Award-winning scenic designer Scott Bradley lends his hand to TheatreVirginia's production of "Master Class." 

TVA Taps a Master for "Master Class"

When TheatreVirginia opens its production of "Master Class" this week, the show will have a look unlike anything else it has done this season. "I used some interesting proportions for the space, something taller and more square," says award-winning scenic designer Scott Bradley. In contrast to the lavish sets TVA has featured recently in productions like "Hay Fever," Bradley calls his set design "austere." "It's one of the simplest designs I've done. I wanted to do something simple to showcase the actress," he explains.

The actress is soap opera veteran Rosemary Prinz (the original Penny on "As the World Turns") who plays retired opera star Maria Callas. The Tony award-winning play, which the New York Times called "zestfully entertaining," depicts a fictitious master class the domineering diva gives to three aspiring artists. Twenty years ago, just such a class got Bradley involved in set design in the first place.

"[In 1978] I went to a conference in Switzerland for a master class in piano," Bradley remembers. But he ended up meeting and working with Shozo Sato, a director of Kabuki theater. "That was my bridge into theater." Since then, he has worked in television and on Broadway, and has received numerous accolades. He won a New York Drama Desk Award for Best Set Design in 1996 for his work on August Wilson's "Seven Guitars." As it happened, "Guitars" lost to "Master Class" in its Tony bid for best play.

Bradley recently relocated to Richmond thanks, in part, to another local theater notable, David Leong, chairman of the VCU theater department. The two worked together on August Wilson's play, "Jitney," and Bradley met TVA's Artistic Director George Black through Leong. Bradley says his biggest challenge with "Master Class" has been the timeline. "The first time I talked to George he said, 'The designs are due last week.' It's been a challenge to do it so quickly."

"Master Class" previews May 12 and runs May 14-June 5. Tickets are $16-$31. Call 353-6161 for

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