University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Claire Trevor School of the Arts presented The Electra Project, famed Romanian director Mihai Maniutiu’s reimagining of the classic Electra story. This stunning and avant-garde piece followed Maniutiu’s minimalist style, using very little scenery to create a provocative production. Under Maniutiu’s direction, Lighting Designer Martha Carter and Scenic Designer Morgan Price brought this story to life. Carter used Martin Professional’s atmospheric effects to play on the audience’s emotions as the titular character battles through her story. They used UCI’s existing JEM Glaciator X-Stream and paired it with a JEM Ready 365 hazer which Martin loaned to the students to help fill out their production.
Minimalistic design with an etherial feel
The initial planning started with only a fifteen page script and notes from Maniutiu to have minimal scenery. While Carter and Price had their work cut out, they kept the set simple, only creating a giant pendulum for the background. With just one major piece of scenery, they had to look to other techniques to fill out their stage and bring the audience into a world Maniutiu described as “being everywhere and nowhere” with an ethereal feel. The lighting needed to create shadows, but the setting still needed to be filled out. Carter decided to use low fog and haze effects to create the mood the director wanted.
“In the end, the fog and haze really came together to create another character on stage. It became the anger and frustration behind Electra’s struggles. We used the atmospheric effects during key parts of the play where there was a feeling of depression or strength which helped emphasize the stillness we tried to create in other moments without the fog. This contrast really helped pull the audience into Electra’s world and to feel what she felt in those specific moments.”
Mastering tricky effects
Like other before them, the team had to learn the optimal conditions for atmospheric effects.. First, the conditions within their theater caused the fog to be pulled stage right on some days and then stage left on other days. In the end, Carter and her team were able to make the best of their theater’s quirks by making the fog seem like it was originating from behind the pendulum. They also had issues with a wet deck due to the low lying fog effect. The solution was to lower the intensity of the fog and increase the density. They also only used the fog during key moments, which added to its dramatic effect while allowing for safer conditions.
Students at UCI made up most of the team involved with the production including the actors and designers. For them, it was an opportunity to learn tips from the Martin team on how to overcome some of the challenges that come with atmospheric effects. They were also delighted to be able to use one of the latest Martin products, the JEM Ready 365 hazer. For Carter, being trusted with the latest equipment was something unexpected, but something she felt enhanced the production immensely.
“The addition of the JEM Hazer added depth to the stage that would have otherwise been sparse. We were able to create the ethereal look the director wanted because the haze added a light and airy feeling to the production.”
Mihai Maniutiu: Director
Martha Carter: Lighting Designer
Morgan Price: Scenic Designer
Brian Svoboda: Sound Designer
Julie Carr: Costume Designer
Joe Forehand: Lighting Supervisor
Wes Chew: Master Electrician
JEM Glaciator X-Stream
JEM Ready 365 Hazer