In a triumph of set design, a theater builds a swimming pool


Audiences going to New York Theatre Workshop will see something unusual when they enter — a swimming pool. Not a little wading pool or artful images of water. A real pool.

Tony Award-nominated set designer Riccardo Hernandez conceived of the audacious 40-foot-long, 4-foot-wide pool for playwright Lucas Hnath’s swimming drama “Red Speedo,” which opens Thursday.

“We knew we had to have the element of water, but we didn’t know how,” said Hernandez during a tour of his pool, which is heated and has lights embedded underneath.

The elevated pool runs the length of the stage and its glass panes allow the audience to see actors really swimming, like peering into a cross-section of an Olympic-sized aquarium. Steel and glass hold back thousands of gallons of water.

“We knew that since we had real water, everything that we used had to be real materials,” said Hernandez, whose Broadway credits include “The Gin Game,” ”The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” ”Caroline, or Change” and “Parade.”

“Red Speedo” is about a swimmer who, on the eve of his Olympic trials, is implicated in a drug scandal. It explores the business of winning and the attraction of juicing. (Hernandez calls it a mix of “ancient Greek and David Lynch.”)

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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