“Closer” / The Chatroom Scene

I love a good logistical challenge. And the Encore Theatre Company‘s debut mainstage, “Down Dangerous Passes Road”, was full of them – most notably, the logistics of bringing a pickup truck on stage paired with a complicated sound design and some tricky stagecraft.

Closer” is a bit of a breather, on the surface at least. At first glance, it’s a fairly straightforward piece: four characters, minimal set, uncomplicated lighting, pure realism. But there’s this one scene…

Scene 3

Scene 3, or “The Chatroom Scene”, is a five-page scene between the two male characters, Dan and Larry, that takes place in the context of an internet chatroom called “London Fuck”. The scene is virtually silent, with the “dialog” appearing as the correspondence in the chat window.

The writer, Patrick Marber, presents two versions of the scene: the original, designed to be projected on stage behind the actors showing the actual chatroom, and an alternate (or “cop-out”) version that is spoken rather than projected. In order to perform the alternate version, you must obtain special permission from Marber’s people.

Encore is not in the business of copping out.

So, the design of “London Fuck” falls to me as set designer for “Closer”. It’s a challenge I’ve never faced before. Not only am I creating original graphics and animation for the scene to be projected on the cyclorama, as director, I also have to create a way to time and cue each entry in the chatroom with the actors. It’s a complicated problem, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.

I thought to include a preview of “London Fuck” in this post, but I think I’ll hold off for now. Below is a teaser of the chatroom header.

I am using a series of programs to create the chatroom environment including Adobe Photoshop, Apple Keynote, and Adobe After Effects. Logistically, think of it like a PowerPoint presentation on bath salts.

We have our first trial run of the scene with the actors this Sunday. I’ll let you know how it goes and will update periodically on the progress of this particular “Closer” challenge.


6 thoughts on ““Closer” / The Chatroom Scene

  1. Hi,

    I am faced with a similar task and I stubled upon your post. Is there any chance you could share some of the work you’ve done, because I am really struggling to make something in powerpoint that looks realistic so that would help me a lot.

    Thanks in advance,

      1. It is a chat session very similar to what you describe. In its most minimalistic form, you see a fixed number of text lines and on every queue the top line scrolls away while a new line appears at the bottom. Bonus points for a scroll bar that becomes smaller and smaller as there is more text scrolled away and a “text box” where the actual typing happens with text appearing at “natural typing speed” would be completely wonderful.

      2. When I did the “Closer” chat scene, each line of the conversation was a unique slide that added onto the previous. The key is to create the initial look of the sequence in Photoshop and then add your necessary lines of text one by one in PowerPoint or Keynote or whatever you’re using. Then you need somebody to run the sequence who is familiar with the show and the actors need to give strong visual cues to your “projectionist” so that the sequence projected and the action of the performers is seamless.

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