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Renaissance Woman Hill Bauman Takes Aim at Visualizing Plays

Ed Rampell: As a key scenic artist and set designer, Hill Bauman has imparted her distinct visual sense on productions for some of L.A.’s leading intimate theaters, including Sacred Fools, Boston Court, Rogue Machine, Antaeus, Skylight and more.

In addition to who, what appears onstage is an important part of theater. As a key scenic artist and set designer, Hill Bauman has imparted her distinct visual sense on productions for some of L.A.’s leading intimate theaters, including Sacred Fools, Boston Court, Rogue Machine, Antaeus, Skylight and more. In April, theatergoers were able to see the prolific Bauman’s work in three world premieres, including two Latino Theater Company productions at Downtown’s LATC - The Cruise, which debuted March 16 and Rules of Seconds, which opened March 23. Across town, The Gun premieres March 18 at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica (and has been extended).

Hill Bauman

The versatile Bauman says her approach to envisioning a work for the live stage is: “What can I do to make this a living piece of art? So that not only are the actors living in the space, but the space is living with them… I want to make sure whatever I design is not going to detract the audience from what the actors are saying to each other… I want the set design to support what’s happening in the story; instead of the set design being its own piece, it’s there to be another support system for the actors and their characters… It just really depends on what the story is asking for and what can I do? Can I make some of it very artistic or does it all have to go with reality,” as in naturalistic dramas like Arthur Miller’s Brooklyn-set A View from the Bridge.

When the Mendocino County-raised Bauman is “hired to do key scenic, sometimes it’s painting a wall one flat color; other times, I’m supposed to make it look like art. Both jobs are not only servicing the magic of theater, but they also serve inside of me a sense of accomplishment. There’s a sort of Zen quality to painting that I’ve come to find. Whenever I’m in the zone I’m touching a higher power within myself,” muses Bauman, whose repertoire includes graphic novels, comic books and painting for last February’s Michael Bolton’s Big Funny Valentine’s Day Special TV show.

For The Gun at the Ruskin, Bauman “designed, built and painted their set,” which she describes as being “really bare bones, film noir, minimalist. What I think is fun about this set is all the subliminal messages I put into it,” including “two gun shapes in the shape of Glock nines painted into the brick backdrops. There’s also a brick backdrop that I cut into a gun shape and laid it on like a sort of brick wall that is emerging to create the living space around the married couple in the play” by Justin Yoffe.

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Last January Bauman let her imagination run riot to illustrate the fairy tale Rose and the Rime, for which she was credited as production & scenic designer/projection and illustrator/scenic painter. For Rose the stage of Sacred Fools’ Mainstage Theater was dominated by 5-foot-9-inch-high doohickeys that looked like 2001: A Space Odyssey’s monoliths. Actually, they were wooden-framed video screens for rear projections of motion graphics and animation that helped unfold the fable. Along with motion graphics designer Chris Hutchings Bauman created a form perfectly synchronized for expressing Rose’s magical content.

Prior to Rose Bauman worked on projections for Act-1’s children theater production of Shrek Jr. and the Fringe Festival’s Hamlet Max, with imagery that had a Japanese manga panache. According to Bauman, none of the projections are CGI, photographic or realistic per se - she renders them using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator graphic design software.

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Since she started working in L.A. theatre circa 2013, Bauman’s favorite jobs include painting the sets for Latino Theater Company’s AMexican Trilogy at LATC. “I got to paint these six large big panels in the shape of a mural of a mountain-scape. That was a lot of fun - super dangerous what I did, but that came out really great. I love doing mural work,” she gushes.

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Bauman, who double majored in theater and dance at Chapman University, class of 2001, also loves “doing faux treatments. Like, let’s make that look like marble or a linoleum floor. There was a faux floor treatment I did for Rogue Machine’s Pocatello - I painted a Tuscan floor treatment to look like a big, beautiful tile floor for this Italian restaurant. I got four job offers off of that floor treatment alone! A lot of people don’t want to do them - they’re cumbersome, time consuming, backbreaking, putting paint on a black floor, making it look like tile - it’s almost like magic.”

For Rogue Machine’s One Night in Miami, Bauman did the painting, faux counters and wallpapering for the motel set where Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown gathered with Cassius Clay the night he won the world’s heavyweight boxing championship - and decided to change his name.

The multi-talented Bauman’s work could also be seen in productions at Sacred Fools’ adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan which opened March 31 and has been extended and Act-1’s Seussical the Musical at Theatre 68 in North Hollywood. Take a bow, Bauman.

For more info see: www.thechromabear.com/ and https://backallieart.wordpress.com/.

The Gun, Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Info: http://www.ruskingrouptheatre.

The Sirens of Titan, Sacred Fools Theater Company, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Info: http://www.sacredfools.org/mainstage/17/sirensoftitan/.

Film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell is co-presenting Sergei Eisenstein’s first feature-length film Strike! on Friday, 7:30 p.m., May 26 at The L.A. Workers Center, 1251 S. St. Andrews Place, L.A., CA 90019. This is part of the ongoing “Ten Films That Shook the World” series celebrating the centennial of the Russian Revolution, taking place on the fourth Friday of each month through November. For info: laworkersedsoc@gmail.com.