20 Principles for APL Design (2017)



Visual design is a critical factor in the composition of every Akropolis Performance Lab piece. We are very deliberate in the selection of each element brought in to enhance both the work of the actors and the experience of the spectators, with particular attention not only to cohesion within the production itself, but consistency to the aesthetic principles we’ve developed over nearly 20 years and which form a foundational, minimalist through-line for our entire body of work.

The Glas Nocturne at CATAC Balch Street Theatre Akron OH (Photo: Annie Paladino, 2015)

For the last 10 years or so – in addition to directing – I have acted as scenographer for our productions, in collaboration with our Artistic Associates; determining the scenic, lighting, and costume designs. This throws off some people, who question why no designers are credited, and who wonder if that means we just pull these things together with less emphasis than we place on the acting and dramaturgy. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Every detail of an APL production is a carefully considered aspect of the dramaturgy, approached with equal importance.

This year, we are bringing in designers once again for 730 Steps, prompting me to put into writing those guiding aesthetic principles, so they can be shared and understood by our new partners. And while they are specifically geared toward design in this form, these are the same fundamental principles which guide all aspects of our creative work.

Ecce Faustus at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Ballard WA (Photo: Mark Zufelt 2016)

20 Principles for APL Design

  1. Use as little as possible, but of the best quality possible
    •  based on money, availability, & time
  2. The space is always what it is. The design happens within and in relationship to the-space-itself
  3. Exploit the difficulties and flaws, don’t try to hide them
  4. Don’t provide the spectator with answers. Give them just enough to recognize the questions and draw their own conclusions
  5. Use Real Objects, unless unobtainable
    • Fabricated Objects should be made with the highest degree of craftsmanship and “real world” permanence
    • Theatrical Facsimiles are not acceptable
  6. Everything on stage should be practical. Question anything that is purely decorative
    • Everything should be able to serve multiple functions
      • As it is
      • As it could be
      • As it has never been before
  7. No electronic or recorded sound effects. All sound created by the performers
  8. No Technical Special Effects (fog, strobe, video projection, etc). Whenever possible “stage magic” should be created by the actor or the architecture

    The Glas Nocturne at APL Downstairs Studio, Lake Forest Park WA (Photo: Joe Patrick Kane 2015)

  9. Shadow is at least as valuable as Light
  10. Before using gobos or other effects, determine whether the same result can be produced by an actor or the architecture interacting with the light
    • If not, What is the intent?
    • is it indispensable?
  11. Use unusual angles
  12. Use color sparingly, to maximum effect
  13. Use everything sparingly, to maximum effect
  14. Costumes should never dictate what an actor cannot do
  15. Actor insight is crucial regarding costumes
  16. Light, set, and costumes should stimulate the spectator to develop an understanding of people, place, and atmosphere
  17. Light, set, and costumes should stimulate the actors toward always greater awareness and precision
  18. Light, set, and costumes should provoke the actor, not solve their problems for them
  19. No principle is inviolate
  20. Once conceived, question everything

Seneca’s Oedipus at WSFGC Garden House, Seattle WA (Photo Julia Salamonik 2006)


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Theatre Journal publishes Glas Nocturne Review

Theatre Journal TGN ScreenshotWe are so proud to share this performance review of The Glas Nocturne, which is published in the current issue (68.1) of Theatre Journal!

Thank you to Jeanmarie Higgins and ‪#‎theatrejournal‬ for venturing out to our corner of the country and giving APL’s work critical consideration as part of the international theatre conversation.

From the author: “What started as a quick trip to Seattle to see some friends and some theatre turned into a Theatre Journal performance review of Joseph and Zhenya Lavy’s The Glas Nocturne. I love writing about Akropolis Performance Lab; the work is always virtuosic, irrefutable, and strangely joyful.”


Zhenya Lavy Nominated for Gypsy Award

2016_01-07 NOMINATION - Gypsy - Music - ZhenyaFor the second year in a row, Co-Artistic Director Zhenya Lavy has been nominated by the Seattle Theatre Writers for a Gypsy Rose Lee Award in the category of Excellence in Local Composing. The nomination recognizes her work on The Glas Nocturne.

Zhenya’s nomination as one of three for 2015 is an especial honor because, unlike most awards for theatre in the greater Seattle area, the Gypsy Awards do not differentiate separate categories for music at larger- or smaller-budget houses: the potential nominee pool encompasses all original music for theatre activity in the area.

L-R: Joseph Lavy, Linnea Ingalls, Catherine Lavy, Sara Kaus, Annie Paladino, Margaretta Campagna, and Zhenya Lavy | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

The musical landscape Zhenya built for The Glas Nocturne included piano nocturnes by composers from Field and Chopin to Alkan and Bartok (played live by Zhenya), as well as dynamic arrangements of traditional Swedish folk tunes sung in three- and four-part harmonies by the ensemble.

Award winners will be announced later this month.

If you missed The Glas Nocturne, request a spot on our waitlist and be among the first to know when we will remount it in our 2016-17 season.

In the meantime, buy your tickets now for Ecce Faustus, which opens February 5. Ecce Faustus features stunning 5-part madrigals and sacred music by Carlo Gesualdo, with some of the most complex structures and harmonies APL has ever put on stage — all performed live.

Joseph Lavy Receives Seattle Times Footlight Award

Co-Artistic Director Joseph Lavy has received a 2015 Seattle Times Footlight Award for solo acting for his performance as Dr. Glas in The Glas Nocturne! Joseph delivered a profoundly powerful performance, and we couldn’t be more proud to see him honored with a Footlight. Thank you to Misha Berson and all the Seattle Times theatre critics for this acknowledgment.

The Glas Nocturne, a subcultural chamber performance experience for small audiences, has had two limited runs in Seattle and one tour. It garnered strong media reviews in its world premiere run, and a scholarly review is forthcoming in the March 2016 issue of Theatre Journal, which is published by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).

If you missed the chance to see The Glas Nocturne in 2015, watch for news of a remount or sign up for our waitlist. We plan to bring it back for at least one more run of local performances later in 2016.

Here’s a clip of a segment we call “The Story of the Girl,” filmed during our November tour to the Center for Applied Theatre & Active Culture / New World Performance Lab (Akron OH):

L-R: Joseph Lavy,  Emily Jo Testa, Catherine Lavy, Annie Paladino, and Zhenya Lavy.


Je Suis le Fils de Quelqu’un

Je Suis le Fils de Quelqu’un:
A reflection on touring The Glas Nocturne to Akron OH, November 2015

By Joseph Lavy

“You have the song. You must ask yourself where this song began.” ~J. Grotowski


I can’t seem to write the post I want to write.

I want to write a long meditation on heritage and homecomings;
about artistic fathers and family re-membered
over coffee and broken bread;
how the past and the present converged
over wine and rillettes
and how a bottle of aquavit can almost reach the Hour of the Wolf.

I want to write a treatise about the fallacy of linear time

and a Thanksgiving hymn of gratitude
to my colleagues for their faith, talents, and work,
to our hosts for their hospitality,
for artistic homes;

a cry of deep joy
sprung from meeting the challenges of
transforming our performance from one sort of
intimacy to another,
without loss or sacrifice;

a profound parable
of returning and laying it all on the line
before those people–visible and invisible–
who matter the most
and who prove that you are not a vagabond
but that you come from some country,
some landscape
which is still there
and which is you
near or far.

“The Story of the Girl,” segment from Akropolis Performance Lab’s The Glas Nocturne,  Saturday, November 21, 2015, at The Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture/New World Performance Lab in Akron OH.  L-R: Joseph Lavy,  Emily Jo Testa, Catherine Lavy, Annie Paladino, and Zhenya Lavy.

The Doctor Returns! Glas Nocturne reopens Nov 5

We are thrilled to announce that we are remounting The Glas Nocturne in Seattle (Nov 5-7 & 12-14) and in Akron OH (Nov 20-21)! The Ohio tour is hosted by Akron’s Center for Applied Theatre & Active Culture / New World Performance Lab. It’s our first tour out of Washington State, and we can’t wait to share this potent piece with new audiences.

Check out our new Glas trailer video, too!


Learn more about our Ohio host, the Center for Applied Theatre & Active Culture / New World Performance Lab, on their website.

For you! Recipe for Norwegian Blonde Cocktail

RECIPE card - Norwegian BlondeEveryone who had the Norwegian Blonde at our post-show reception after The Glas Nocturne raved about it, so we are sharing the recipe with you! It’s designed by Old Ballard Liquor Co and made with their scrumptious, caraway infused Riktig Aquavit. #GlasNocturne

Click here for the PDF: RECIPE card – Norwegian Blonde

For You! Recipe for the Swedish Almond Cake

Among the many delights of The Glas Nocturne Smörgåsbord was the superb, traditional Swedish Almond Cake | Photo: Sharon Waltermire

Among the many delights of The Glas Nocturne Smörgåsbord was the superb, traditional Swedish Almond Cake | Photo: Sharon Waltermire

By popular demand: the recipe for Swedish Almond Cake as served at The Glas Nocturne! Special thanks to Sharon E Waltermire, who modified Um Safia‘s traditional treat. Bake a loaf or five and spread the ‪#‎GlasNocturne‬ goodness!

Click here for recipe PDF:

RECIPE-Traditional Swedish Almond Loaf Cake-Glas Nocturne

Reviews Are In & Word Is Out About Our Secret Performance

“Poets say the moon is passionate and desirous. Others see an ethical-religious meaning in moonlight. Youth sees the moon as a promise of all those tremendous things which await it; The old find a memento that the promise was never kept, a reminder of all that broke and went to pieces. And what is moonlight?” | Joseph Lavy as Dr. Glas | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

Although we restricted marketing for The Glas Nocturne to social media and word-of-mouth, word has gotten out quite well. So well, in fact, that we are extending our run by a full week beyond our initial expectation!

If you haven’t yet gotten a seat, we have just 30 available between now and June 7.

Check out some of what’s being said about this truly remarkable performance!

Just 30 seats remain through June 7, so act quickly to get your invitation!


Would You Do It?

"I wasn't planning a suicide, but a wise man should always be prepared." | Joseph Lavy is Dr. Glas | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

“I wasn’t planning a suicide, but a wise man should always be prepared.” | Joseph Lavy is Dr. Glas | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

Is it ever justifiable to take the life of another human being? Under what circumstances?

The Glas Nocturne asks this and other challenging questions without leading us to any easy answers.

In preparation for their attendance at APL’s latest world-premiere, we asked our audience to share their thoughts about these questions. From now through the end of the run, we will share their responses with you.

Join the conversation at #WouldYouDoIt? on Facebook or Twitter — or follow Would You Do It? on Storify.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, too!