The challenge with this production always came down to creating the universe of this play. The production history has proved to be grappling with this realization as well, and I wanted to find a solution that was not only pragmatic for our resources, but also took advantage of the unique space I had to work with and created the most magical imagining of Ariel's world.
We talked a lot about emphasizing the vertical space in the room, as opposed to topography on the stage surface, in order to build the three dimensional dynamic of the ocean. This is where the asymmetrical platforms and the ropes bisecting the space came from. Different set pieces were hoisted up and down throughout highly choreographed and fluid transitions that continually brought the audience's eyes upward. We also spent time discussing how to envision a mermaid tail. We realized that placing a literal rendition of a tail on an actress would only inhibit her, when in Ariel's world her tail underwater gives her ultimate agility and ease. The analogy to the land, of course, is feet. So we worked with the conceptual idea of Ariel's mobility underwater being represented by flowy pants and slippers that enable our actress to really fly around the space contrasting with Ariel's (and really every woman's) relative restriction on the land with high heels, corsets, and heavy draping layers of skirts and petticoats to create the paradox of being bound both underwater and on land.
Another prominent aspect of this show was our highly theatrical solutions to difficult and complex sequences, such as The Storm and The Transformation, relying more on physical theatre techniques rather than expensive and out of reach special effects. Another theatrical solution we employed was a thorough use of inventive puppetry not only with main characters (Sebastian, Flounder) but also with general sea creature puppets dancing through Under The Sea and inanimate objects (like ocean waves and Ursula's tentacles) having a life of their own.