When one door closes, another opens. And between the two, a third door will slam. Many times.
Jackson Key, who is set designer and lighting designer for the new Live Arts production of Dario Fo’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” will graduate from the University of Virginia on the show’s opening weekend. with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture. The production, which wraps up the current performing arts season, opens Friday and will run until June 2.
Key created sets and lighting for a variety of productions at Live Arts and for UVa’s Drama Department while in Charlottesville. He said his interest in technical theater led him to architecture, and the discipline influenced his approach to set design.
“Architecture is about space,” Key said.
Key, who also served as lighting designer for the Lighting of the Lawn events at UVa in 2020 and 2021, said his lighting choices in the new Live Arts show dovetailed with design decisions to help preserve the geometry of the relationships of the characters between themselves and the spaces they occupy.
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“The lighting brings the atmosphere,” the Texas native said. “It’s an advantage to do both at the same time.”
“I know I’m getting good lighting design because he also designed the set,” said director Susan E. Evans, adding that viewers will notice a number of Italian-inspired elements in the set. , including buttresses. “He has a background in architecture, so he understands the deconstruction of things.”
Beneath the whole atmosphere, however, there are plenty of practical considerations. “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” is inspired by a real case, and Nobel laureate Fo has layered his famous work with serious elements, satire and biting commentary on corruption. It also relies on stuffing, so “the doors had to be real,” Key said with a chuckle.
With the end of the show comes another beginning; Key will begin a graduate program in New York, where he hopes to pursue both architecture and theater.
“I’m really excited for what’s next, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Key said.
Director Evans, who is artistic director of Live Arts, is also directing a production that comes full circle in a more literal sense.
“The game is in the round,” Evans said. “There are people everywhere. You can’t get away with it. You see other members of your audience.
Its cast includes Nick Hagy as Madman, Elizabeth Rose as Journalist, Julia Robertson as Sportsman, Johnny Butcher as Bertozzo, Eric Ramirez-Weaver as Commissioner, David Johnson as Officer 1 and Cecilia Huang as Officer 2. Key isn’t the only Horseman in the cohort; Huang attends UVa, Johnson is an alumnus, and Ramirez-Weaver is an associate professor of art and director of the Medieval Studies program.
Together, using a translation by Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante, they tell a story inspired by the 1969 death of Giuseppe Pinelli, an anarchist railroad worker in Milan, Italy, who died after a suspicious fall from a fourth-floor police station. . interrogation room window.
Pinelli was eventually absolved of the bombings he was accused of committing, and the case brought to light concepts that remain troubling and current half a century later.
“There’s the somewhat cliché of absolute power that absolutely corrupts, and police corruption isn’t limited to just one form of government,” Evans said. “There are facts that emerge as you read this that give you goosebumps.”
Evans describes the playwright as “fearless. He put this [play] one year after the event, in the city where it occurred, while the trials were taking place.
Don’t expect the evening to be entirely steeped in political intrigue. Hagy’s Madman character shows an uncanny ability to trick those in power into believing he himself is an authority figure – on multiple occasions. And Evans said there was wacky physical humor in spades.
“We have a fake leg, two fake arms and a fake eyeball,” Evans said. “We have slaps. We have kicks. We have kicks in the groin. We have hits. We have arms that stick out.
“He [Fo] breaks down your reserves. He makes you laugh. The use of laughter is universal. Despite the political side, it’s very, very funny. That’s why people keep doing it. It’s this great mix of storytelling and physical comedy.
The production team also includes Khadijah Williams as production manager, Sam Flippo as prop designer, Heather Hutton as master electrician, Becky Brown as sound designer and Amy Goffman as costume designer.
An opening reception and champagne toast will be part of the Friday festivities. Audience response time is expected to follow the June 2 performance.
For tickets, $25, $20 for seniors and students, go to livearts.org or call the box office at (434) 977-4177, Ext. 123.
The next Live Arts production will be “Into the Woods”, which will run from July 15-31.
The 2022-2023 season, “Transformations”, will begin on September 30 with “Love and Information” by Caryl Churchill.
Up next will be “Violet,” with music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics and book by Brian Crawley, opening November 11; “The River” by Jez Butterworth, opening January 20, 2023; “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” by Lynn Nottage, opening March 3; “Buyer & Cellar” by Jonathan Tolins, opening April 7; and the WaterWorks Festival, starting May 1. Season tickets start at $90.