Maggie L. Rogers: Tell us about how amber came to be – from the process of pitching up to today.
Jennifer Oaster: Initially it started as a way for us (WET) to just have some COVID-safe art. I originally pitched a small little room for a pod of people to have an experience in so they could stop staring at the walls in their home. (It was mid-way through 2020 and honestly I was just happy to even have a dream to dream of.) When we realized we could make this more than just a mini side project we asked Markeith Wiley and dani tirrell to join us and expand upon the project. They really took off with the idea and made it into a multiroom experience. Ryan Dunn and myself as co-designers just helped them make the visuals match the vision. We really wanted to blend the theatre experience with a classic art installation experience.
MLR: Historically as a costume designer at WET, what interested you in scenic design?
JO: I’ve always loved varying forms of visual design, both personally and professionally. I’ve worked on many different kinds of shows over the years in various capacities and in that time I have loved seeing what makes other designers successful. With costume design you are there to make a person, while with scenic design you are there to make and create an environment. For our 2021 gala I was able to design the set and had a blast!
MLR: Why was an installation format the right choice for this work?
JO: In 2020, we as a company were trying to brainstorm ways to continue making art. Maria Manness, WET’s Managing Director, suggested the idea of an installation. A few of us pitched ideas and mine was the concept of doing a mini disco within a karaoke box as the initial idea. It evolved from there. When people think of discos they think of the clothes, the dancing, and the lights – which are all wonderful things. But I love the idea of the disco being about the people you love in your life and being able to spend time with them in an aesthetically exciting environment. You can be whoever you want to be at that moment and in this installation experience it can be exclusively yours with people that you care about.
MLR: What about disco excites you?
JO: Gosh, honestly everything. Disco radiates love and affection which I think a lot of people roll their eyes at for being too cheesy – but I adore the unabashed love in disco. Of course the music is divine but also the rise and fall of disco and all the history that surrounds it is both wonderful and heartbreaking. It’s something we wanted to bring to this experience. I love knowing the context of art that I admire so I can appreciate it on a deeper level.
MLR: Anything you want the audience to know going in?
JO: I’d probably say bring people you love and adore to be with. (Also I would be remiss to not also say to dress up!)