Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

The Lehman Trilogy

Es Devlin

Lesson time 09:02 min

Es discusses one of her most beloved theater sets—for The Lehman Trilogy—a rotating glass box masquerading as the archetypal modern office. Learn how this skeletal structure became a dynamic force that drives the characters, action, and plot.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: The Lehman Trilogy • The Revolving Box • A Manifesto For Collaboration • "The Text Is Your Guide"


- They have been dreaming of America to be brothers, travelers, immigrants. They came with nothing, and they built an entire universe. ES DEVLIN: "The Lehman Trilogy" is a play that was written to tell the story of the rise and fall of Western capitalism with three actors in three hours with a piano. When you consider three hours of an audience's time, your first thought might be how do I entertain. How do I achieve that constant dopamine rush of novelty that all humans are addicted to? How do I give an audience something new for this scene and new for that scene and new for that scene? But then you realize actually if you set up the expectation for newness, newness, newness, you can quickly exhaust the possibilities of how much you can deliver on that expectation. So what if you set up from the very beginning a grammar that doesn't require novelty, that says you know what, I'm giving you one thing to look at, and I want you to explore it from every angle with me. And that's what we're going to do together. If you set up those terms of engagement within the first 10 minutes of the performance, an audience will stay with you, and you will direct their attention to how interesting one revolving object can be even for three hours. In the case of "The Lehman Trilogy," the text itself is almost stream of consciousness, three hours of taking you through from the arrival in the 19th century of three brothers from Bavaria into America, their rise from cotton merchants all the way up to running one of the biggest banks in the world, and how the commodities that they dealt with started from being things that were concrete-- tools, cotton, then on to coal, railways, and finally into pure numbers. And the impetus behind the system that we devised for telling this story was the description that Henry Lehman gives us when. He arrives in Manhattan off the boat, he says and there was New York, revolving around me like a magical musical box. And that one phrase of text led us on this journey towards a rotating glass box, which became a fourth character in a way. The video designer Luke Halls and his team created panoramic projections, which allowed us to travel through different places and times, something like this very early model that could revolve, that could give us not only three rooms and a kind of ever exponentially expanding room, the small room they start in here when they're selling things in their tiny shop, the larger room, and then the office room in which the phone finally rings in 2008 to tell them that the bank has crashed. So in a way, the entire story takes place in a contemporary office building, the Lehman office, where that phone rang, and in another way it's a system that can take us through these hundreds of years of history. Throughout the three hours of the piece, you follow the journey of these three brothers, and they play every single part of all of the generations that they meet along the way. And then finally aft...

About the Instructor

For more than 20 years, Es Devlin has sculpted immersive experiences for opera, drama, and performers like Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, and U2. Now the artist and designer shares her process so you can cultivate creativity in any form. From sketching to collaborating to creating powerful visual stories, learn how to turn the abstract—your ideas and imagination—into art you can see, feel, and share.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Es Devlin

Designer and artist Es Devlin teaches you her approach to creating powerful visual stories and cultivating creativity in any form.

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