Sy Tomashoff: Set Designer
Soap Opera Serials Magazine, September 1976
by R. Marian Rose
Article Provided By Wanda
For many years, viewers were fascinated by the wonderful sets used on Dark Shadows. Then, over a year ago, viewers were given the opportunity to watch a set constructed right from scratch when the 'carriage house' on One Life to Live was built. Do you ever sit back and wonder who does all of this and where the furnishings come from? We do, so we talked to Sy Tomashoff, the set designer for Ryan's Hope. He is responsible for all the sets mentioned above.
Those of you who watch Ryan's Hope know that most of the action takes place in an old-fashioned saloon owned by Johnny and Maeve Ryan. How does one come up with an old-fashioned saloon set?
"The bar is meant to be a composite of all the warmest, most nostalgic spots of New York. In particular, I visited The Landmark, Cavanaugh's, The Ginger Man and O'Neals. The bar itself has a solid mahogany top and hand-rubbed finish complete with cigarette burns, compliments of yours truly and the guys who built it and finished the wood. Our bar is graced with a Victorian stove which we bought from Washington, D.C. because of its great old character. Our juke box dates back to the 1930's. It lights up with changing colors, flowing bubbles and plays 78 r.p.m. records. The chandeliers had to be specially made to date the bar to a period when fixtures were electric but had fittings for gas too, just in case the 'new fangled' electricity conked out.
"The leaded glass transoms over windows and doorways were created from our own photographs. The warm, friendly atmosphere is aided by the hanging plants in the windows, the old gum machine, coin games on the wall, community bulletin board and real neon signs in the window. Also, beer actually flows form our beer taps."
"The Ryan parlor and bedrooms are assumed to be upstairs, over the bar. What with the Ryan's coming here from the old country over a generation ago, their lifestyle was not one of luxury but hard work and make do. This suggested to me a type of grandeur that can be achieved only at the Salvation Army. The rooms are typical old New York immigrant style with old wallpaper, dark woodwork, lace curtains, doilies and homespun family photos and plants."
"In contrast to the frugal style sets of the Ryan's, we have those sets inhabited by the Coleridge family. They dwell in luxuriously furnished brownstone apartments where we have 'antiques' handed down from generation to generation."
We asked Sy if he also does all the interior decorating?
"Yes I do. But on that subject I would say that I have always preferred to design with the feeling that a room or a place is not decorated, but grew. Decorated is self-conscious. A room can be tasteful or elegant, as you wish, without the look of the decorator except if the storyline calls for that look. A decorated room, to me, implies a cold and impersonal room where these inhabitants do not project their own personalities. Therefore personal clutter is the keynote to a successful set."
"To close, I would say that the joy of designing Ryan's Hope is that it is actually and truly a story set in New York City and not a fictitious place 'somewhere in Everytown, U.S.A.'"
And, if anybody knows about putting a set together, it's Sy Tomashoff. Just in case you're in New York during the bicentennial year and want to see more of Sy's work, visit the Playland Ice Casino in Rey, New York. Sy was commissioned to turn the Casino into an 18th century ballroom for the bicentennial Ball in September.
It's easy to say that Ryan's Hope has itself one heck of a designer!
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