Scenic Design Professor Designs Burning Coal Theatre Production

November 9, 2018

By Mayra Trujillo-Camacho

UNC Charlotte Assistant Professor of Scenic Design Thomas Burch has designed the set for the Burning Coal Theatre production of The Weir, a play by Conor McPherson.

The Weir takes place in a small pub in rural Ireland and begins with a group of “regulars” who tell ghost stories of their town to a beautiful young woman who has just moved into the abandoned farmhouse "just down the way," gently trying to give her a mild scare. She turns the tables on them, countering with a ghost story of her own that somehow touches on all their lives, and gives them quite a fright. According to Burch, the play “essentially is a  love letter to the ways in how stories shape our lives, and understanding of community, both the one we are born into and the community we build around us.”

Burning Coal Theatre Company is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is a small professional theatre company and an incorporated, non-profit organization. The company works with a mixture of Actors Equity Association (AEA) and non-Equity actors. The Weir will run from November 29 through December 16.

Burch created a naturalistic set design, and although he has not been to Ireland, he has frequented many English pubs and studied their architecture. He also has used two primary research images from two rural Irish pubs, one outside of Sigo and another of a farmhouse pub in Donegal. Getting inspiration from those sources, Burch describes his set: “The aged-wood beams overhead, the beaded wainscotting, the wide flat floorboards, the peat-burning fire, and working beer taps come together to create a warm, inviting fireplace of a locale, where Guinness can flow as easily as the stories.”

Thomas Burch is a scenic designer who has worked in Chicago and teaches at the university. He has also designed the set for The Children's Theatre of Charlotte production The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which runs from November 23 through December 23.

model of the set for The Weir
Burch's model for his set design for The Weir.