Arts and Entertainment

BPA lighting designer Laura Gay jumps onto ‘Mattress’

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If designing the lighting for a theatrical production is like plotting a road trip on paper, then the first tech rehearsal is like hitting the road at 80 mph.

“Going from research and reading the story and gathering your own ideas, to collaborating with the other designers and then taking that off the table – from that point, (I go) back and create everything so that in my head, it’s nice,” Laura Gay said.

“But weeks like this week, in tech week, when you actually see it together, sometimes it works out great, but there’s a few things that you run into that are like road blocks.”

With tech and dress rehearsals just wrapping up for BPA’s holiday production of “Once Upon a Mattress,” which opens tomorrow night for a two-weekend run, Gay – BPA’s newest lighting designer – is finally getting a flavor for how her scheme will come to life.

Gay’s first show for BPA was last fall’s “Macbeth,” and she said the contrast between it and “Mattress” is the most dramatic she’s ever encountered from one show to another.

Shakespeare’s tragedy was all about sharp, sinister offsets and hidden spaces. “Mattress,” by contrast, is sheer zany fun.

“‘Mattress’ is supposed to be geared toward the family... so it’s going to be more fun, more bright, color-wise. There are pinks, and teals and oranges, compared to the dark, sharp shadows that were going on with ‘Macbeth.’ Not necessarily going bright with everything, but just making it colorful and storybook,” she said.

That makes it perfect family fare, although Gay said that people don’t always know exactly what “Mattress” is all about until it’s explained that the two-time Tony Award-nominee is a musical comedy version of “Princess and the Pea.”

The musical version, which debuted off Broadway in 1959, adds a bedful of modern lumps and bumps to the original fairy tale. Director Corey McDaniel calls it “Good vs. Evil as if told by Lucille Ball.”

In the show, Princess Winnifred, a plucky girl from the swamps, swims the castle moat to toss her headdress in the ring for the hand of Prince Dauntless the Drab. Mean Queen Aggravaine, with a dastardly agenda, does everything in her power to keep the two young royals from their destiny.

Let the perfect-for-the-holidays, excellent-antidote-to-the-pitiful-economic-climate antics begin.

For the past couple of years, Gay, who holds a bachelor of fine arts in design technology from the University of Montana, has worked as a lighting designer for Seattle’s Sound Theater Company.

There she met Teresa Thuman, a regular BPA director, and got wind of BPA’s need for a lighting designer this season. The two will work together at BPA in February with “Noises Off,” the comedy-within-a-farce that’s all about theatrical – and technical – mishap.

It’s doubtful that Gay will encounter any such craziness within the walls of Bainbridge Performing Arts; from what she’s observed so far, its theatrical community is tight, and so is its space. There’s newer equipment that’s unlikely to fail or break, and whoever designed the space, she said, was thinking.

“The space is a cute theater, but it’s very functional. It has a lot of stuff that’s needed to make the tech aspects of the show run smoother than it would in a lot of other spaces,” she said. “It’s nice that they have the community behind them, and supporting them.”

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