Category Archives: Execution

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


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.


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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Also from my proposal to the UC Davis Dept. of Theatre and Dance.

The production will be modest in scope: Six actors, some chairs and piles of costumes on stage. I plan to develop the piece using extensive movement improvisation and Viola Spolin’s theatre games to approach the text. I have found that I operate best from a “sense” of what the play may be, rather than a “concept” that I can impose. I plan to provoke and stimulate the actors, through focused play and improvisations around themes, to generate a mass of material from which we will build the piece in the final stages of the rehearsal period. I try to think of it as a process of illumination rather than illustration of the events of the play. Any success I’ve ever found in the theatre comes from my watching and guiding actors as we investigate and dig and flop around in the dark – sometimes literally. I plan to work this way on this piece and believe it will be a process by which we may mine the unexpected. The unexpected, incidentally, is the only element I’ve ever found useful in illuminating classical texts like Midsummer which have been encrusted (for hundreds of years) with behavior and technique and “style.” Regarding the video projection for the piece, I plan to shoot it myself during the rehearsal period. The video will force Hermia to confront her own manifold image (ideal ego) as she projects it onto her fantasy space as well as onto her reality.

After only one quick design meeting with scenic designer John Iacovelli, the above ideas have already begun to change. We’re talking about ways in which to put several surfaces on stage that we can project images and video on. One idea is to use a muslin scoop that hangs from the inner above and slopes down to the floor. On this we can project from the front or the rear.

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