• AWARDS INTERVIEW: KARLA URIZAR

In 2019, Karla Urizar won “Design for Live Performance: Production, costume and set Design” for “Welcome the Bright World”.

1.     Do you have any fond (or not so fond) memories of working on Welcome the Bright World? 

I only have fond memories of designing Welcome the Bright World. Being born in South Australia and studying Theatre Design there, it was wonderful to go back and design Stephen Sewell’s deeply philosophical and political play.

The theatre that the Director Charles Sanders and I chose was the Queens Theatre in Adelaide, the oldest Theatre on mainland Australia (there is an older one in Hobart). The play is set in Berlin in the 1980’s and the rough, raw environment of the Queen’s was the perfect place for it. This old beauty of a building, The Queens was built as a theatre in 1840, then became a court, a city mission, a bazaar and a carpark, among other things until it finally reverted to its original purpose and made its way back to being  a theatre for us. It was the perfect venue to reveal the layers of time of this complexly structured play, a classic, which moves through many locations and times according to Sewell’s principle of liquid time, giving the play a dream-like quality as the story flows seamlessly in and out of a psychologically informed reality. And the timelessness of the building itself fitted the aesthetic beautifully. I love designing in found spaces and integrating them into the overall feel of the piece, and I wanted this design to look like it was always there, like it was a part of the existing building. And of course, designing all the 1980’s costumes! What’s not to love!! 

Another fond memory is having the luxury of working with the crew of SA Theatre Company. This play was part  of the Umbrella Season at the South Australian theatre Company, which allows independent theatre productions to have some of the resources of a main stage production. I design a lot of independent productions both in Film and Theatre so it was a real treat to work with the crew of SA Theatre. It’s such a great program for independent theatre productions. 

2.     Why did you decide to enter your work on Welcome the Bright World into the APDG Awards? 

I only thought of submitting it when I won the Adelaide Theatre Guide “Curtain Call” Award for Best Technical Production Design Award. This was such a delightful surprise that it encouraged me to submit it as an example of my work that I’m really proud of. Designing this piece was really special to me. I had  the time, budget and crew to at last do what I wanted, and to explore some of the areas I’m interested in, especially the relationships between time, space and architecture, and the use of projections in a found space. I even had the resources to design the bar and lobby area, transforming them into an active space reminiscent of a Berlin style art gallery, using the characters’ photos, which are mentioned in the play, and so exploring that crucial journey the audience makes as it moves from the outside world to the world of the play. My film interests took over and I wanted to design and dress the whole building so that it was fully integrated into the play’s vision of an interconnected, complex and sinister world. I love this play, and the   creatives that I got to work with on this production were just wonderful.  

3.     What do you think makes a work “award winning”? 

An award winning design is something that resonates with the audience and lifts them into the sublime; a design that takes them to a place   where they can disappear and become immersed in the story. A design that is faithful to the story and continues telling the story visually and not just summing it up, but opening and expanding it. Sewell’s poetic strangeness was the perfect opportunity to do just that. I think an award winning piece is one that operates at the level of art; but of a very special art: an art supporting and being inspired by all the other artistic practices of the performing arts. Australian designers produce such amazing work and it’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate each others work. 

4.     What have you been doing since winning the award? 

I just finished up designing Costumes on Cook Nga Pouwhenua. I designed the Costumes for two of the stories, one live action and one with part animation. This feature film is made up of eight stories, four filmed in New Zealand and four filmed in Australia, all by Indigenous writers and directors, telling their stories. It’s multi-protagonist single narrative film about an Indigenous perspective on the 250 anniversary of James Cook’s maiden voyage to the Pacific. This was a very special film to be involved in because of its unique and powerful stories.

I was also lucky enough to work on George Millers Three Thousand Years of Longing, what a treat! I worked in the Set Dec Team as a  Buyer & Dresser for the wonderful Set Decorator Lisa Thompson, and Production Designer, Roger Ford. It was such an epically beautiful film to work on and it was such a thrill to work for Lisa & Roger, they are such masters!! I’m very excited to see this film finished.  

I continue to think, study and teach. I teach at AFTRS on occasion and am currently considering two new plays and an upcoming film. I love new work, and all the opportunities for creative engagement they represent. There is so much to do, and I am grateful to be in a position to do them. 

I feel so blessed to work in the Arts and to be able to work between film and theatre, it’s the best job ever! 

WELCOME THE BRIGHT WORLD by Stephen Sewell 

Presented by House of Sand in Association with State Theatre Company South Australia 

It’s 1980 in Berlin, and two prominent Jewish scientists are on the verge of discovering a truth that could change the world. Max, a mathematician, and his friend Sebastian, a physicist, think they’ve found the final piece in the puzzle -that whimsically named quark being sought to complete the picture of the physical world. But as we know all too well the truth is flexible. As Max and Sebastian’s increasingly obsessive pursuit draws in their family and friends their path heads more and more inexorably towards a frightening collision with the power of the state. 

Director: Charles Sanders 
Set & Costume Designer: Karla Urizar 
Lighting & AV Designer: Owen McCarthy 
Composer: Mario Spate
Cast: Terence Crawford, Anna Cheney, Georgia Stanley, Patrick Frost, Max Garcia-Underwood, Jo Stone & Roman Vaculik 
Photos: Kate Pardey 

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