George Tsypin is not the official set designer for the American National Theater (there is no such position). However, having designed the sets for three productions within ANT's first year of existence, he is playing a major role in defining the theater's early visual identity.
Tsypin's current contribution to the Eisenhower stage is the set for "Idiot's Delight" -- a hotel lobby dominated by a huge, angled high-tech catwalk and two imposing plexiglass Nazi eagles, behind which towers an ominous mountain range.
"It is a comment on modern architecture -- how horrible and fascistic it is," says Tsypin of his set, which serves notice of the impending doom that will come to the frivolous multinational group of guests who find themselves stranded in a resort hotel atop the Italian Alps on the eve of World War II.
Tsypin, 32, is not unqualified to comment on the state of architecture, having worked as an architect in Moscow before emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1980 ("no dramatic escape," he says) as well as in New York before getting his degree in set design from NYU.
While designing sets for ANT productions, Tsypin, who also designed the sets for ANT's "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "A Seagull," works closely with ANT Director Peter Sellars, producing five to 10 models for a set over several months. "By the end we don't remember who came up with what idea," says Tsypin, adding, "I sometimes come up with directorial ideas."
Tsypin believes theater succeeds when "the set designer thinks as a director and the director thinks as a set designer. That's the way for theater to go on."
He says he has found his participation in ANT "very challenging -- exciting and fresh and open." Noting that he expects to be involved in future ANT productions, Tsypin says, "Every time, you have to go further."
Warming the Source
The Source Theatre has received a Gannett Foundation grant of $5,000, which will go toward the installation of a badly needed heating and air conditioning system for the Warehouse Rep. Spokesman Phil Setren was only half joking when he said the theater gets so cold in the winter that the Source has considered staging a realistic production of "K2."
A benefit performance of "The Aunts" will be given March 14 at 8 p.m. in the Main Stage, followed by a buffet and party. Proceeds will help satisfy the requirement of a recently received Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation grant of $7,500, which is earmarked for the theater's resident acting company and must be matched two to one. Tickets cost $30; call 462-1073.
D.C. Gets 'Fever'
The Kennedy Center will bring the Broadway production of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" to town April 1 through May 11. Coward's 1924 comedy -- inspired by weekends spent at the Long Island summer house of playwright Hartley Manners and his wife, actress Laurette Taylor -- stars Rosemary Harris, Roy Dotrice, Mia Dillon, Deborah Rush and Barbara Bryne. Bryan Murray, who played the director in "Noises Off" (at the Eisenhower in 1983), takes on the real role for this show.
Odds and Ends
The Playwrights' Unit's series of showcase readings of new plays, which began last Sunday with Ernest Joselovitz's "We Are Vienna," continues Sunday at 2 p.m. at New Playwrights' Theatre with Deborah Pryor's "The Love Talker" and Mark Scharf's "Slower Delaware"; it concludes April 7 at 8 p.m. with Paul Donnelly's "Goodbye and Amen" . . .
Bill Freimuth, a Source Theatre company member, will perform "Narcissus Bound," his one-man play about painter Salvador Dali, Thursday at the fourth annual Salvador Dali Foundation Fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. . . .
The Jan. 24 benefit for the New Arts Theatre raised $14,000. The second year theater also recently received a $10,000 April Trust challenge grant, which will go toward management salaries . . .
And in the every dog (owner) has his day file: The Round House Theatre is looking for a medium- to large-size mongrel or scruffy pooch to take to the boards in its upcoming production of "Two Gentlemen of Verona." Some Shakespeare experience preferred, but will also consider recent training school grads; call 468-4233.
The 33-week, 105-city tour of the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre production of "Great Expectations" stops at George Mason University's Harris Theater next Tuesday for one show only at 8 p.m.; call 362-2940 . . .
"The Tap Dance Kid" has been extended at the Warner Theatre through March 9 . . .
Opening this week: tonight, "Social Security" at the National Theatre; tomorrow, "The Wild Duck" at Arena Stage; Thursday, "Earth and Water" at New Playwrights' Theatre.