Scenic Designer Kenneth Mayfield brings theatre worlds to life
For four years running, Kenneth Mayfield has worked as the Technical Director for Theatre Baton Rouge. A man of many hats, Mayfield also serves as TBR’s Resident Scenic Designer with past credits including “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “A Few Good Men,” and most recently “Cabaret.” Before coming to Baton Rouge, he worked as an actor and scenic designer in Knoxville, TN. During college, Mayfield’s background focused on engineering before switching over to theatre. It was his experience in construction work that helped elevate him to do set design and constructing for theatre companies. Upon moving to Baton Rouge, he joined up with TBR, then known as Baton Rouge Little Theatre, as an actor and worked behind the scenes with the sets, which would eventually lead to his current position. We caught up with Mayfield to talk about creating his vision for the set of the upcoming production of “Mamma Mia!” for Theatre Baton Rouge.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Well, the first thing I have to say is that no two days are ever the same. That’s the main thing that I love about my job is the fact there’s no monotony here. Every day something’s new. I get a new story to tell every month, and usually the stories we’re telling take about three to six months before they even starting construction. I get that time to think about and come up with a design and make sure all of the parts function for the best way to tell the story to the audience.
How are you approaching the scenic design for “Mamma Mia!”?
The first thing you have to recognize when you do a play like this is that it is very well known. I did my research on Greek architecture along the coast. I started there with looking at different kinds of coastal architecture, taking notes of color patterns, window patterns, what types of shapes are utilized the most. So the main approach is reading through the play, figuring out all the destinations we need to go to, and how we can smoothly transition from one location to the next without losing the momentum of the storytelling. It’s always our goal to keep the audience engaged from the minute the curtain is up to the moment the curtain goes down, and that takes a lot of thought into the actual design.
How are you using color for the show?
The thing that I took away from the images I was researching was the lack of color on the structures. I’ve done some accents just because it would be boring to sit and look at a white blob on stage, but the thing I noticed the most is we’re living in a pastel environment. You know, very light yellows, pastel pinks, oranges, lots of different types of cream colors, so it’s going to be the absence of a defined color. We’ll probably live in soft pastels for the architecture, but the thing that allows for is for the bright colors we put in front of it, or on it, to pop out.
What are you most looking forward to with designing the set of “Mamma Mia!”?
The great thing about doing scenic design is, in my opinion, the culmination of all the events to get the finished product. Because by the end of it you feel like you’ve put so much of yourself into what is in front of you that it has become somewhat of a part of you. That is the stuff I never forget, not only the process it took the production staff to get to where we are, but to sit it in the audience and see how it all comes together. There is nothing more rewarding I think than a well-done play from a scenic design perspective.
Photos by Sean Gasser