How They Did It: The Clybourne Park Scene Change

Act 1 scenic model by Skip Mercier
Act 1 scenic model by Skip Mercier

One question we heard from many patrons who saw Clybourne Park was, “how did they transform the set like that?” The play takes place in one house, with Act 1 set in 1959 and Act 2 set in 2009 – and in those 50 years, the house goes through a lot of changes. Normally, we magicians do not reveal our tricks, but now that the show has closed and it’s too late to ruin the surprise, we’ve decided to make an exception.

To make those huge changes possible, Skip Mercier designed a set where the crumbling plaster walls of Act 2 would be covered by removable wallpaper-covered panels for Act 1. The rest of the transformation was just good old-fashioned elbow grease: furniture moved, doors switched, and rugs rolled up by Nils Emerson and his crew. The video below shows what was going on behind the curtain during intermission. A couple of things to note before watching:

-This video is one of the crew’s early attempts at the scene shift, and it takes them about 10 minutes. After a week of performances, they were getting it done consistently in about 8 minutes. On Saturday evening, the day before closing, they set a new record of 7:52. The next day, at the final show, they crushed that record: the shift came in at 7:29.
-If you’re easily offended by cursing, you might want to mute the sound. (Although, to be fair, the few expletives the crew uses are nothing compared to the language you would have heard on stage from the characters of Clybourne Park!)


2 thoughts on “How They Did It: The Clybourne Park Scene Change

    1. The original purpose of the video was actually to send to the Cleveland Play House crew, to help them learn the shift when the show runs there, but Nils generously agreed to share it for the blog so we could show off our rockstars!

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