All three dollhouses with the Quimby sisters for scale. From right to left: Aunt Bea’s apartment, the Quimby house, and the Kemp’s house.
In our production of Ramona Quimby, the design team decided to represent Klickitat Street as large dollhouses. They correspond to where the different characters in the show live: The Kemps, Aunt Bea, and of course, The Quimbys. Set designer Michelle Lilly tells us more about the inspiration behind, and detail within, this charming concept.
It was important to our design team that the story of the play is told from the perspective of the girls, specifically Beezus. We wanted to reference the way in which children often work through real, hard, and scary life situations through playing with their toys. It was also important to us to represent Klickitat Street on the stage, since the street itself is very much a character. We found a striking intersection between these ideas and decided dollhouses could help us tell the story in the way we wanted. The events of the whole year unfold as if Beezus and Ramona are retelling the stories for us in their playroom. You can see the room the audience is in inside the Quimby’s dollhouse!
What are your favorite parts of the houses?
My favorite detail is in Mrs. Kemp’s house – it’s the yellow yarn and knitting needles sitting on the rocking chair. The actress who plays Mrs. Kemp (Marsha Harman) knits onstage and she and our director, Jackie, asked if I could put a tiny knitting set in the house. It’s my favorite piece because it connects something the character is doing onstage with her tiny environment in the dollhouse.
What might we learn about the characters from what they have in their houses?
If you look in Mrs. Kemp’s attic, you’ll see boxes with labels like photos, wedding, and Hobart Baby. This tells you a little about what she has kept over the years. She also has a lot of maps, including maps of Saudi Arabia, where Hobart is living. Mrs. Kemp also likes cats, so she has a lot of cat pictures in her house.
You can see posters in Ramona and Beezus’ room that tell you a little about their interests, as well as a dollhouse in their playroom, bean bag chairs, and books.
Aunt Bea has a lot of stylish things in her apartment. She’s a teacher, but you might guess that she paints as a hobby if you notice the easel for painting in her bedroom!
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
YES! Creating these dollhouses was a lot of work! I created a lot of the pieces you see, but I also had lots of help from the props team! Tierra Novy is the props designer, and she helped find most of the dollhouse furniture online. The props assistant, Keenan Minogue, did lots of work painting that furniture, adding fabric, making curtains, building old console TV sets, making mirrors, and dressing all the beds! The lighting designer, Keith Parham, and his assistant, Eric Vigo, ran all the wiring that allowed the dollhouse lights to light up. It takes a dedicated team to create this kind of magic!