A theater company outside Atlanta is putting on a production of the musical Titanic that features an ambitious centerpiece: a massive three-story structure that sinks into the middle of a lake during the performance—only to rise again and do it all over the next night.
This innovative set design is the latest in a string of shows at the Serenbe Playhouse, an outdoor theater company that bends the laws of what most people would think possible on a set. For instance, it used a real fair as a backdrop for Carousel, and its 2016 production of Miss Saigon made headlines for having an actual Huey helicopter land and take off during each performance.
So when it came time to put on a production of Titanic, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s 1997 Tony winner for best musical, Serenbe knew the show had to be as big as the ship itself.
The technologically savvy sets are the brainchild of Brian Clowdus, who serves as Serenbe’s artistic director and who directed the production. He works with a team—led by designer Adam Koch—that doesn’t let little challenges like crafting a reusable, sinkable RMS Titanic get in the way of putting on the show of their dreams.
So they designed a three-story scaffolding-like structure to stand in for the ill-fated ship that not even God could sink (or so people thought). When the Titanic runs into that infamous iceberg, sound effects highlight the damage, the structure shakes, the chandeliers tilt, and the ship goes down. The results are more cinematic than theatrical, showing that you don’t need special effects if you have a little engineering know-how and passion-driven ambition.
Check out the documentary below to see the innovative design and outside-the-box stagecraft that went into creating this set. And if you happen to be in Atlanta, the show has been extended until August 19. If enough people express interest, perhaps it will go on—just like Celine Dion’s heart.