Escher’s work inspired performance’s unique sets

At left, Prof. Tassa works on part of the Faustus set (MCM PHOTO); at right, the finished look during the play's run (DEENA STEVENS PHOTO)

By Annalisa Lewis

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – When Professor Anthony Tassa faced the task of designing sets for his adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, held at the American University of Sharjah in late April, for inspiration he turned to M.C. Escher.

Tassa said that working in the style of Escher, a renowned Dutch graphic artist famous for intricate prints with peculiar optical illusions and conceptual effects, provided a means to depict Faustus’s distorted view of the world.

Tassa’s adaptation of the Marlowe play depicted the title character’s past 24 years using flashbacks on his last night alive. The goal of the mise-en-scène, Tassa said, was to help show how Faustus’ memories became hazy, heightened and exaggerated.

Tassa described himself as first and foremost an actor-director and playwright, not a set designer. However, he added that circumstances have required him to be a “jack-of-all-trades” in some Performing Arts Program theatre presentations. 

The sets he built, he said, were meant to help the audience figure out the main character’s emotions, inner feelings, anxieties and current state of mind.