Mike Buckley Shares His Inspiration Behind the Brilliant “She Loves Me” Set Design!
What was your inspiration for the “She Loves Me” set?
My inspiration for the “She Loves Me” set was the very brief style period of Art Nouveau, which was especially popular in Paris and Eastern Europe in the teens and twenties. Since it takes place in an established Budapest perfumeries in the 1930s, it seemed like a perfect stylistic choice. Art Nouveau is characterized by asymmetrical, flowing lines, inspired by flowers and vines, and its lush, romantic character seemed fitting for this charming, romantic story.
Oddly enough, in my decades of designing period settings, I’ve never had an occasion to design in the Art Nouveau style, even though two of my favorite artists, Mucha and and Barbier, made their names in this era. This meant much more architectural research than usual on my part, but I found a couple of wonderful sources in a used bookstore in LA. In fact, the prominent circular window above the shop is taken directly from a brooch design of the period.
What are some of the challenges with designing a set for the Horton Grand Theatre Stage?
The Horton Grand Theatre is one of my favorite San Diego venues because of its intimacy, but that “coziness” is not without its challenges. Limited wing space and fly space requires clever solutions when changing scenery and She Loves Me was no exception. The solution that director Richard Israel and I came up with involves five turntable units to quickly change from the exterior to the interior of the shop. In fact, my favorite moment in the show, and the one that the audience seems to enjoy as well, is when we first transition from outside the shop to inside. I salute Technical Director Steve Longfellow for his craftsmanship because the mechanics work beautifully, and Lighting Designer Michelle Miles makes it all come alive and sparkle.
Ironically, I’m also designing the set for Little Shop of Horrors later this season and it too is set predominantly in the interior and exterior of a shop, in this case Mushnik’s Flower Shop. My challenge will be to devise a different way of manipulating the set, in order to keep things interesting for both the audience and myself. The period, location and tone of Little Shop is very different from She Loves Me, so it’ll be interesting to see what we come up with.
What are your thoughts about the “She Love Me” musical?
I’ve loved She Loves Me ever since I heard the soundtrack a million years ago while studying theatre at UCLA. I even sang young Arpad’s song “Try Me” as an in-class project. Years later I turned down the role of Georg and I’ve always regretted that decision, as I’m far too old to play it now!
What inspired you to become a Set Designer?
I got interested in scenic design while taking a required course in it as an undergrad. I loved the illusion of it, the sleight-of-hand and the trickery and discovered that I was good at it. With the encouragement of my design professor, I stayed to earn my MFA in scenic design and now I’m the design professor at Southwestern College, training the next generation of designers, who are all about Arpad’s age. It’s funny how circular life can be!