Three White Rectangles

Three Rectangles of White. John Iacovelli suggested at the production meeting two weeks ago that instead of painting the entire space white, we paint a rectangle of white on the black stage and part of the back wall. I’ve been considering this during the past week’s rehearsals and have decided to use the idea. We will have three rectangles of white: 1. The muslin canopy over the stage. 2. A white rectangle painted directly beneath it on the floor in the same dimensions as the canopy. 3. And another painted on the back wall (in the same dimensions as the first two) covering the inner above (and perhaps part of the inner below). The doors to the inner above will, however, remain open revealing the RP screen behind them.

Playing space. The rectangle will give us two defined areas of floor: the white playing space and the margin, a black band around the outside of the playing space. These will serve as two distinct zones for the players to use and will provide a separation between (for lack of better words) fantasy and reality. The players exist in fantasy, the audience, reality. When one of the players makes an exit into the black space, they become audience. They sit and witness. They’re safe. The agents of action within the play cannot harm them. One moment in which this separation will serve us is during the fight between Hermia and Helena. Hermia chases Helena out of the space, when Helena makes it to the black she can turn back to Hermia triumphantly like a child playing tag who makes it to home base and celebrate the invulnerability granted her by the black area. Lighting, in as much as is possible, should help with this division.

Fairies in the margin. When Puck, Titania and Oberon are in the margin they can address the audience, they can play to each other without the players on the white space “hearing.” When they step into the white area with a mortal, they can be seen. Puck, while tormenting the two men, might streak behind them across the space. These kinds of games will give an immediacy to the actions and make the separation between the dream space and the waking space tangible. We should push this idea to its limits and not just accept it as a stage convention, but something of use that will heighten the play between the players.

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Design Meeting, Nov. 18th

Notes:

Gian Scarabino wrote: Some notes taken during Midsummer Design meeting, 18th Nov.

Bold text denotes response from TD Daniel Neeland

Scenic:

We are looking to have a projection screen in the Inner Above – as opposed to using the Above as a playing space.  The ideal dimension of the screen is 14′ wide, but we will have to get a projector in the space ASAP to see just how large we can make the image, and then we can determine the actual size of the screen.  In terms of screen build John specified muslin wrapped and stretched around a hogtroughed frame and with potential to screw into floor and ceiling.

As I recall we have a projector that will produce a large image while resting on the support beam upstage of the opening in the inner above.

In addition to the Inners Above and Below as well as the deck, we will want to paint the cheeks and associated elements to the edge of the stage “white,” or whatever specific variant of white is agreed upon, hereafter referred to as “white.”

Daniel ~ We would like to cover the exposed columns/supports in Wyatt with the existing hard surrounds, also to be painted white.  Do we still have coverage for all sides of all columns?

We have most of them, We will need to remake some that got damaged.

Daniel ~ How wide is the widest roll of muslin?  Ten or twelve feet?  For rehearsal on Tuesday, Nov 24th (Jenna or John Zibell, correct me if I am wrong about this date), we would like to obtain a piece of muslin as wide as possible, 10′ or 12′ by 28′, so the actors can begin working with the unstarched fabric.  For this we will also need long lengths of sash cord to play with.

The muslin is 10 feet wide and costs  $4 a yard. we also have sash cord available in varying lengths. We need to schedule a time for me to do a knot tying class with the actors and crew. Perhaps at the start of the rehearsal process.

We would like to use three trunks (all already tagged in prop storage), only one of which will have a false bottom and be positioned, tentatively, over a trap downstage center.

John Iacovelli drew up a plan for a projector cart, pyramidal in design, to be made of steel or possibly scrap wood and painted white.  We may need two of these.  Alternatively, we may want to find stools with wheels.  In either case these will have to be able to accommodate a hard drive (unless we can operate them remotely), projector and power strip.

We have discussed the possibility of incorporating rock climbing holds into the playing space.  No official word, yet.

Not thrilled with that idea for safety reasons. please discuss with me before making your final decision.

I am working to provide a preliminary ground plan in electronic form shortly.

Lighting:

Tom ~ What happened to the little green stars we used above the audience for Nest?  Are these available to use?

One is out on loan, but we can get it back if needed

Projection/Video:

Tom ~ How many slides does the Pani projector accomodate?  Six?  Are there two Pani projectors and can we use one or both for performance in the Wyatt?  Will they be too noisy if mounted in the house?

We are interested in using the auto yoke for a projector if it is available.

A suggestion was made that we would get twice as much throw if a projected image were bounced down off a mirror and onto the canopy.  Would anyone care to elaborate or make a correction?  Does the mirror, then, remain on stage?

Depends on the size of the mirror in relation to the image and distance from the projector. the further you are from the projector, the larger mirror you need to ‘catch ‘ the image to bounce it.

If we can create a cylindrical shape out of the muslin onstage we can potentially project from within the cylinder using a projector cart.  This is not unlike Bill Dudley’s current production of Peter Pan featured in Live Design magazine. Furthermore, we might be able use the Pani projectors to simulate this effect in the Wyatt itself, projecting on areas above the heads of the audience.

There was loose discussion of simulating daylight within and from one of the cheeks to give the space depth.  We may also be able to utilize screens for this.

Environmental video is being taken right now by several filmmakers, to be compiled at a later date.

We will not be able to begin rehearsal filming until the second week of January, when costumes are available.

Miscellany:

An inflatable tree has been suggested, possibly to be pulled out of the vaudevillian bottomless trunk.  Concerns range from how it will maintain air pressure quietly to what materials are suitable for its construction (muslin, nylon).  Can it be spandex with a flexible frame, eliminating the need for constant air pressure?

I don’t see how spandex will eliminate the need for constant pressure. we should talk more about what you want the end result to be so we can determine how to get there.

Building on the bottomless trunk idea, we may also want a straight ladder or A-frame (to use for height and pick points) to appear via one of these trunks.

We have only 8′ clearance in the pit, so anything that comes up must fit in there with enough room to allow the trap door to swing, as well as any support structure needed for the crew to operate the effects.


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“Cultural / Mental Cloning” and A Midsummer Night’s Dream Costumes

The idea of cultural / mental cloning from Jean Baudrillard is going to figure heavily into this play and the area most effected by the idea will be costumes – I believe. I’ve often said that Hermia and Helena begin as clones of each other and end as clones of Hippolyta. Something similar can be said for Demetrius and Lysander. They become clones of Theseus. The costumes can make this happen and then we barely have to do anything else about it. However, I don’t want to hit the audience over the head by constantly saying with the costumes, “these are clones!” In fact, I never want them to even know it consciously, so we won’t dress them as twins. My favorite site for expression of cultural cloning is the world of fashion, particularly in the magazines and catalogues. We all so happily make and remake ourselves in the image conceived by a handful of designers. See the photos below.

Screen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.38.27 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.37.28 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.31.59 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.19.18 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.08.09 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.07.34 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.07.09 PMlys_demlys_dem_2lys_dem_3Screen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.39.14 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.21.41 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.13.51 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.13.06 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.06.05 PMScreen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.05.28 PM

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Design Meeting, November 4th

Some scenic notes taken Wed 4th, November.  Afternoon.  2-ish.

In terms of prop storage:

 

  1. Did I understand correctly that we could use laundry carts as trunks since they are equipped with wheels? [JZ: We discussed using one. I’m inclined to stay with the different varieties of trunks.]
  2. We looked at trunks in prop storage, and I will tag three of them for use in rehearsal:  two trunks with false bottoms to be painted white that can sit over the traps and one that is light cream in color, slightly more elaborate in terms of hardware and cannot be painted.  We have fittings to use these items over the central trapdoors in Wyatt. [JZ: We’ll only be able to place one trunk over the traps unless we pay for the construction of another mechanism.]
  3. I will also tag the white, slat back chair selected by John Zibell and John Iacovelli for use in rehearsal.
  4. There are numerous bottles in prop storage that could be used to contain the faeries.  One suggestion to represent them is to use natural materials in conjunction with LED lighting.  We have not yet secured LED lights for the faerie bottles.  We are looking, in particular, for LED lights that are movement activated, activated by manipulating the bottle.  See John Iacovelli for details.

In terms of projection surfaces:

  1. There is the possibility of using cage-like metal painted white: three sets of bars, each perhaps 4’x8′
  2. We have numerous flats and doors to use.  We also have 3-panel folding screens to delineate space.
  3. There is talk of using the stair unit(s) for play between the stage floor and the inner above.  Preferably, these stair units would receive some kind of treatment to eliminate the riser gap between treads, in order to make the surface more projection friendly.  Materials for this include muslin, lauan, or even foam core.  John Iacovelli would like to see plans for these stairs, if available.
  4. The production will need a 10′ or 12′ wide (more or less, whatever the largest available width is from the roll) by 20′ or 25′ long piece of muslin to be used for rehearsal.  This piece of muslin should have eye holes or some other regularly spaced means of being attached to structural members using dog clips or sash cord etc.
  5. The heavy sheeting from John Jasperse’s show was examined and is still under review.  The flame retardant properties make the material whiter and more opaque than desired.  Suggestions were made to still use it for its noisemaking capabilities, such as dragging the sheeting through a hole in the stage as though it were quicksand or merely disappearing. [JZ: I like the image of someone being pulled down the trap by the plastic and my immediate idea for using this image would be for Hermia to be sucked in right after the scene where she wakes from her nightmare. How we get it in and how long we use it for will be tricky as the noise level of walking on it will completely cover dialogue.
  6. It was determined that the rear projection screen from the main stage is too large to be installed in the inner above.  A projection screen made of muslin, however, would fit nicely and could be installed with enough room for actors to play in silhouette downstage of the screen.  Whether this is desirable has yet to be determined, but it is an option.

 

In terms of other screens,

  1. there appears to be a 5 panel screen with a metal frame and a grey tree motif painted on it that is available to use.  Discussion surrounding this item suggested that the existing tree motif might be too unpleasantly iconographic or discordant with the show concept. [JZ: The fact that it is discordant with the show concept may be the reason to use it. I’d like to consider using this piece particularly if the Mechanicals can erect it during the show.]

 

In terms of video production/projection:

  1. A filmmaker is needed, as well as a sound recordist.  John Iacovelli mentioned the possibility of using his Film Festival contacts to generate some leads for these positions.
  2. Following a chat with Ned regarding a light package stored at the Regency, John Iacovelli also mentioned needing to email Sarah Pia Anderson.
  3. I still need lens info/photometric data for the projections from Brian Webber and will inquire about this in more depth shortly.

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[Hermia/Helena – Demetrius/Lysander] and the cloning of culture according to Jean Baudrillard

I came across the following quote from Jean Baudrillard and it figures directly into my thinking about this piece so I’m sharing it here.

Non-Occidental cultures do not discriminate between the human and the inhuman. We invented the distinction, and we are in the process of erasing it. Not by crossing the line and reconciling the two; rather, the erasure operates in absentia, through technological undifferentiation.

Again: the final solution, the vertigo of the final solution.

It might be argued that whatever the genetic destination of the clone may be, it will never be exactly the same as the original. (Well, of course not, as the clone will have had an Original, which cannot be said of the original itself.) But the main argument is that there is nothing to fear from biogenetically engineered cloning, because whatever happens, culture will continue to differentiate us. Salvation lies in our acquirements: culture alone will preserve us from the hell of the Same.

In fact, exactly the reverse is true. It is culture that clones us, and mental cloning anticipates any biological cloning. It is the matrix of acquired traits that, today, clones us culturally under the sign of monothought-and it is all the innate differences that are annulled, inexorably, by ideas, by ways of life, by the cultural context. Through school systems, media, culture, and mass information, singular beings become identical copies of one another. It is this kind of cloning-social cloning, the industrial reproduction of things and people-that makes possible the biological conception of the genome and of genetic cloning, which only further sanctions the cloning of human conduct and human cognition.

— Jean Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion, pp. 24-25.

I’ve been thinking of Lysander and Demetrius as cultural clones of each other. Can we cast twins? Hermia and Helena become, in the end, cultural clones of Hippolyta. We want to begin the exploration of this part of the story in our use of costume. We want to tell this part of the story in terms of what Baudrillard refers to as “cloning of human conduct and human cognition.” Personalities (i.e. behavioral patterns), like fashion choices, can be downloaded and easily installed into one’s operating system. This metaphor works on a couple of levels. One’s operating system, these days, can itself be downloaded and installed onto one’s hardware, even swapped out for a freeware system posted in cyberspace not by the corporate megaliths like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, but by radically democratic, benevolent, anarchists intent on egalitarianism at all costs. There are still only five or so operating systems in wide use on the planet (looking at our young people, I wonder if there are even as many personalities available for download). And yet we identify with our operating system as though it were our most pure self… until we download another. I don’t mean to categorize this as bad news. I simply think it’s how we function though we completely disavow the process.

Most interesting to me in the quote above than all the stuff about cloning (for our purposes anyhow), is the use of the idea of “the final solution.” The book’s title The Vital Illusion is a fantastic pun here which I just realized. If we look at Hitler’s infamous “final solution” as dispassionately as possible we may see an attempt on the part of the members of the master race to identify the inherent antagonism within society, personify the antagonism, and eradicate that (ultimately ineradicable) antagonism. “Make us all the same!” could have been the battle cry of the SS. It is the battle cry of Egeus at the start of the play. He’s identified the radical and wants her to conform or die. Hermia is willing to die for her freedom. Hippolyta is not and we know this at the start. Hippolyta transforms from warrior queen into doting bride. Is not this the path also taken by Hermia and Helena in the end? They’re mute for the final act of the play. I keep coming back to this as it’s the most perplexing thing I’ve found in the piece.

What does Shakespeare seem to be saying about “dying most gallant for love”? He portrays love as a kind of sickness here. This sickness is as antithetical to the patriarchal society of Athens as Titania’s woman’s intuition is to Oberon’s vision of how things will go from now on in fairy land. Love is a drug-induced hallucination that infects the brain reconfiguring its chemistry in such a way that the user of the machine believes that the hallucination comes from deep within the self – that the self is born with such a love within and simply searches to find the right vessel into which it may be poured. Shakespeare also seems to say that switching the vessel out for another is not at all as hard as it’s cracked up to be. A little fear, a little lust, a little glimmer in the eye of the right person (even if that person is an ass), and we throw over the one we were willing to die for. Then, after we’ve been through hell and we return to the place of comfort becoming forever knit to our one true love in the end, how can we forget our desire for that magical other who so moved us against all reason?

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The Opening

The opening: I think we need to introduce the projections before we introduce the characters. Don’t have much of an idea on this. Maybe a music montage and then flood every square inch we can with rapid-fire images and land on the press conference w/ Theseus and Hippolyta. Two projectors hit the entire back wall with the primary image. Another projector hits the ceiling with beautiful blue sky and a military jet fly-over. The final projector hits a stand-alone screen with a close up on Hippolyta from a different angle. In the wide shot she looks like Jackie O w/ JFK. In the tight shot, she looks a little nervous. As we’re watching this the lights come up on the stage to reveal Hippolyta looking like something out of Abu Ghriab. Perhaps there is a bit of business where two guards bring her the clothing she wears in the scene we’re watching. A version of Jackie O’s pink suit would be perfect. Theseus enters and watches his captive dress. He talks to her about four days lingering his desires. Here we have to be delicate but I think we need to go after the idea that she’s his to do with as he will. If we spell it out that he rapes her, we’re killing some tension that we need to tell Hermia’s story.

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Design Meeting Wednesday, Oct. 28th

Notes:

Costumes: Kara and I  looked over the costume stock last week focusing on Titania’s kimono. Costume owns a beautiful off-white piece that might work perfectly. The one alteration that I might suggest – if it’s even possible – would be to lengthen the part of the sleeves that hang below the arm hole( called Furi in Japanese)  to make a larger projectable surface. In my research, I’ve come across kimonos that have Furi which reach almost to the floor.

Kabuki Dancer

This image has two elements beside the Kimono that we want to use. The parasol for a projection surface and the wooden box for Titania to keep her fairies (see below).

Hermia: Kara brought some great research for Hermia. She’s the daughter of the powerful senator and she’s “trouble.” My favorite images (below) are of young women wearing something like (or derivations of) conservative clothes. But these conservative clothes have been co-opted and have become iconic representations of sexuality. The smoking school girls. The runway model with the gangster cap. Arguably, this is a sexuality that is imposed on women by the male gaze, but that works perfectly for our piece. One question is, how do we resolve that… or how does that resolve itself through costume in the end? I think it has something to do with the fact that the men win. It’s almost always played that Helena and Hermia are happy with the outcome. But they never speak again once they’re out of the woods. And Titania and Hippolyta have become the dutiful wives to men who have done terrible harm to them.

Rebellion 3Rebellion 8

Projection: There are four projectors available to us and Gian brought in some muslin, butcher paper and theatrical gauze and some other stuff that looks like the sheer curtains that my mother hung on her windows when I was growing up – I’ve forgotten the name. We love the starched muslin. Light comes through. Rear projection will work nicely. We loved my mother’s curtains. John suggested someone could wear a huge scarf made of the stuff and we could project on that. We even liked the butcher paper because we can tear it. Important: Gian ran with an idea from last week where the players, when done with a costume could just dump it on the floor leaving a huge mess to contend with by the end of the play. Gian’s suggestion was to take pieces of the costumes, hang them in various places around the stage and use them as projection surfaces. The more I think about this, the more I love it.

We talked about dressing Theseus in white and projecting camouflage on him when necessary.

The set: We’re leaning toward an all-white set. Make the space look huge. Provide many surfaces for projection. Contrast the darkness of my ideas.

Kabuki: I had a conversation with Peggy Shannon this week about the use of Kabuki in the forrest scenes. The big question: why Kabuki? The easy answer is that I like the way Kabuki with it’s ponderous movement and total environment of sound put the audience in an altered state in a few seconds. Also, in our production the forrest will be a metaphoric forrest of imagery from Hermia’s unconscious. I suppose the images are meant to BE Hermia’s unconscious playing itself out on various surfaces of the stage including herself and other players. Hermia is battling with her own unconscious desires and the projections will show this battle. The protagonist in her struggle is her father who pulls out an ancient law permitting him to kill Hermia if she doesn’t bend to his will. This could be a Kabuki scenario. In fact, one of the most popular and influential Kabuki/Bunraku plays is Chikamatsu’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki first performed in 1703. The bloody ending echoes the story of Pyramus and Thisbe as done by the mechanicals. I realize nobody will get this reference from our play. It is just a place for us to work from.

Wedding attire: We defined this as an area that needs addressing. What do we do for the three wedding dresses?

Kabuki mask for puck: Love, love, love the red, white and black mask. We’re running with the idea that Puck is the mask and whoever puts on the mask becomes him/her. My inclination is to introduce the mask somehow as part of Hermia’s conscious world. Does she wear a necklace that has a small version of the mask as a pendant hanging? Does it hang on her wall? Does it project onto her body at a particular moment in the scene where her father requests that she be put to death? I don’t know yet.

Kabuki Mask 2

Peasblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed: Titania’s going to carry little bottles full of her mojo. We’ll put little colored LEDs in there and when she opens them up, out comes the light and it jumps onto the projection screen. The actor playing Titania will provide the voices for the fairies.

african_voodoo_dollbottle_fetishcharmstalismanprayer_ragsfetish

Bottom’s Ass Head: We didn’t discuss this, but here’s an idea I had that came out of our discussions of scale (remember the small chairs from last week). What if the head we build is too big for Bottom to hold it up by himself and we have to have two players (or crew) following him around with sticks to balance it? And what if it’s not just a head, but maybe one asses hoof on his leg. I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but I thought if the head required operation from without like a large puppet, then we’d be getting at ideas about who’s in control of who, do we control our selves or are we at the mercy of our own unconscious drives? We’ll see where this goes.

The Play Within: We didn’t discuss this either, and this is some tricky stuff… but here’s where I’m going with this. Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus wake the four lovers in the forest. Theseus sets Hermia free from her obligation. Blackout. The projectors and the lights all go dark for the first time. A projection comes up. The mechanicals, except for Bottom, are in the dressing room getting into costume and make-up. They play the scene where they all wonder what happened to Bottom. The players on stage, in darkness except for the projection, quickly transform the space for the wedding sequence and then change costumes. They’re playing the scene where Theseus choses the evening’s entertainment and sends Philostrate off to inform the players. As they play this scene they’re changing clothes as well (into the mechanical’s costumes for the play within the play). ON the projected video we follow Philostrate into the dressing room to summon the players. We track with them as they walk toward the stage. All the while the lovers are playing the “lunatic, lover and poet” scene dressed as the mechanicals. They sit and wait for the show to begin. Perhaps they sit in the audience . The video cuts to a shot of the stage but instead of the mechanicals entering, Theseus, Hippolyta and the two young lovers do (on the video, remember). They sit. The live players in the audience stand and play the play within the play.

Puppetry: The theme of puppet and puppet master figure in prominently and one way we can bring it around is to have all the dialogue during the play-within-the-play provided by the live actors. So essentially they’re playing the play and (in the voices of Lysander, Demetrius, Theseus and Hippolyta) heckling themselves at the same time. It will be very interesting to have them try to sync up their voices to the mouths of the projected video. This may prove to be very much fun to do and a place to derive some comedy. The other choice is to have all the audio for this section recorded and have the live actors try their best (and inevitably fail at times) to lip sync. I’m still working on this.

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