Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Project #5: Directing Resource Guide (The Beaux Strategem)

This is a link to one of the most useful costuming resources on the web, the Costumer's Manifesto. The fashions and look of the early 18th century is very unique and distinguishable, and is therefore important when directing a period piece. Knowledge of costuming will also help inform the style of the piece in terms of movement and space.

The Beaux Strategem takes place largely in the Litchfield Inn, which during the 1700's was a rather expansive trade. Inns varied in size and use, as some were meant for travelers, and some were more comparable to a modern bar-a place for the towns people to eat and drink. This website contains some valuable information on the look and function of Inns in this period.

Comedy of Manners is a style of play that deals mostly with sex and courtship, so understanding the customs that accompany love, marriage, and sex is of course necessary. This site provides some interesting facts about the nature of male/female relationships during the 18th century. Though its focus is on colonial life, there is still valuable information to be found.
Of course when directing a play it is vital to be familiar with the playwright's life and his other works to help inform the intent of his writing, as well as style. Many intriguing bits of trivia can be found by researching the life of a playwright. For example, George Farquhar (The BEaux Strategem) was deceived into a marriage believing it to be a good financial match. Thusly, many of his plays deal with the relationship between love and money.
One of the characters in the Beaux Strategem, Lady Bountiful, is an expert in herbal medicine, so it is important to understand, what this means. Housewives in this period were expected to have at least a basic knowledge of herbal remedy, and then some went even further in their knowlege to mid-wifery, which had a broader knowledge base.

This is a review of the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of The Beaux strategem. As a director, it is important to research past production reviews to understand how they are perceived, what works well, and what doesn't, and where ceratin pitfalls may lie.

When directing any play that deals with a certain period, religion is always a factor to consider. This site provides a look at the views of the people in the 18th century regarding Christianity, and outside religions, as well as giving a look into the centuries before and after, to see how religious views progressed over time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Project 6: Play Proposal

For the 2010/2011 season at Sam Houston State Theatre, I propose Shakespeare’s classic romance, Romeo and Juliet. I believe this beloved tale of the star crossed lovers would draw and audience, as well as offer an array of roles to our students. Romeo and Juliet, for anyone who has never stepped outside of their house before, is about forbidden romance that occurs between two youths from feuding households : the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo, who is a Montague, falls instantly in love with Juliet, a Capulet, and woos her in the famous “Balcony Scene”. The two lovers are immediately married, but on the same day as their secret wedding (performed with the help of Juliet’s comical Nurse and the kind Friar Lawrence) there is a huge brawl between Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, and Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt. When Romeo watches Tybalt kill Mercutio, he kills Tylbalt in a rage, causing his immediate banishment. As Romeo is banished, Juliet is told she must marry the man her parents have chosen : Paris. Juliet desperately goes to the Friar for aid, and he develops a plan. Romeo would leave, and in the mean time Juliet would take a special potion that would make her appear to be dead for two days. When her parents buried her, Romeo would be sent for to come and get her, and they could then run away together. Juliet does as the Friar says, but Romeo does not receive the news that it is a false death, but rather a friend reaches him first and tells her she has died. He buys poison from an apothecary, and sets off to Juliet’s burial site, which is being guarded by Paris. He kills Paris, goes to Juliet, and drinks the poison over her body. After he is dead, Juliet wakes to see Romeo’s body, and desperately stabs herself with his dagger. The play ends tragically with the death of the two lovers, but with the feuding families finally coming to end their petty disagreements.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous and beloved works by one of the most famous and beloved playwrights in literary history- William Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote 38 plays during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, many of which are still produced in theatres and taught in schools today. His story lines are considered classic, and the beauty of his language unrivaled. Romeo and Juliet is no exception. Romeo and Juliet was first published in 1597, and has since become one of his most frequently produced plays, and also inspired several adaptations. During the Restoration, the play was revised heavily and performed often by William Davenant. An operatic version in the same period offered audiences a happy ending. The Realistic movement in theatre in the 19th century brought a new, more emotionally honest approach to the famous words, and the 20th century brought us the musical adaptation “West Side Story”, Zeferelli’s famously faithful film, and the modern interpretation starring Leonardo DiCaprio “Romeo+Juliet”. Romeo and Juliet is written primarily as free verse poetry in iambic pentameter. The title characters are the quintessential examples of young lovers in theatre, and both the actors and audience must come to terms with and embrace the rapid insanity that is their fated romance.
I think that Sam Houston should produce this show because it is, firstly, a classic, and classics are important for both our students and our audiences. It is a piece that, unlike many other Shakespearean pieces, offers a level of variety and choice in terms of gender. Though there are only four female roles written into the show, roles such as Mercutio may be interpreted as females, and with very interesting results. People will come to see this show because they know it, and most love it for its beauty.

The way I envision this production being staged is to have The Globe stage (where so many Shakespearean works were first presented) recreated, or at least represented. This would require a two level set built, with three different places for entrances and exits on the bottom level. The set need not be an exact replica, but merely give the audience a sense that they are seeing Shakespeare being performed in a space similar to where it was first given its roots. This set will require a good amount of lumber, and lighting to represent the changing locations and time of day, since the set will remain the same throughout the show. I also envision this production having a period look, so the costumes will very likely have to be built.
I see this show as being sort of an ode to Shakespeare,therefore I would like to see most everything period appropriate, save one singular element: the music. Romeo and Juliet, as I stated before, is thought to be timeless, and there is no better way to emphasize this than by setting the show to a background of modern love songs. Young people love and feel passionately, which is proven over and over again by the songs they write and listen to. I believe that setting a period piece to modern music would honor the timeless theme of young love, and provide a contrast with the period look of the show in a way that would intrigue audiences.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Project #3: Concept Statement

Shakespeare’s comedy The Tempest is a fantastically whimsical play, with supernatural elements, magic, love, and adventure. As I read the play, I knew I wanted it to never lose its sense of fun or fancy, and I began to see colors in my head first, before any other images or ideas came to me. I found paintings with bright color palettes. I became very attracted to jewel tones and the idea of nature on the island looking enchanted, through the use of vibrant colors and mystical lighting. As I continued looking through images and thinking about the characters, and the way the story is told, for whatever reason I could not get the idea of a circus out of my head. I played with it in my mind for a while- how could I make it work? I finally came up with what is the concept for my production of The Tempest: The characters are a bunch of circus performers, Prospero being the original ring leader, as well as an accomplished magician. When his ambitious brother overtakes him, he and Miranda are sent to an old abandoned circus/carnival site off the coast. The area is inhabited by magical beings, such as Ariel and Caliban, who are very close to nature and the elements. Therefore, when designing the set I would like the man-made pieces (old carousel horses, ferris wheel, tent, etc.) to have a faded, distressed look. Not ugly, but just a little forgotten. But I want the set to look as though nature has overtaken it, or at least fused with it. These natural elements (flowers, shrubs, water, etc.) should look almost unnaturally beautiful and vivid; this is where the jewel tones will be most bright.
The characters will all have their distinct roles and should be identifiable as belonging to a certain part of the circus. There are many characters in the show; I chose to concentrate on Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, and Ariel. Prospero is, of course, the ring leader. It makes sense because 1.) The ring leader is the highest position in the circus, so his being usurped is logical in this role and 2.) Prospero plays very much a ring leader in the course of events of the play. He sees himself as being in control and often drives the action of the play forward. Miranda is a delicate tight-rope walker. I see her as looking very doll like, and often behaving sweet and mild, like a doll. However, as she grows and falls in love, she gains independence and self-confidence. Ferdinand is a knife thrower. He is bold, but sweet. Skilled, but can act rashly. I drew my inspiration for Ariel, a spirit, from Cirque Du Soleil. I did not want him/her to be a “classic” clown or anything to gimmicky, but rather something unworldly, even for the circus. The look of Cirque Du Soleil does very well at establishing a look that says “performance” but is still magical.
I want the show to reflect in its design a sort of lost beauty in that which is old- such as the abandoned grounds, and Prospero’s garb- contrasted with the birth of new, natural beauty
found in the growth of flowers and plants over the grounds, and the vitality that new love and life brings through the young lovers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Project #3: Directorial Concept: The Tempest

My concept for the show is set in an abandoned circus ground, and this picture caught my eye because of the bright colors contrasted with the dark storm clouds. This was an important idea to me, considering the show revolves around the aftermath of a great storm.

This photo captures the lost feeling I would want the set to have. Its too literal to represent what i would want to show to look like exactly, but there are elements i love, like the asymmetry of the picture.

I love this picture because, again, there is a really beautiful contrast between the vibrant colors of the circus objects and the dimmer hues found in the natural elements: forest and water.

I loved the image because it is sort of classically beautiful and lonely, and there while the colors are soft and pretty, there is just a hint of deterioration.

This picture shows the abandoned ferris wheel out of place in a very overgrown area, which is an element I want in the set. I want it to look as though the abandoned circus/carnival pieces have sort of fused with nature in an almost supernatural way.

This picture caught my eye for much of the same reason as above. Its as though nature is taking over the ferris wheel. It is pretty, but also kind of sad.

This image is very distressed, which I like. I don't want the set to be too sad and droopy, but I want the man-made elements to look somewhat old and forgotten.

I love the idea of carousel horses as an element of the set, because they give this beautiful but almost eerie sense of life-but frozen. I think that is something that Prospero would relate to very much.

This is a painting called magic circus and I loved the...well...magic in it. The Tempest contains many elements of the super natural and magical, and it is of course a comedy. This picture contains those aspects. I don't want the show to become too lost or lonely in mood, because that would destroy the intent of the work itself.

This picture and the one below are very important because they contain the color scheme I am inspired by for the show. I love the bright jewel tones, and how they are all mixed together. This, to me, is the show's palette. Not everything is this bright. The natural/super-natural elements (Ariel,the flowers, trees, etc.) are to be much brighter. The abandoned circus objects should be these colors, but distressed some. Miranda and Prospero will be costumed in slightly darker shades of these bright colors, while the Shipwrecked men where either slightly more earthy tones or much more garish tones.

I love the color and lighting of this picture. I think it would be so beautiful to be able to light the flowers and trees that have grown in the tent/carnival area to give them a sense of supernaturality.

In a circus setting, it only makes sense to make Prospero the ringleader as he is largely in control of the events of the show from the beginning.However, finding costumes I liked was a little difficult, because I don't want him to look like he is straight from Barnum and Bailey's. He must look wordly and wise, not big and clownish. I liked this because it looks a little opulent, but if distressed could reflect the fall of Prospero's life and the loss of wealth and title.

This is a cool hat. I like it because it says ringleader without screaming circus too hard.

I loved this picture because I immediately saw Prospero and Miranda in it. The costuming isn't exactly right, but it reflects at least one aspect of their relationship as father and daughter at the play's beginning- he is in control, and she is ready to follow his lead.

I think of Miranda, the young lover character, as a beautiful tight rope walker. Here is a classic depiction, very youthful and sweet.

This is a slightly sexier version of the same idea. I do not want her to be this vampy, but I like the idea of making her a little more womanly. Somewhere between a little girl and a woman.

I love the colors of the skirt, and the slightly off-period sensibility of the whole outfit. I think this is the direction I would most want to go in in terms of attitude for her(for both the lovers, actually). Sweet, but with an ever so slight hint of rock and roll.

I want Miranda to look like a doll, so I loved the big pink cheeks and exaggerated lips. But the extreme bottom lashes give her an edge, and this makeup helps her look a little more womanly and not like such a little girl.She is transitioning.

The second I saw this picture, from Cirque Du soleil, I thought of Ariel. Being that Ariel is not all human, I want him/her to not look be so easily identified as a circus "performer". Ariel is water and air, and everything from the colors to the ruff on the neck is perfection to me.

This picture and the one below really struck me in terms of costuming Ferdinand. They are both remniscent of turn of the century costuming, but a little updated, giving it a sense of fantasy for the piece. Also, the careful distressing in both reflects the trials Ferdinand experienced in the ship wreck.


The two younger males in the picture were another image I liked when I was thinking of costuming Ferdinand- it isn't too "circusy" but it has the flavor while still maintaining the sense of fashion of the time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Commedia Mask: Il Dottore

I chose to recreate the mask of the stock character Il Dottore, because I found his personality amusing, and the shape of the mask interesting. Il Dottore, which means “the Doctor”, is an old man who plays the part of a lawyer or doctor in Commedia pieces, and is often father to one of the lovers. He is both a close friend and/or a rival to Pantalone. He is a stubborn know it all who refuses to listen to reason or take advice from those around him, and believes he is always right. He is generally depicted as having great wealth, and having been from Padua of Bologna, where two great universities of the time were located (though he did not necessarily attend them). He believes himself to be a scholar, but if he is, then he is a poor one. This character’s humor is found largely in words, rather than action. He is known to speak Latin often to show off his learning and intellect, but does it at inappropriate times and usually incorrectly. He is very greedy and gluttonous. He is fond of drinking and eating. He is physically very large, with an expansive belly. His cheeks were reddened to make him appear to be a little drunk. Being very pompous, his physicality was minimal and usually deliberate. He lead with his belly, and moved with pride and purpose. His stances were well balanced, in contrast to the bent-over, gestural movements of Pantalone.

Some of his lazzi include:
Diagnosing someone of an ailment they obviously do not have (such as a male being pregnant)
Lazzi of the enema
Very large and strange medical instruments
When he comes upon a well known fact, tries to make it appear to be a great discovery he has made
Tries to enlist assistance to help him perform experimental surgeries on himself and others.
Performs silly experiments in the name of science and medicine.
Mispronounces words often, such as Pantalone’s name.

The mask intrigued me because it was unique to other masks I had seen in that it only covered the forehead and nose. The forehead section is large and often wrinkled; the nose is large and bulbous. Large eyebrows, which could be made to look angry or thoughtful, were added, as was a mustache on occasion. I created my version of the mask by using masking plaster. I had someone create the basic shape on my face, and then added the details such as eyebrows and wrinkles on the forehead. The nose was made from play-doh, which I added to the mask and then plastered over it to make it sturdy. The mask could either be black, or flesh colored with hints of rouge added. I chose to make it black, with hints of bronze to make the details stand out a little more. I think, over all, my mask is rather authentic in terms of shape and look. However, the mask would have originally been made from leather, not plaster.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

project#1: reflection

This project was interesting to me, because it allowed me to see how time and location, as well as artistic sensibilities and creativity effect the timeless art of Ancient Greek theatre. These plays are centuries old, and the stories (to so many of us) are nothing new, yet I could see the distinct fingerprint attached to each production in these photographs.

One thing that struck me as I was putting this morgue together is that in many cases one could divide the colors of the lighting, costume, and set design into two groups: one being stark, neutral, dark tones and the other being vibrant shades of many colors, ranging from deep reds to cool blues. The mood of so many productions could be determined by looking at the designer’s use of color, and also I felt I could see what aspects of Greek theatre the director chose to focus on, be it the heavy, dramatic elements of the stories themselves, or the beautiful, exciting elements of the language and performance style.

While there are few photos that I picked that I do not like, some really captivated me in a particular way. My hands down favorite is the photo of Medea, in which the actress is behind a screen of fabric, which makes her look as though she were swimming in a sea of beautiful, soft colors. The picture stunned me completely. I had to do research to make sure it was really from the production, and not a poster design, because I thought there was no way it could possibly be created on stage that perfectly. But it was. It just looks like a painting, and captures the ancient beauty preserved in the poetry of Greek tragedy.

Another that really captured my imagination was the one with the man in the mirror, wearing the white wig. He plays Pollux and Castor in Electra, and I thought the image was highly intriguing. Greek theatre, in so many cases, is either beautiful and lavish, or dark and weighty. This seemed to be neither. There is something simultaneously comical and sinister about the costuming and use of props. I felt that that production would have kept me on my toes.

The photo of the 1971 production of Trojan Women was also interesting to me, not because I like it necessarily, but it is perhaps the best example of how a specific time period can impact a production. I looked at several pictures, and the groovy, “trippy” elements of the set and make-up are indentifiable immediately as being from the early seventies. It had an extremely clear visual perspective, and it made me wonder what the hippes would have had to say about Greek theatre.

This project was, again, a wonderful reminder of the creative world that theatre truly is. These pieces that have existed for ages and ages are given new life and meaning every year, across the globe.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Project #1 : Classical Tragedy

Aeschylus' The Libation Bearers
Thessalian Theatre (Greece) (2009)

Euripedes' Electra
European Cultural Center at Delphi (2007)

Hip Hop adaptation of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes
New York Theatre Workshop (2006)

Euripedes' Medea
Syracuse Greek Theatre (2009)

Euripedes' Medea
La Ma Ma Theatre (2008)
Theodora Skipitares, Director

Euripedes' Medea
James Madison University (2009)

Euripedes' Hippolytus
Marcos Jimenez Theatre (2009)

Euripedes' Electra
La Ratonera Theatre (2009)

Euripedes' The Trojan Women
UBC Theatre (2008)
Catriona Leger, Director

Euripedes' the Trojan Women
Theatre of the Lost Continent (1971)

Euripedes' Electra
Culver City Public Theatre(1999)

Aeshylus' The Orestia
Constellation Theater (2008)
Allison A. Stockman, Director

Euripedes' Orestes
Yale Caberet Theatre(2008)

Euripedes' Cyclops
Vassiliko Theatre (1988)
Giorgos Skourtis, Director

Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes
The University of Melbourne (200)
Paul Monaghan, Director

Euripedes' Hecuba
Albery Theatre, 2005

Sophocles' Oedipus Rex
The Wesleyan Argus University Theatre (2007)
Yuriy Kordonskiy, Director

Sophocles' Oedipus Rex
Olivier Theatre (2008)
Jonathan Kent, Director

Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus
Theatre at Epidaurus (1962)

Aeschylus' The Persians
Renaissance Theatre Works (2008)

Aeschylus' The Persians
Shakespeare Theatre Company(2006)
Ethan McSweeny, Director

Euripedes' The Bacchae
The Public Theatre, NY(2009)
JoAnne Akalaitis, Director

Euripedes' The Bacchae
Knee High Theatre/Cornwall, UK (2005)

Sophocles' Antigone
AlleyWay theatre/Buffalo, NY (1982)

Sophocles' Antigone
National Theatre of Northern Greece(2009)
Tassos Ratzos, Director