Tag Archives: Theatre

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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Casting and Rehearsals

Auditions for Midsummer will take place in the Wyatt Pavilion on the UC Davis campus on November 6th between 6 and 11 pm. Call-backs are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7th, 1-5pm.

We’re going to double, triple and quadruple cast so that the play will be done with six players. The breakdowns are as follows, however, they may change depending on casting:

  • Player 1: THESEUS / OBERON / SNOUT / PUCK*
  • Player 3: LYSANDER / EGEUS / SNUG / PUCK
  • Player 5: HERMIA / QUINCE / PUCK

*Note: A costume piece (hat perhaps) will denote Puck. This will be passed from player to player as each will take the role of PUCK at different times until the final scene when all the players will simultaneously play PUCK.

If you’re interested in auditioning see Socorro for the sign-up sheet located @:

UC Davis, Art Building, Rm. 101.

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The Core Ideas of the Production

This is from my proposal to the Theatre and Dance department (more or less):

I’m working on a minimalist, eighty-minute long chamber play for six players based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The piece will focus on Hermia’s dream/nightmare highlighting the societal forces of oppression and their internalization into the young woman’s psyche where they reside and reign as what Freud would call the super-ego. The central theme I hope to explore deals primarily with the relationship of fantasy to reality. Lysander makes Hermia’s fantasy (of fleeing an oppressive patriarchy for an egalitarian and loving utopia in the forest) into a reality. In the process he makes Hermia into a refugee. According to Jacques Lacan, the realizing of a fantasy can result in the loss of the ability to fantasize. When Hermia’s fantasy disintegrates, what remains is not the reality in which she began, but a nightmarish Real too traumatic to be experienced directly and thus requiring a realignment of her relationship to the “reality” she formerly fled. The paradox of Shakespeare’s Dream shows how we flee fantasy for the safety of the pacifying illusions that we unconsciously use to construct reality itself. Given the nature of current American social and political reality and the effect that the moving image has on it (not to mention the role the moving image plays in creating it), I feel the use of projected video will be essential to the piece. Roughly stated, the live actors will confront images of themselves “projected” on screens, in essence, fantasy versions of themselves. The relationship of life to virtual reality that this juxtaposition will examine mirrors the relationship of the conscious self with its unconscious counterpart. The philosophical and poetic center of Shakespeare’s Dream, I believe, is an analogous relationship.

This project is not about reverence for Shakespeare or any so-called “Shakespearean Tradition.” It is also not about “deconstruction” of classical texts in the service of any post-modernist theory. It’s not about philosophical or intellectual obscurantism dressed up in the tropes of “progressive” theatre. It’s not about preconception or my “reading” of the play. It’s not about using the flashy trickery of technology to avoid the intellectual or intuitive rigors of making theatre. Most importantly, it’s not about reassuring the audience of how fortunate we all are to live in an enlightened democratic state in which oppressive patriarchal laws (as depicted by Shakespeare) have all been abolished in favor of the total freedom we now enjoy.

The primary question we will ask is: In what ways does the unconscious determine our actions and thoughts without our conscious awareness? Inextricably linked to this question is the idea of the mask or the performative dimension that structures societal space. Does role-playing and disguise unconsciously lead to liberation and realization of the “true” self? Put differently: Can you really “fake it ’till you make it” as is maintained by Pascal, not to mention every 12-step recovery program? The dialectic that Shakespeare seems to be presenting in A Midsummer Night’s Dream hangs on the idea of symbolic identification or the assumption of a symbolic mandate (Hermia’s order, on pain of death, to assume the role of Demetrius’s wife for the remainder of her days). Hermia denies the identification and choses to throw off the false mask required by the patriarchy. She has a different image of herself than her father has and her ideal self conflicts with the one required by the social compact. Hermia would die for the chance to choose love by her own eyes. But in the end, when she has assumed the role of wife to her beloved Lysander, she, like her doppleganger Helena, doesn’t speak another single word – and on the “happiest” night of her life. Is this mute woman the “true face” beneath the mask Hermia has braved death to cast aside? Most importantly: What does Hermia’s transformation mean in relation to the transformations of Hippolyta and Titania who appear to have given over to the will of the patriarchy and become the very masks they’ve been forced to wear? I haven’t an answer to this final question, but I know that the key to making this play lies in not placing judgment on Hippolyta and Titania. I simply want to create a space whereby the designers, the actors, the audience and myself can examine these images as they collide on stage.

We will try to discover whether or not wearing a mask actually makes us (contrary to conventional wisdom) what we feign to be. Are we the masks we wear? Can we be sure the “true self” we keep searching for really exists? Or is it possible that the only authenticity available to us comes in the performance of a role required by the social network? Perhaps the Rude Mechanicals know more about our heroes (the six lovers) by the end of their play-within-a-play than the lovers themselves who’re watching (and heckling) a representation of their own folly. It’s my feeling that Bottom and Hippolyta share a moment of recognition during the play-within-the play. In that moment, they both know something about what happened in the land of dreams, in the unconscious. They recognize each other and see through reality to their own dream counterparts (the Ass and Titania). I’m trying to discover what they’re trying to discover in that moment of connection. Language cannot adequately describe such connections but theatre can make them happen in the here and now.

You may ask, “But what happened to all the comedy and tramping around in the forest?” That’s there, it’s a given. But I think that there’s a dark center to this play that often goes ignored. When the four refugees return to Athens after their comic ordeal at the hands of the fairies each marries her or his “true” love. Then why don’t Hermia and Helena speak another word for the rest of the play? Do they regret their choices? Have they forgotten the cruelty the two young men recently visited upon them?

Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

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