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The Last Wife: Designs and Inspirations

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The Last Wife: Designs and Inspirations

We are taking you behind the scenes of The Last Wife with the design team to get a glimpse into the process of creating this exciting production. Read on to find out, in their own words, where their inspirations and designs for this powerful play came about.

Veronica Murphy – Costume Designer

“This is a contemporary play about historical figures. The playwright calls for contemporary clothing so you might think that would make it easy. Not necessarily so. These are royals and we need to believe they are royals. The play spans four years with many changes in the characters’ positions – and in the case of Bess, she goes from a child of 11 to a young adult of 15. The scenes flow like Shakespeare, often seamlessly from bedroom to dining room to hallway, to conference room and so on.

A monochromatic set – we chose monochromatic costumes with touches of color, crimson for the Tudors (also the real Katherine Parr’s favorite color) and blue for the Seymour’s. Thom is, after all, a man of the sea. And the young prince follows in blue, as we are continually reminded that his mother was the beloved Jane Seymour. As Kate gains her place in the palace, her lines are less fluid and more structured and powerful, while maintaining femininity, so important in keeping Henry on her side. And once she marries Thomas Seymour, she is also in blue. Everyone is trying to please the King, save Mary, the Catholic rebellious daughter. Note the clerical lines that tie her to the church. Ironically, she is in black, like her father, but without any crimson, so as not to suggest her later nickname “Bloody Mary.” As Bess is mothered by Kate and grows into her womanhood, her dress is similar to Kate in line and color. There is also all that getting dressed and undressed, especially for Kate, making the underwear just as important as the outerwear.

A challenging project like this has to have some whimsy so – Henry has a lapel pin in the style of U.S. politicians but it is a Tudor Rose, Prince Eddie’s blue pajamas are covered in castles and dragons and the various ruffled necklines are a consistent nod to the true period.”

Sean Fanning – Set Designer

“The world is a contemporary re-imagining of Henry’s space. It is raw and modernist, and inherently masculine. At the same time, we are using simplicity and open space to make a world that is less about scenic detail and more about the emotional worlds and power play between the characters. The main inspiration for the setting is the Japanese architect Tadao Ando – who created spaces that lived between the world of a dwelling and a public arena. I was inspired by how he used containment and enclosure, and then created ways for light to stream into the container. In a theatrical context, this helps us to change the space in evocative ways. There is a trinity of antlers that always lives on the wall – these stag horns represent Henry’s savagery and love of hunting and are one of the few nods to the period. They cast foreboding shadows across the wall when lit from above.

The container acts a little as a puzzle box, and has several key compartments or openings that then support the action or change the context of the scenes. There is a center door that can be opened to reveal a glowing upstage hallway. This opening can also be raised to be a tall opening for Henry’s Commission. There’s an upstage left opening that can be slid open to reveal an oversized brutal fireplace – this is used for several locations with different furniture arrangements. Upstage right is a similar door that is slid open to reveal a concrete bed that pulls out from the wall,  and a little compartment in the wall that holds the basin and pitcher with which Henry’s wound is washed.  Stage right has a drop-down opening for liquor in the Act 1 courtship scene and elsewhere.

We are also using some grand gestures as a part of the storytelling as well as the tall velvet banners with the Tudor Rose motif for the commission scene. Two rolling tables that are used throughout the play become joined together to create a 12-foot long dining table with a chandelier that flies in for the family dinner scene. For the top of the second act, “Training Day”, a flurry of books will drop from the sky and tumble to the stage. At the end of the show, the space gets transformed to a more feminine soft environment when we bring on a set of sheer draperies that cover and obscure the container.

By envisioning this environment as a cold, masculine and harsh shell representing Henry’s space – with a sense of charged and compressed spatial volume – we have created an opportunity or invitation for Katherine to come forth into that space and rise above it, and claim power.”

Kevin Anthenill – Composer & Sound Designer

Kate Confronts Henry Scene 4

Wedding Scene 5

“When approaching the sound design and score for The Last Wife there are a few key elements which are important to director Rob Lutfy and myself. The play is a modern telling of historical figures, so I wanted to create a soundscape which had both modern, synthesized elements, as well as classical instruments such as brass and strings.  The intention when the brass is playing is to give the score a noble feel – to create a regal sense – a royal sense.

The strings are intended to center around Kathrine’s delicate touch, while still maintaining an air of class.  The synthesized elements are deployed to create pace and drive.  In a fast moving play, Rob Lutfy and I wanted to ensure the music was equally as driving.  I intend to use the Synth-Pulse as a driving undercurrent that gives the sense of the “psychological thriller” genre.”

 Catch The Last Wife through February 11th!