And that’s where I began my search. I took all of these elements that Ike provides, and I went on a hunt. I live in Rogers Park [a neighborhood in northern Chicago], which is a 90-second drive from Evanston, where this play takes place. On its exterior, Evanston is very polite. It’s a small university town neighboring a giant city, and part of Evanston’s charm is that they’re far enough from the city to still have this small-town feel, but just close enough that they can have the excitement of Chicago.
So I drove up there and started looking for million-dollar listings for prairie style homes. Then I started digging deeper and deeper. Thank god for Google Maps; I was able to drop my little pin into these different neighborhoods and just look around in the 360˚ view. It’s interesting how research for set designs has changed because of the Internet.
Eventually, I stumbled upon this house, which is based on an actual house in Evanston. Fortunately for us, this house went for sale in 2017, so I could look up the listing and find amazing pictures of the interior and exterior. From that, I was able to create this actual home.
My whole mantra with horror and thrillers – this will be my third thriller that I’ve put on stage – is that if everything in the world is scary, then nothing is scary. What’s great about this house is that it looks so unassuming; it’s the last place you’d expect something bad to happen. I wanted a house that wasn’t menacing, but when we get into a darker emotional landscape in the play, I needed the house to join us with that.
In an earlier version of my design, the house was very flat and presented head-on. It felt like we were being served the house, instead of being at the house. I found a better way to serve the play by turning the house a little bit and putting the audience on the corner of the yard; there’s no border between where the set ends and the theatre begins. We’re in that yard with the characters, and any one of us could be experiencing what they are.
Banner image: Behzad Dabu and Shannon Matesky; photo by Jim Carmody.
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