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.
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.
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.
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.
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.