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Incan Architecture: The Set Design and Research behind Ollantay

Ollantay will be streamed as a digital performance from Sunday, February 13th onwards. Buy tickets to watch the show HERE. Register your free ticket to attend the preview event HERE.

In August 2021, Sofia Fernando and Vaishnavi Shenoy, students of Christ University, Bangalore researched possible set design ideas for Ollantay as part of their internship with Kaivalya Plays. While they initially approached the designs by researching the time period and architecture of the Incan empire, they were soon given an additional challenge: How to recreate the same set for different actors working remotely from different locations and yet sharing the same scene.

Originally envisioned for a live performance at a Delhi monument, the design sought ways to effectively recreate the 14th century in an open air setting, building upon pre-existing buildings. However, with continuing uncertainty and lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided to look at possibilities of staging this digitally and capturing individual performances remotely.

For this we also took advantage of several fascinating virtual tours of ruins and palaces available through the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism including a tour of the ancient Templo de las Manos Cruzadas:

From here we moved onto mapping all the required backgrounds. You will also notice that in many cases, images are split to divide sets between actors working from different locations but occupying the same location in a scene. Take a look!

Important locations in the play

Inca palace (interior)

Entrance of the temple

Temple interior (gold sheeting\)

Open ground

Spinster’s prison

Outside Prison wall

Palace gates

Cave (virtual background) and real background (alternatives)

Cave entrance (interior and exterior)

Inca palace (kings sitting arrangement)


To set the the 14th century Incan Empire in modern day Delhi, we sought locations that could be adapted to recreate the heavy stones that formed the walls of Incan palaces. The rich history of Delhi's monuments and their multi-origin influences gave us an opportunity to plan how to adapt with minimal cosmetic changes to the existing structures.

1. This temple has resemblance with the structure of our Offline set location Purana Qila.


The most effective way to create that two actors working from different locations occupy the same space was to split the same background into pieces and given to two different performers. Rather than trying to add a common virtual background this would also allow us to use different cuts of the background for medium shots and close-ups.

2. Spinster's prison

4. The split from two corners for actors delivering dialogue from different corner in the same place.

5. Temple entrance

6. Ollantay tambo entrance

Split screen to divide between two performers

7. (Palace exterior)

It specifies one corner where actors can have conversation in scenes that are set in and around the palace


In order to give actors the freedom to face each other, we employed the same technique that the Coen brothers employ often. This allows us to present the scene from inside the conversation between two people. For a longer explanation check out this enlightening video essay by Every Frame a Painting:

8a. Palace exterior with split for 2 actors

8b. Reaction frame. A 3rd actor reacts to 2 actors in the Palace Exterior. Actor 3's background would be the view of Actors 1 & 2 from the Palace Exterior

9. Palace gate 2 Actors standing opposite to each other

ACTOR 1- facing the gate Actor 2- facing the cliff on which the palaces are built on

10. Open Ground

11. Palace Interiors

12. The Palace Hallway with gold sheeting

13. Tupac Yupanki's Throne on the opposite end of the hallway

14. Cave Exteriors

This scene requires 3 actors to appear simultaneously

15. Interior of the Cave

View of the Actor Facing the interior

View of the actor within the cave facing outwards

Ollantay will be streamed as a digital performance from Sunday, February 13th onwards. Buy tickets to watch the show HERE. Register your free ticket to attend the preview event HERE.


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