Category Archives: Design

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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“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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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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The Fairies

My first idea for the representation of the fairies was to project them onto Titania’s costume and let Titania provide the voices. If Titania’s costume was made of something like the material we use for the projection screens, this could work nicely. But John and I also discussed putting Titania and Oberon in unitards and projecting onto them. I’m inclined to use skin as a projection screen as well – in this case. Either way we’re in the realm of “the celebration of the body.” Projections on Titania’s naked back, or belly would require the work of an animator and may be beyond our capabilities at this point. I suppose I can do it myself if I have to.

John brought up the idea of using little bottles full of sea shells and sand and stones as little fetishes to represent the fairies (cobweb, moth, mustard seed, etc.). I love what this says and the visuals could be very nice especially if we go with the shaman motif for Oberon.

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The White Chair

An idea for a piece of staging and design. Against a white projection screen sits a white, hardwood chair. We light the chair to flatten it as much as possible and project the image of the same chair in its non-white, pre-painted, form. The chair gets picked up and used in the scene where the Rude Mechanicals first meet to discuss their play. The projection stays against the wall. Later Bottom will try to sit in the projected chair. Slapstick, I know, but it says something about taking a representation for reality and vice versa. I haven’t thought it out yet, but there’s a way to carry this thread out and get at least another moment out of it.

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