A stage design fit for Oscar

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It’s no secret that Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic, the producers of the upcoming 82nd Academy Awards, are trying to keep this year’s show moving along at a speedy pace after a series of telecasts that often seemed never-ending. That effort is even being reflected in the design of the Oscars set, which was unveiled by production designer David Rockwell on Wednesday morning outside Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.

Rockwell has configured a set for the March 7 show that has multiple presentation areas whose pieces will be able to quickly transform. Instead of one central platform that doesn’t allow for simultaneous action, the stage will have three circular turntables spaced out from one another, each enclosed by curved walls that will showcase images or film clips.

Rockwell, who was introduced by Shankman as “ever trim” and “ever brilliant,” has his own architecture and design practice and designed the Kodak, in addition to working on last year’s Oscars set.

“I wanted to do something new for Adam and Bill, and early on we talked about the vocabulary of variety shows,” Rockwell said.

“We wanted big, open, crisp environments that would work for comedy. Eventually, that led us to the idea of the set being about immersion in the world of movies. Stylistically, I realized the optimism of modernism in L.A. and the heyday of Hollywood was the perfect way in.”

To frame hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as well as the presenters, open screens with what Rockwell described as “modern decorative patterns” will be used to create lighting designs as backdrops. In contrast to last year’s production, where the flooring was black, the upcoming show will feature a floor that is white. (Topaz and brown are also part of the show’s color scheme.)

But Rockwell is keeping some aspects from last year’s show intact: He’s bringing back a Swarovski crystal curtain to border the stage, though some additional bling is being added to “emphasize the silhouette and shape,” he said.

As in the last show, the stage will again be on two levels, so that the audience can feel closer to the action. Rockwell is also building on a reconfigured seating structure that was introduced last year to bring the audience and the performers more closely together, by strategically placing faceted mirrors whose reflections contribute to a sense of connectedness.

Though the sparkling models and animation of the set seemed impressive, the show’s director, Hamish Hamilton, said they would also be demanding for him.

“There’s a number of challenges with the set which are going to force me to think carefully about how I shoot it,” said Hamilton. “It’s going to require me to shoot from the right angle, from the right height. If I get this right, it’s going to look absolutely fantastic. But if I get it wrong, it won’t work at all.”