The awe-inspiring projection designs in the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!” were created by Josh Thorson, assistant professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. The interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic 1943 play went on a successful Broadway run at Circle in the Square Theater in 2019 and 2020.
Thorson’s work on the production earned him a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Projection Design. The Drama Desk is an organization of writers, editors, publishers and broadcasters that honors the best of New York City theater. His primary work can be found in the “smokehouse” and “dream ballet” scenes.
In the former, the first portion of the scene is a complete blackout, before a wireless infrared camera focuses on the two male protagonists, Curly and Jud, who are competing for the same girl, Laurey. The camera captures different close-up views of the characters that project onto a 55-foot-wide wall during the song “Poor Jud is Daid” and ends with a shot of the both of them.
The dream ballet scene is similar, using video to bring the audience closer to the “dream Laurey” dancer. Thorson employed live special effects to make a smoky effect that “amplifies the dream-like space.”
Thorson, graduate director of the MFA in Photography and Related Media, also executed “Oklahoma!” projection designs for runs at Bard College (2015) and St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (2018).