UW News

November 8, 2007

3,000 tiles light up 1,001 nights

As the plot of Arabian Nights, the next play from the UW School of Drama, is slowly revealed, so will the specially created floor covering begin to show its true pattern.

Arabian Nights, running Nov. 26 to Dec. 9 in the Penthouse Theater, is based on the classic story of Shahrazad, bride of King Shahrayar, and the cliff-hanging tales she tells him each night to stave off execution. The show is directed by Keith Hitchcock, and is suitable for ages 10 and up.

The set, with its elaborate floor of 3,000 separate tiles, was designed after much research by Deanna Zibello, who is earning a master’s degree in scenic design. “The pattern comes from a particular mosque,” she said. “I researched a lot of Islamic architecture and mosques and palaces — I probably checked out every book the University has on Islamic architecture.”

Zibello said her inspiration was a moment in the play looking back on the tales of Shahrazad, where the line is heard, “If you listen very closely, you can still hear the voice of a woman telling stories.” Zibello said she designed around the idea of a “hidden heritage, a hidden culture.”

The whole set is, in a way, “meant to be like an archaeological site,” she said. “There’s this sort of weathered tile pattern going on which has broken and missing tiles. There were various things built on top, but it has now all been leveled and covered with sand.”

The effect of desert is helped along with sand-hued carpeting that has been cut to fit spots in the pattern on the floor. “The idea is for it to look like there’s a lot more sand than there really is,” she said.

As the audience enters the theater, Zibello said, they will see little but sand on the floor, “but as the actors begin performing, little bits and pieces of the floor will become uncovered” to show the pattern beneath.

The sand will work its way into the carpeted spaces as the actors go through the motions of the performance. Zibello said that while the usual drill in the theater is for the stage crew to sweep and mop the floor before each show, “in this case it will probably be something more like, rake the sand and vacuum, or something like that.”

For more information on Arabian Nights or other plays to be offered by the School of Drama, visit online at http://depts.washington.edu/uwdrama/. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students. For reservations, call the UW Arts Ticket Office at 206-543-4880.