Inside SOUTHERN GOTHIC: A New Kind of Challenge

Inside SOUTHERN GOTHIC: A New Kind of Challenge

Pictured: The SOUTHERN GOTHIC Cast rehearses on the in-progress set, with director David H. Bell looking on. Photo courtesy of Windy City Playhouse. 

In this 4-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Windy City Playhouse’s SOUTHERN GOTHIC through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past INSIDE articles, click here.

By Scott Davis, Scenic Designer

When it comes to attending a show, there is a laundry list of things you might need to consider. You arrive at the theater, find your seats, and the show plays out on a stage in front of you, while you take in the action from a safe distance. In most productions, the space you view the show from is hardly a concern – the theater around you, while likely ornate and well-constructed, fades away at the start of a play as the lights dim, bringing your attention to a central point ahead. However, in an immersive production, the stage becomes the theater, removing any kind of buffer between the audience and the show. It turns the tables entirely and presents a new kind of challenge for a scenic designer to navigate.

When I set about my work for “Southern Gothic,” it was with the understanding that every element of the stage created a deeper level of experience for the audience. Unlike a normal production — in which elements of the design are static and removed from the show, waiting for an actor to interact with them — almost every piece of this set was built to be tangible, to be a part of the conversation, to build the world for the audience. Audiences experience this show, not removed from it, but entirely immersed in the story and the setting. I worked to build four complete rooms, full of small details; we hid small notes in drawers that hint at secrets, filled cabinets with household belongings, set up furniture a certain way – after all, how people arrange their homes, their lives, tells a great deal about who they are. The set becomes another character in the show, telling just as much of a story as the actors moving around it.

The dining room is mid-century design at its best: cherry stains, detailed woodwork, and stately columns. Photo courtesy of WCP.

Working on this show was an incredibly unique experience, as I had the opportunity to not only create a set, but to create what would feel like an entire life for audiences to move through as they take in the show. I hope that when the show opens, it sparks the interest for audiences to see the story through a deeper lens, to experience the show from a different room, a different angle than they may have originally considered. I’m incredibly excited for the production to launch a new wave of theater in Chicago, to speak to what the future of theater could be.

Performances of SOUTHERN GOTHIC start February 7th. For more information visit

Scott Davis returns to Windy City Playhouse, having previously designed the sets of THE EXPLORERS CLUB and CHAPTER TWO. Chicago credits with: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Steppenwolf Theater, Court Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Drury Lane Theatre, Northlight Theatre, American Theater Company, Griffin Theatre, Steep Theater and Northwestern University. International credits include productions with: Shakespeare’s Globe, Unicorn Theater (London), Gdansk Shakespeare Theater (Poland), Market Theater (South Africa), Neuss Shakespeare festival (Germany), Edinburgh Festival (Scotland), South Korea Shakespeare Festival, Sydney Festival (Australia), Regional credits include productions with: Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Rep Stage and Dallas Theatre Center. Having received degrees from Northwestern University and University of Maryland College Park, Scott serves as adjunct faculty at Columbia College.

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