First, I made some basic sketches of the important scenes in the play: the jail, the brothel, the stable, and Peachum's Emporium. I kept them very flat and minimal- only essential pieces of furniture and architectural elements. I designed the groundplans while taking the action of the play into consideration.
The jail cell isn't even really a jail cell- McHeath can easily just walk out from behind the bars. I wanted to give the impression of "fake isolation," so the cell isn't really secure, but it also seems to be in the middle of nowhere. The other side of the scene is left intentionally empty- his visitors just appear.
All of the indoor sets are shown from this direction- the audience looking from the back of the room towards the front door. In this way the flats can actually be set up a few feet from the back wall of the theater, and the street can actually be shown through the windows. Likewise, the flats can be just turned around when a street scene is needed, showing the inside of the brothel through the other side of the windows if desired.
"The back" of the shop is actually completely visible to the audience. I decided to take Bretch's idea of showing the "insides" of things in this respect. When Peachum disappears to find a newer, more pathetic outfit for one of his customers to wear, the audience can actually still see him and exactly what he's doing, and where that prop comes from.
The next step was to color in these sketches in a Diebenkorn-like way. I was all set to break out the paint until Sara suggested the brilliant idea of just making color copies of some of his images and making collages out of them. Brilliant, and infinitely easier. I flipped through the book again, looking for appropriate color palates. To my surprise, I found the images I didn't particularly like at first glance to be most useful. They provided large swatches of color, and some of them really evoke the idea of a stable, or a jail.
Finally, I made some color copies, cut them up, and pasted them into the sketches from above. None of them is really complete, they just show some important color choices and demonstrate how the concept would be expanded to the whole set.
Because it can't be a brothel without a red well, obviously.
Lots of yellows and browns, mostly taken from one of the "Ocean Park" series I scoffed at originally. =)