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From Shakespeare to 'Tangled' -- a Conversation with Designer Douglas Rogers

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The Worlds of Douglas Rogers
From Shakespeare to 'Tangled' -- a Conversation with Designer Douglas Rogers

Douglas Rogers (Top Left) is the set designer for the upcoming Los Angeles production of Much Ado About Nothing (Top Right), as well as the production designer for the new Disney film Tangled (Bottom).

Douglas Rogers: © Susan Slagle Rogers; "Much Ado" © Douglas Rogers; "Tangled" © Disney Animation.

Artist and designer Douglas Rogers is an acclaimed theatrical set designer, but he’s best known as the Art Director for the classic Academy Award®-winning blockbuster film Shrek, for DreamWorks. Yet his work as a designer has been extremely diverse, encompassing both stage as well as screen, from the set designs for the upcoming Shakespeare Center production of Much Ado About Nothing this December, to the new Disney movie Tangled, on which he worked as Production Designer.

From his stage work to his film designs -- from a haunting glade or a cozy Beaver's den in Narnia, to a princess's tower, or a sunny California paradise among the vines -- Doug's work draws the viewer irresistibly into those worlds. He doesn't just invite us into another place or time, he makes that world so intricate, detailed and richly believable that (to quote Liz Lemon from "30 Rock"), we simply respond with, "I want to go to there."

He's also proof that a set designer can find success in several worlds at once. He is currently working as a Concept Designer for Disney Imagineering on a variety of ongoing projects, and his other past credits include Visual Development Set Designer for Disney's The Princess and the Frog, development and identity design for Bee Movie (his sixth film for DreamWorks), and other film credits including Flushed Away, A Shark’s Tale, and Puss in Boots. For several years, Rogers was the resident designer of the Shakespeare Festival of Los Angeles, and his Broadway credits include work as Associate Designer to Doug Schmidt on the most recent Broadway revival of the Tony Award®-winning Into the Woods, among many other works.

Doug was nice enough to speak with me last week about his work and approaches, as well as his exciting set designs for Much Ado About Nothing, which stars Helen Hunt, David Ogden Stiers, Stephen Root, and Tom Irwin, and runs December 1-19, 2010 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in downtown Culver City, California.

Angela Mitchell: Hi Douglas, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Your work is really beautiful, and the amount of detail is consistently extraordinary. When did you know you wanted to be a set designer?

Douglas Rogers: I knew that I wanted to be a set designer... it was 1985 or 1986, and I was working at the Dallas Theater Center as an actor. I went to see The Tempest, a production that Eugene Lee had designed, and it was just the first time that I had ever really noticed a set like that.

In the past, sets had always been sort of background material to me. But Eugene's sets were environmental, and were truly almost another actor onstage. They supported the action, but also enhanced the plot. I really felt like there was something new and magical there that I hadn't been exposed to before.

Most of the sets that I'd seen before that had been realistic, whereas Eugene's sets are more than that. They unfold, and the audience discovers them even as they're discovering the play.

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