Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How the Universe of "Mr. Wolf" Was Formed

Emily James and John de Lancie in Mr. Wolf.  Scenic design by Nephelie Andonyadis.

Nephelie Andonyadis previously designed scenery at SCR for The Summer Moon and The BFG (Big Friendly Giant); costumes for Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Saturn Returns, Emilie, The Importance of Being Earnest, Safe in Hell, The Dazzle; and both costumes and scenery for Relatively Speaking and The Stinky Cheese Man. Andonyadis designs frequently with Cornerstone Theater Company where she is an ensemble member. Her recent projects there include scenic designs for Bliss Point, Café Vida, Flor, The Unrequited (Between Two Worlds), Three Truths, Jason in Eureka, Los Illegals; and California: The Tempest; and costume designs for Plumas Negras, Order My Steps and Boda de Luna Nueva. Her scenic and costume designs at other regional theatres include Intersection for the Arts, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Center Theatre Group, Guthrie Lab, Court Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, The Acting Company, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Berkshire Theatre Festival and Yale Repertory Theatre. Andonyadis is a professor in the theatre arts department at the University of Redlands. She is a graduate of Yale University School of Drama and Cornell University School of Architecture, and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group design fellowship.
“…if the universe is infinite, it means there is no end to possibility,” theorizes young Theresa in Rajiv Joseph’s new work, Mr. Wolf. The show runs through May 3 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.

The possibilities on stage can be endless, especially when a designer is tasked with creating the “universe” of a play. How does the space of the stage relate to the story, the characters and the themes? What does the world on stage express to the audience?

Scenic designer Nephelie Andonyadis previously designed scenery and costumes for SCR shows as diverse as Charlotte’s Web and The Motherf**ker with the Hat (sets) and Absurd Person Singular and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (costumes). She has a lot of expertise to draw upon and was thrilled with the opportunity to create the universe of Mr. Wolf.

While she grew up around theatre, Andonyadis began her career in scenic design when she studied architecture as an undergraduate at Cornell University. She was fascinated by how humans relate to the spaces around them. Although, as she delved deeper into architecture, she felt something was missing.

Mr. Wolf set rendering by Nephelie Andonyadis
“Architecture felt too far removed, in material and texture, in space and in time, from my own experience as a young artist,” she recalls. “I missed the poetry of language, the presence of the temporal human dimension, and the impact of movement in the spaces I was designing.”

In short, what was missing was the energy that live theatre exuded. Once Adonyadis completed her undergraduate studies, she moved to New York City and apprenticed in theatre, taking on jobs that gave her the opportunity to learn something new.

“I worked as an assistant scenic designer, a draftsperson, painter, milliner, sculptor, stitcher and learned a great deal about the craft of theatre,” she says. “Then, I went back to school to earn my MFA in design from the Yale School of Drama.”

Happy in her return to theatre, she continued her work in New York. Eventually, she found her way to Southern California where she continues to find inspiration in her designs.

And how does she draw out that inspiration? When tackling the world premiere of Mr. Wolf—and any play she works on—she looks to the language first. The words on every page serve as her creative muse as she begins her design work.

“I look for the patterns that the playwright has embedded in the text in my effort to tease out its structure and discover its physical form,” she explains. “I love tightly structured dialogue and long pauses filled with tension. I am inspired to create spaces in which the action can unfold and the poetry can sing.”

Mr. Wolf set rendering by Nephelie Andonyadis
She met with Founding Artistic Director David Emmes, who is directing Mr. Wolf, and incorporated his feedback. He had a very specific vision that went beyond the needs of multiple locations called for in the script. As Andonyadis recalls, “He had a strong impulse to see the action against an expanse of space. Given the themes of inquiry, infinite love, faith and hope, we explored this sense of space in terms of the deep space of the universe.”

This sense of physical space, in relation to the universe, also is explored on a more human level. As Andonyadis analyzed the themes behind Mr. Wolf, she found an interesting connection between the heart and universe. To her, the play examines the dimensions of the human heart through the idea of deep space, infinity and alternate universes. Taking all this into account, she hopes her work suggests “the interconnectedness of both the expanse of deep space and the deep feelings of the heart” through her design.

As the production approaches its opening night, she’ll continue to fine tune and adjust the design to help reinforce her concepts. During this critical time, she keeps a philosophy in mind.

“I believe that the design must serve the play, this play, here and now. That means that each production and each design is specific to its time and place, to its community of artist-makers and to its audience, to its creators and to our aspirations.”

Learn more and buy tickets.


  1. From what I can see in the picture - Nephelie's designs look absolutely stunning. I love getting to read about her design process! I am SO excited to see this show. Thanks for posting this article.

  2. Brilliant. Nephelie Andonyadis and Rajiv Joseph--what a combination. Congratulations to SCR for bringing together such