Throughout the epic, five-part stage adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, audiences are transported from Spain to England, Mexico and Germany, and even back in time from the 1990s to World War II. Guiding these onstage transitions is projection designer Shawn Sagady, whose onstage images not only provide audiences with a sense of time and place, but also drive the eerie tone and often mysterious ambiance of the piece.

“It’s such a massive project,” Sagady said of the play. “Each of the parts features such a different type of storytelling experience that we approached each part as sort of its own play. They all have a very unique style.”

Sagady’s projections have also been seen in the Goodman productions of Brigadoon, The White Snake and, most recently, stop. reset. For 2666, he began his work by talking with co-directors and adapters Robert Falls and Seth Bockley to determine what kind of information would need to be presented visually to the audience. From there, he began conducting research and pulling images to test different styles and spark new ideas. “They’re both incredibly creative,” Sagady said of Falls and Bockley. “They work and play off each other. They brought me in on the project early in the concept phase. They felt projections had to be a part of the storytelling. [Falls] hasn’t used projections much in the past, so it’s been a lot of fun to work with him and watch him experiment.”

Part three of the play, which finds an American journalist immersed in the underground world of a crime-plagued Mexican city,  features extended filmed segments projected on stage between scenes. “It really was just like making a movie,” Sagady said of creating the segments. “[Falls and Bockley] sketched out the concepts in their scripts. I took that and essentially created a film adaptation, working off story boards, props lists, costumes, scouting locations and every other aspect that would be required to make a narrative movie.”

Seth Bockley directs [ddd names] while filming projections for 2666. Photo by ___.
Demetrios Troy, Juan Francisco Villa, Alejandra Escalante, Eric Lynch, director Seth Bockley and Yadira Correra in a projections shoot for 2666. Photo by Shawn Sagady.
Filming took place over four days this past November, with shoots occurring in six Chicago locations such as studios, apartments, a funeral home and even in Goodman rehearsal spaces transformed into a bustling nightclub and taqueria. Twenty-five cast and crew members participated in the shoot, which eventually resulted in 1,500 man hours from conception to creation. “It was really exciting,” said Sagady who drew inspiration from the films of directors Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Once Upon a Time in Mexico). “The [2666] script definitely resonates with their filmmaking styles.”

Despite his abundant contribution to the project, Sagady’s goal is for his work to go unnoticed by theatergoers. “The [projections] are there as just another element, just another piece of the puzzle that creates a whole experience for the audience. You don’t want the audience to pay so much attention to the projections that they miss what’s happening with the actors. Everything supports the cast on stage, helps build their world and brings the audience into that world. Entering this world will be an enveloping, fantastic experience.”