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What it means for dots to be a design collective working on Broadway

Tony Award-nominated dots reveals their process and how working as a team resulted in the designs for “Appropriate” and “An Enemy of the People.”

(L-R) Santiago Orjuela-Laverde, Kimie Nishikawa and Andrew Moerdyk, known as the collective dots (Credit: Courtesy of dots)

The design collective known as dots made its Broadway debut last season with the set for “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.” Now, the group — made up of designers Andrew Moerdyk, Kimie Nishikawa and Santiago Orjuela-Laverde — has earned two 2024 Tony Award nominations for scenic design of a play, for their work on “Appropriate” and “An Enemy of the People.” 

Dots functions as a fluid collaboration. The collective is hired at comparable rates to a single designer and combines each artist’s skills to execute more projects than they could take on as individuals. The logistics operate differently for each project, but they all begin the same way.  

“The three of us are always present for the development of the big-picture idea for a show,” Moerdyk said. From there, one designer sometimes takes the lead, and all three might tap in and out as needed to divy up the long hours during tech, for example. The trio remains in constant communication. “The process depends on the project and how the director wants to work,” Nishikawa said. Added Orjuela-Laverde, “Sometimes the scale of a project requires all hands on deck.” 

That was the case with “Appropriate,” for which dots designed an Arkansas plantation house that playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins describes meticulously in his script. All three designers brainstormed with director Lila Neugebauer on how to stage, in particular, the elaborate epilogue — a wordless sequence visualizing decades passing, time ravaging the house and a tree appearing to have burst through the floor. The tree was Neugebauer’s idea; Orjuela-Laverde said the challenge was how many transitions needed to happen in the same space. 

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