AOD young talent behind elevating Theatre and Drama through Design

AOD Alumni Vishan Gunawardena, Rochelle Bibile and Marlon Jesudason wow’s the audience at the recently held Theatre Junction production – Cinderella

Design, although not directly noticed by many, is the backbone of presentation in theatre and film. Major productions at professional levels often involve large teams of dedicated designers who are responsible for creating special stage sets and theatrical effects that evoke the context of the production, costumes that create a realistic sense of time and place as told by the story and lighting effects that create a sense of drama and heightened emotion. Furthermore, another very essential part in theatre and film are the creative teams responsible for promoting the production in ways that truly capture the public and draw them to the event. These design inputs have the potential to make or break a production, which is why giant scale productions in Broadway theatre and film industries such as Hollywood dedicate millions worth budgets for commissioning the right designers.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is the Tony Award-winning musical from the creators of The Sound of Music and South Pacific that’s delighted audiences with its surprisingly contemporary take on the classic tale. CINDERELLA was presented by Theatre Junction, under the direction of Anushka Senanayake that featured live music by a chamber orchestra, conducted and directed by Natasha Senanayake and choreographed by Umeshi Rajeendra.

AOD is an active patron of all forms of creative expression including theatre and film, and has been a supporter of many school productions over the years. The next stage of evolution for film and theatre lies in the presentation of the productions; namely, set design, costumes, lighting as well as the promotional aspect which connects the public to the production.

Rochelle Bibile, promotional designer behind Cinderella has always been an artist at heart. Her company, Bakamuna, was recently launched through MTI’s idea2fund and part of what it does is collaborating with businesses to add value through design.

“Theatre Junction was one such company that we collaborated with by conceptualizing and creating the promotional material for Cinderella.  A combination of iconic elements and colours were used in order help the audience make an instant connection with what they saw on stage. Design can be used to add value to theatre by helping to tie the entire concept of the production together and to enhance the visual experience”, stated Rochelle speaking of her experience with the production.

The Visual Communication Design programme at AOD is designed along a similar concept; to instill a high creative and strategic thinking input to function as the creative and strategic backbone of major industries such as advertising while also training students to take on modern creative roles in branding, corporate identity design, packaging, user-interface design, web design, user experience design etc.

Vishan Gunawardena is a freelance Fashion Designer who has a special knack for costume design. Passionate about designing since chilhood, Vishan began his work in costume design at the age of 15, designing & creating costumes for his school (D. S. Senanayake College, Colombo 7) for the Interschool Shakespeare drama competition. He has designed costumes for various theatre productions through the years & is very detail oriented and precise. 

Costume Designing requires special attention to detail as you must be sensitive to the time, place and context that the play is set in. You should also be aware of how and when the characters will wear these specific costumes. However this was somewhat eased out in the production of 'Cinderella' as the time it was set in was not particular but was based "once upon a time".

“Costume Designing for Cinderella presented a number of challenges as there were several costume transformations that happened on stage (Cinderella's rag to riches transformation in particular). It was an interesting task to design the costumes in a way that it was easy for the actress to carry it off and also for the audience to see it as an effortless, almost magical moment. Since the costumes are an integral part of the production, I was always very careful with the material I chose and how I designed the costumes. As these were characters we grew up with, & everyone has a sense of how they look. So keeping true to those childhood memories was the fondest thing to do in designing for Cinderella.”

Marlon Jesudason, AOD talent behind Cinderella’s set design is the Founder/Director of  Bling Productions, an event design, planning, and production company. He handled the set design and lighting design for Cinderella, transforming the stage into multiple scenes with smooth transitions, setting the ambience and creating the right atmosphere and context for the production.

The Interior Design Program at AOD fully focuses on delivering on design excellence, critical thinking, collaboration, research and the professional expectations to create interior architects and designers such as the likes of Marlon. Students at AOD study interior spaces in  a comprehensive manner;  their functions, finish materials and furnishings, colour and lighting, furniture design, building systems and health and safety, function etc.

As design becomes more and more essential for the success of modern day productions, it is evident that theatre and film scene needs creativity to evolve their work to the next level. This is where AOD comes in, as a design educator supporting drama and film circles in getting an essential understanding of design for theatre and motion picture.