Building a City: a behind-the-scenes look at the construction of the Tales of the City set

“You can’t escape the beauty of San Francisco,” says Tales scenic designer Douglas W. Schmidt, in a recent interview in Words on Plays. “As a designer, it really infects you. You keep saying, ‘Oh, that vista, we’ve got to have that.’ By the time you’re done with that, you’ve got a whole picture-postcard collection that you’re trying to put onstage. Very early on, we decided that we didn’t want to go that route.”

Instead of trying to pack all of San Francisco into his set, Schmidt drew inspiration from the iconic back staircases of Russian Hill to create a moving, shifting environment where the musical’s mysteries could slowly unfold. The Endup, Halcyon Ad Agency, and of course 28 Barbary Lane: all of these locales are created with quick changes to the same central structure. Check out the video below to see it built from the ground up.
—The A.C.T. Intern Blog Quadrumvirate.

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