January 26, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


Joel Sherry, 37 

Set designer

Since then, Sherry has been the chief architect of a new "doubling" strategy for Theatre IV. By creating innovative sets that can serve two shows at once, Sherry has allowed the theater company to present grown-up shows at the Barksdale Theatre at night while delivering children's shows on afternoons and weekends. With his first doubling assignment, he provided a stage exuding courtly elegance for last fall's "Cyrano de Bergerac" that was easily transformed into a tropical rainforest for "Jungle Book." His success relied principally on a deep understanding of color, with the set for "Cyrano" awash in lighter earth tones that could be easily covered by lush greenery and other jungle accoutrements.

His job as master carpenter allows him to be involved with the set design process from initial brainstorming to finished construction, an opportunity he finds most gratifying. But it is an unexpected sidelight that informs much of his work: He is the founder and principal choreographer for an eclectic dance company called Teatro du El, which has performed in both Los Angeles and New York. "I'm very interested in how people are moving around the available space," Sherry says. "Thinking about that as a choreographer has helped me develop sets where actors can move easily through their scenes."

What's next: Sherry is putting the finishing touches on his most ambitious design to date: the set for Theatre IV's spring event, "Seussical: The Musical," which runs April 22 to May 15 at the Empire Theatre. Designing for the show, which combines numerous Dr. Seuss books into a sprawling musical tale, has primarily been a process of editing, reducing the wild and varied Seussian landscape into elements that can be made three-dimensional. Luckily, Sherry has his own in-home barometer to help him, his 3-year-old son. "If [my son] says, 'Wow,' I know I'm onto something," he says. — David Timberline

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