Friday, July 17, 2015

Forced Perspective on Stage

Last weekend I attended a fine production of Shaw's "Pygmalion" at Princeton Summer Theater. The set consisted of a number of classical busts, a gesture to Ovid's ancient telling of the myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his own creation. Note how the largest busts are on either side relatively downstage, while the smallest is farthest upstage. You might perhaps expect the smallest sculpture to be placed nearer to the audience, but there is good reason for keeping it where it is.

Your brain wants to believe that all the faces are approximately the same size. By placing the largest heads closer to the audience and the smallest further back, the audience perceives the stage as having greater depth than it actually does. This concept is known as forced perspective. The set designer has made good use of it.

Far downstage are Henry Higgins's slippers. Behind them is a bust of the Apollo Belvedere.

Professor Higgins's recording device is at center stage.


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