Song & Stage

Set Designer Alexander Dodge Brings the World of ‘Ballyhoo’ to Life

Romance, class order, family, tradition—and what happens when these elements collide. The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a romantic comedy that explores the conflict between love, identity and history. The play, set in Atlanta, Georgia, focuses on a wealthy Jewish  family preparing for Ballyhoo, a lavish German Jewish country club ball, and on the importance of the event for the family’s daughters, Lala and Sunny. All is going according to plan until the young women’s uncle upsets everything when he arrives with his newest employee, a handsome Eastern European bachelor.

Bay Street Theater will present the 20-year-old play, written by Alfred Uhry, opening on June 28, and it will run through July 24. Set designer Alexander Dodge gives us the scoop on this humorous and heart-warming story and what influenced his set design for the show.

Which historical elements stood out to you when you were conceiving the look of Ballyhoo?
Well, the idea of the story is a Jewish family who, ideally, wants to assimilate into an upper middle-class WASP-y world. The set design reflects that look of aspiration, the family wanting to be a part of this world through upper middle-class décor.

What are some ways you created the feel of 1939 Atlanta?
I tried to make the set not completely naturalistic, but pretty naturalistic. The house interior reflects the time period with the furniture pieces we used.

It’s a very interesting piece about a family coming to terms with their heritage, and so the design has a very specific insight into their family history. What’s unique is that we don’t see the outside world. The only entrance of penetration in this play is via a staircase, showing a family that’s relatively sheltered.

What are you hoping the audience takes away from Ballyhoo?
I’m hoping the audience will be entertained and learn at the same time, gaining a little bit of insight into American history.

It’s the 20th anniversary of this Tony Award-winning play and also Bay Street’s 25th anniversary. What do you think the audience will enjoy the most about this production?
The story itself, and the message that it carries. There are going to be surprise moments on a train that I’m hoping will be an interesting for the audience. I would say that it’s a really wonderful piece [Bay Street] chose for their anniversary—it simultaneously entertains and gives insight.

The Last Night of Ballyhoo will run at Bay Street Theater, located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor, from June 28 through July 24. For more information visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500.

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