Q&A With The World Is Not Silent‘s Projection Designer Victoria Beauray Sagady 

We spoke with The World Is Not Silent‘s Projection Designer and Alley Theatre’s Director of Video Production, Victoria Beauray Sagady, about designing the projections for this world premiere play. Here’s what she had to say!

What does it mean to be a projection designer?
The projection designer is one of several creative positions on a show, emphasizing deep collaboration with all other designers. It is so important for the projection design to seamlessly work with the scenic, lighting, sound, and costume designs and occasionally assist them in unexpected ways.   We can completely change the context of a scene, enhance the sense of light and space, create new moments with sound, and even work with costumes to create surprising moments.  We also run the risk of doing too much in a world where video content is so readily consumed by audiences, whose brains are hardwired to look at screens and moving images, that we have to be careful we are supporting the story of the show instead of distracting the audience from the story.

How long does it take for you to prep and create a design for a show?
The process ideally starts very early with the scenic designer and director so that the ways projections can be used are a part of the initial concept.  Trying to add video to an already existing concept can be very tricky and often leads to less effective designs all around. So, as early as the director and scenic designer meet for the first time, we work on the concept of the design, how projections will be used to support the story and the acting, and all through this process up until tech, I will be creating different ideas and approaches so that I have a toolbox when we get into the space and begin the tech process.  It is very difficult to visualize and understand how an image will work until you can actually experience it in real-time at a scale in the space.  The context of being in the room can completely change how well a choice works, which is why I like to come up with lots of ideas just in case something is not quite right.

Tony Aidan Vo and Mai Le in The World Is Not Silent.
What is the most challenging part of designing this show?
My favorite and more challenging parts of the design are one and the same.  As with the last question, it’s that moment when you are in the theatre with the set, and you turn on the projectors for the first time.  All the planning and preparation can go out the door for intangible reasons once you see it in context, so there is a natural anxiety about this moment. Still, it is also the moment when something just works and is so thrilling that I get giddy inside and do a little dance of joy, especially when it’s surprising and maybe something I wasn’t sure about works exceedingly well.

What do not many people know about being a projection designer that wish you they knew?
I think there is a misconception that the video or projection designers are just googling images and throwing them up on the set or using AI to do all their work for them.  The reality is so far from that it can be hard to explain in words.  So many decisions go into how we present an idea, how we want the audience to perceive a moment and what is supporting the storytelling happening on stage.  We consider color, how bright it should be, how we might lead the audience’s eye to important information, and how much attention we want to pull or, in many cases, not pull.  If I have really done my job right, the audience will not even notice the projections, except for special moments where we are making a big statement or deliberately trying to pull the eye.  Whenever an actor is on stage performing their heart out, I want to support that performance, never ever upstaging it.

Victoria Beauray Sagady
returns to Alley Theatre after designing projections for Pictures from HomeTorera, and Vietgone. She is also the Director of Video Production at Alley Theatre. Broadway Credits: All the Way (Drama Desk Nomination), The Great Society, Leap of Faith, and Memphis. Off -Broadway: Stop.Reset, Mound Builders, Emotional Creature (Signature Theater), By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (2nd Stage). Her designs have been seen across the country and internationally in China and Europe.

The World is Not Silent runs March 22 – April 14, 2024. Tickets are available here.