his magic wand,” turns my scribbles on paper into reality. My other collaborators are Amy Hutto, Costumes Shop manager; David Saewert, Prop Shop manager; and all the other SCR artisans.
And finally, what feelings or emotions, do you hope the Gala design will evoke?
A whimsical, joyous and loving celebration of SCR, the theatre we love and respect.
Learn more about the 2019 Gala “Play Your Part”.