Early in the production process for Another Jungle, scenic designer Shaun Renfro spent several weeks at the Chicago History Museum, diving deep into their archives. From canning processes to cattle shoots, Renfro is the team’s unquestioning expert on the meatpacking industry. The research he unearthed about the Chicago stockyards at the turn of the twentieth century translated into a stunning yet minimalistic set.
Another Jungle toggles between the final tech rehearsal for a failed production of The Jungle and the real-time presentation the Writer is compelled to perform amidst the fallout. Renfro has created a deceptively simple canvas for the presentation to happen on, although his design is for the play that never ultimately makes it to opening night.
“My research helped me understand the architectural vocabulary of the historical meat packing plants,” Renfro says. “Why were they built the way they were? What was the motivation of the plant owners? What needs were being met in the plants? Designing the set was a mental balancing act of weighing those questions with the needs of the play Another Jungle—and the play within the play.”
In bringing the costumes to life, designer Anna Wooden similarly traverses the two worlds of the play with clarity and playfulness. Her designs for the archetypes of “Wife” and “Boss” in The Jungle gesture towards a resourceful storefront theatre design for a period piece. (We at Cloudgate have been enjoying the layers of metatheatricality in this process.) Simultaneously, for their opening night, the Writer, Stage Manager, and actors show up looking suave but pushing against gender norms.
Wooden’s designs point to the way Another Jungle explores toxic masculinity, female power, and subversion of gender roles. Wooden says about her process, “In dressing these characters, it feels like each of them has glimmers of someone that I've worked with or met before. When you choose clothes for a character, you have
to think like them, and envision who they would want to present themselves as for the day. Clothing is a persona that each of us chooses. What we wear says more about how we wish to be perceived than about who we are at our cores, and that is true for these characters as well.”
Along with their fellow designers, Sarah Espinoza (Sound Design), Jared Gooding (Lighting Design), and Angela McIlvain (Puppet Design), Renfro and Wooden have found simplicity in the complex worlds of Another Jungle. Their work will transform the Buena space at the Pride Arts Center from April 10-29, 2018.