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What it looks like to be “Raised in Captivity”

Nicky Silver’s 1995 black comedy Raised in Captivity has found an appropriate home in the black box of the Loeb Experimental Theater. The HRDC production of this darkly hilarious play runs through November 16. Tickets and more information can be found here.

I spoke with set designer Daniel Prosky ’16 and director Lily Glimcher ’14.

What makes Raised unique from other things we’ve seen on campus this semester? What is your vision for the play?
Lily Glimcher: Raised in Captivity is unique in its balance between comedy and drama. It is wacky and funny, yet grounded in themes that are relatable, and often painful. I think people will enjoy it, but also hopefully leave the theater thinking about larger questions.

The main theme that stood out to me when I first read this play was that of abandonment and loss. We watch these people have their life preservers taken away from them, and we have spent a lot of time exploring what that feels like. This play is a comedy, but we really explored why these people follow all of their impulses as they do.

How did Lily’s vision for the play inform the scenic design you worked on together? How does the large number of oddly shaped platforms play into this?
Daniel Prosky: The scenic design for Raised stems from the fact that the play is not your typical drama—one that would find itself in a realistic-looking house made up of stock flats and furniture. Raised in Captivity is a collection of jagged edges, biting moments and opposing forces clashing against each other. I tried to match the sharpness of the play’s themes and language in the set, and so that guided me to this set, which consists of roughly 40 platforms of differing shape, size and height.

Glimcher: Regarding the set, Dan and I wanted to manifest the instability of these people by creating a shattered ground. We also hoped to mirror the theme of fleeting love and abandonment by creating a set that functions as many different locations—you become attached to the set as one location, and the next thing you know, it’s functioning in a totally different way. Furthermore, we wanted to physicalize the balance between realism and surrealism by creating a set that functions in a relatable way, but that looks somewhat unreal. We did all this by creating, as Dan mentioned, a sea of more than 40 small staggered platforms that act as a playground for the characters to explore. Dan and I work very collaboratively and really enjoy challenging one another to improve the design and further justify our choices.

Daniel, this is your second straight abstract set design (the other being for Antigonick); as a set designer how do you balance the challenges of fulfilling your artistic vision while still creating a world that can seem real and allow people to interact with it in a meaningful way?
Prosky: The abstract nature of Raised in Captivity’s set design was born out of my interpretation of the play, but it should still allow for the audience to interpret the set in a realistic way. The blocking that Lily has created identifies certain groups of platforms as specific objects, such as couches, benches, or desks, so that we are creating the real out of the abstract. And each scene makes use of a different set of platforms, reflecting the show’s fluidity and proclivity to change. Hopefully the effect that this all creates is that the play feels very grounded on very uncertain footing, which I think is a tension we face in real life that the play tries to highlight.

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