Ecclesiophobia Scene Design Challenge!


Ecclesiophobia is the fear of churches, a branch of agoraphobia. There are two primary causes of fear: fear of a deity or deities or the churches’ unique architectural style.

Many things in the church can be disturbing, such as images of sufferings that trigger blood and death fears. Being a religious venue, those who believe in God may feel as though they are being watched and judged by God when inside a church. The sound of a church organ can also sound haunting to some. Being in a small chapel can cause claustrophobia (fear of being in a small space).

As we were tasked with choosing a phobia to model in a scene, I chose Ecclesiophobia as I had never heard of it and wanted to do research and develop a creative design for the fear.

This Ecclesiophobia set consists of two murky colored walls on the left and right-wing, each with two stained “glass” (plastic) windows and a dark brown curved wall at the church’s back. One can see six church benches, each one getting smaller the closer it gets to the dark altar in front of a large cross upstage center. This is because I decided to have the set become narrower and narrower the closer it gets to the back to act as support to magnify the set for the audience; it also gives the illusion of a dream or hallucination, as the structure of the “church” is rather unorthodox and unusual. I used the scumbling and the brick drawing we learned in class prior to this project to create a cold stone brick floor. I purposefully had the highlights and shadows of the floor act as if the only light coming into the church is from the house, further developing the sense of obscurity and dream-like features. I made the creative decision to have no lights inside the church, only from outside the stained windows or from the house, as the shadows cast from the benches would also create a dark/spooky atmosphere and enhance the absence of any life.

When planning this “spooky church,” the first things I wanted to emphasize were abandonment and obscurity. I decided to represent this with classic things one might see in a real church, such as peculiar light patterns from stained glass windows, melted candles, spider webs, and shadows. I then worked on its main structure, cutting out the wooden pieces for the floor and walls. I then used a saw to cut the PVC for the church’s back and painted it all a dark brown. Afterward, I cut out the altar and chairs out of thin cardboard and used two wooden sticks to form the cross at the back. Later on, I scumbled and painted the church’s stone floor and cut out the windows. The stained glass windows are made of a mixture of different colored plastic films pasted onto a clear film to create the pattern seen above. Finally, I added a layer of white glue to some parts of the church and lay down frayed cotton pieces to act as spider webs.

All in all, I find this model successful. I feel that, although not exactly what I had sketched, the simplicity of my set was made up for by the details hidden within. For example, I really enjoy looking at each piece of my set closely, as I had sketched in little messages and scratches to hint at the church’s dark demonic history. I am also proud of the dynamic shape I created because it gives an intimidating feel when looking from the front; this also includes the handiwork I did with the PVC and the cutting of the windows, as I had never done that before. Additionally, although it is a rather obvious concept for a “fear of churches,” I feel that the features I included in my design were the main features and the main components to the fear.

As a result of limited time and a presumption that we had more time, some things were rushed, such as the stained glass windows and the spider webs. If I had more time, I would definitely put more detail into the acting area to give performers a more dynamic area to act in. For example, I could add little people or ghosts sitting on the benches or a priest at the back of the church. Otherwise, I think I could have done a better job making the church more interesting to look at, such as a hanging piece or some sort of final feature in the middle of it (other than the cross).

This challenge was an exercise to give us students a glimpse of what it is like to be a scenic designer, and I feel I have learned a lot from it. For example, I have learned some elements of scenic design such as outlining, composition, color, texture, and so on. This process has also helped me understand the processes of theater-making: playwriting, directing, stage management, and acting. All of these intertwine to create a successful and mesmerizing play, and scenic design was just my introduction to the wonderful art.

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