John Magoun

Theatrical Design
& Art Direction

01 - 1984, New Left Theater Company, NYC, 1984.

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1984
adapted from George Orwell's novel.

Set sketch

This was an Off-off-Broadway production in honor of the year 1984. The space was a black box in the basement of a row house in the East Village. This is my set sketch for the basic setting, with key lighting provided by a B&W monitor DS center.

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02 - 1984, New Left Theater Company, NYC, 1984.

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1984
adapted from George Orwell's novel.

Production photo

The set was pretty successful, although the B&W monitor lighting didn't work out.
The Big Brother poster was a translucent scrim. I based him on a combination of Stalin, Hitler, and a typical Englishman's face.

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03 - 1984, New Left Theater Company, NYC, 1984.

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1984
adapted from George Orwell's novel.

Paint elevations

To decorate the set I modified some posters from the Spanish Civil War.

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04 - Summer season, Hampton Playhouse, Hampton, NH, 1985.

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Alone Together
by Lawrence Roman

Production Photo

This is a set from my one season in summer stock, in Hampton, N.H. This sitcom required a typical suburban American house with five entrances onstage. It came off pretty well.

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05 - Summer season, Hampton Playhouse, Hampton, NH, 1985.

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Isn't It Romantic?
by Wendy Wasserstein

Paint Elevation

Another from summer stock. The two indoor sets were the heroines' apartments. I painted two backings onto a T-shaped flat, with the center flat hinged to flip back and forth for quick changes.

It was easy to do this working girl's Village apartment because I had lived in many places like this.

 
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06 - Summer season, Hampton Playhouse, Hampton, NH, 1985.

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Isn't It Romantic?
by Wendy Wasserstein

Paint Elevation

This was the "other side" of the two-apartment flat set. It represents a white-brick apartment on the Upper East Side, for the wealthier girl.

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07 - Christopher Columbus, Light Opera of Manhattan, NYC, 1987.

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Christopher Columbus
with music by Jacques Offenbach and lyrics by Don White.

Production photo

After graduating NYU I designed a comic opera about Columbus. I apologize for the low-res photos. Here is the Act I dockside set, with ship cutouts in the background.

NY Times review.

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08 - Christopher Columbus, Light Opera of Manhattan, NYC, 1987.

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Christopher Columbus
with music by Jacques Offenbach and lyrics by Don White.

Production photo

The third act shows Columbus at sea on the Santa Maria.

NY Times review.

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09 - Christopher Columbus, Light Opera of Manhattan, NYC, 1987.

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Christopher Columbus
with music by Jacques Offenbach and lyrics by Don White.

Act IV backdrop elevation.

For Columbus' unexpected arrival in the New World, I parodied Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover of America as seen by Manhattanites.
The style mimics medieval map conventions, but the layout is Steinberg's. All the place names bring out the impact that Columbus will have on the future America; the longed-for East is still on the horizon.

NY Times review.

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10 - Christopher Columbus, Light Opera of Manhattan, NYC, 1987.

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Christopher Columbus
with music by Jacques Offenbach and lyrics by Don White.

Production photo

This Act IV photo does not exactly bring out the charm of the backdrop. It looked quite good. The NY Times credited me with designing "cheerful budget scenery."

NY Times review.

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11 - Teresa, NYU Film School student senior thesis, NYC, 1987.

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Teresa
written and directed by Lynn Cassaniti

Production photo

I designed an NYU student film, about an old Italian lady being threatened with eviction by a heartless gentrifying landlord (that's him there).
I won Best Art Direction at the student Film Festival that year.

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12 - Loving, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1994.

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Loving
ABC Daytime

Production photo: Justice of the Peace House

As Art Director for ABC's Loving, I designed the one-shot sets when the production designer was on vacation.
This Justice of the Peace house was for the scene where two of our characters impetuously eloped.

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13 - Loving, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1994.

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Loving
ABC Daytime

Production photo: Parlor

One-shot sets used stock scenic elements like walls, windows, and doors, dressed with rented furnishings. This set and the previous one used the same scenic elements in two different ground plans.

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14 - Loving, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1994.

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Loving
ABC Daytime

Production photo: Casey's Loft

This was the one full-size, built-from-scratch, permanent set that I got to design over a Christmas vacation.

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15 - The City, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1995.

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The City
ABC Daytime

Production photo:
City Loft Basement

The following year Loving was cancelled and replaced by an ambitious new "Friends"-style soap opera set in New York: The City.
My boss, Boyd Dumrose, designed the main unit set for which we won an Emmy. Later I got to design the Basement where the handsome and artistic young Super lived.

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16 - The City, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1995.

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The City
ABC Daytime

Production photo:
City Loft Basement

The Basement was a lot of fun to design. Because the shooting style of the show accepted low ceilings and tight spaces, we didn't have to "open up" the scenery the way most TV shows require. The result was very realistic - most viewers assumed we were on location here.

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17 - The City, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1996.

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The City
ABC Daytime

Production photo:
Raghib's Dorm Room

As with Loving, I occasionally got the chance to design small sets on The City.
Raghib was the son of our African-American heroine, Dr. Angie. To dress his dorm room I shopped on 125th Street in Harlem, where most of the store vendors knew those characters and were excited to help me design his set.

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18 - The City, ABC daytime drama, NYC, 1996.

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The City
ABC Daytime

Production photo:
Fertility Clinic

For the Fertility Clinic, I visited a sperm donation lab in the Empire State Building. There I got the idea of a glass window in the reception area that revealed a sterile and hospital-like lab area across the hall, giving the set a lot of cheap but good-looking depth. The producer liked the idea and paid for an extra to play the lab technician in the background.

 

All images, artwork, and commentary on this page are the property of John Magoun and may not be reproduced without permission. This page last updated: April 2012