East Texas Hot Links, opening July 16 at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, begins the first in an occasional ARTS ATL series that looks at technical aspects of notable upcoming openings.
East Texas takes place in and around Charlessetta’s Top O’ the Hill Cafe in 1955, one of the only places black locals can find comfort and community. When rumors of Klan activity spread, the group must combat outside evils and resolve conflicts among themselves.
Atlanta theater artist Bradley Bergeron designed projections for the thriller, creating an active digital backdrop for Ming Chen’s set design. When audiences see East Texas Hot Links, however, Bergeron’s projections should be inconspicuous.
“My design is to the service of the subconscious,” Bergeron says. “If anything that I do during the show is noticeable to the audience, I’m not doing my job.”
Like most designers, Bergeron began with image research on the forests of East Texas. He decided to create a loblolly pine grove, so he rendered single trees into a 3-D model capable of producing digital trees with realistic lighting and structure.
“I knew it needed to be dimensional, and so I needed all the layers to play with,” he says. “It had to be more than just a flat Photoshopped image. This gives me all the tools I need so that during tech I have a palette to work with.”
The layering lets Bergeron add elements such as fog and motion to the trees, helping communicate the drama’s dark and ominous tones. His projections create an illusion of 3-D depth in 2-D images, and make a seamless transition from the set’s physical trees to the digital background.
“The ending of this show leaves you questioning lots of things,” Bergeron says. “But it’s also a reflection of a point in time in America that we are seeing aspects of again right now. It’s a great time to reevaluate and see we are all capable of crazy things.”
East Texas Hot Links was written and is directed by Eugene Lee. His cast features Gerard Catus, Markelle Gay, Anthony Goolsby, Maiesha McQueen, Cedric Pendleton, Eugene Russell IV, Nikki Toombs and Travis Turner.