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Melanie Waingarten transports audiences to 1888 in ‘The Sower’ at Hollywood Fringe

Art has been part of Melanie Waingarten’s life for as long as she can remember. She began painting at the mere age of four and had a strong sense of identity stemming from creative expression even at a young age. It was during this process of putting a brush to canvas that she recognized spatial awareness, and as she grew, she began to become interested in the multi-dimensional side of the craft and how her body could react with the material. She began to recognize that her body could be a medium of expression in itself and its own unique art form, which is where her passion for performing arts was born.

“I became highly interested in this idea of performance art, of the relationship between my physicality and the creation of art itself. And as I did more research and involved myself in the world of performance, I recognized it as something that came natural to me. Something that felt familiar. I think I loved the world of performance even before I knew it as a concept. In addition to this naturally occurring awareness, I was also faced with different situations that reinforced this connection and pushed me to further discover and connect with the things that I felt a passion for,” she said.

It was only natural for Waingarten to find her way into set design for the stage, combining her love for visual and performing arts. Working on acclaimed productions such as Don’t Forget to Like, King Lear, On Death, Double Play, and many more, she has come a long way from that four-year-old who enjoyed painting and is now recognized as one of Argentina’s leading scenic designers.

“Once, during a trip to Oslo Opera House, I found myself moved to tears by the monumentality of the space. Navigating that environment touched me deeply. I realized I wanted to live inside the theatre. At another time, when assisting a light designer in Argentina by testing the ways in which light affected bodies on stage, I was once again moved, overwhelmed by the immensity of the space, of the scene, and the theatre as an entity,” said Waingarten.

One of the highlight’s on Waingarten’ resume is the celebrated production of The Sower, which was part of the iconic Hollywood Fringe Festival last year. The story of the play begins on Christmas morning, 1888, where a struggling painter named Vincent wakes to find himself covered in blood in a small hospital room in Arles, France. As the day matures and he is visited by friend and foe alike, he discovers he is missing his left ear and remembers what it was that led him there. The Sower is an exploration of one of our most paradoxical and loved artists, Vincent van Gogh. What was it that led him to commit that heinous act of self-mutilation? What is the line between madness and reality? Do we nurture our artists or condemn them to the outer circles of estrangement? As an artist herself, Waingarten was eager to put her touch on the story of Van Gogh, an artist who she feels a special appreciation and connection to.

“The story examines a moment in the life of the incredibly paradoxical artist Van Gogh. I loved that it seemed a biographical piece but actually the play explores deeper existential questions related to what makes us unique, what makes us artists and what makes us human,” said Waingarten.

Having previously worked in the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Waingarten knew just what it would take to make a play a success in a festival. The Sower demanded the development of a space that accurately depicted an environment during a specific period in time while also telling the story of an artist and his life. Waingarten had the task of utilizing her knowledge and background in art history, along with her expertise in set design, to create a hospital room in France in the 1880’s, transporting the audience to the feeling of the space and the personification of the artist. She was able to achieve this by carefully researching and collecting numerous props and objects that she curated as a way to tell the story, and provide the right atmospheric feeling to the viewer.

Waingarten’s vast attention to detail and unparalleled ability to transport an audience with her work led The Sower to become an instant hit at the festival. Because of its success, the play is being translated onto film by management team The Robb Company and veteran industry ace, David Japka.
Undoubtedly, Waingarten has had a formidable career as a scenic designer, with a true passion for her work. Her talent is undeniable and evident in all she does, but she also has worked hard to get to where she is. She encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps to do the same, and not forget that the most fundamental aspect of success is teamwork.

“Unlike other forms of art, theatre requires you to work in collaboration with many artists who often have different perspectives and understandings than yours. You have to put your ego aside and find ways of creating together, but that is also the beauty of it, that collaboration,” she advised.

By Annabelle Lee
April 29th, 2019

Melanie Waingarten transports audiences to 1888 in ‘The Sower’ at Hollywood Fringe Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:55:00 AM Rating: 5
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