My mother is an art teacher. She’s been teaching since I was 13 years old. She used to tell me that she was surprised to find she never ran out of new ideas for lessons. She always thought the day would come when she’d need a lesson on Van Gogh or Matisse and…nothing… No ideas. Blank slate. But that day never came. She said that was the beauty of art and creativity. It’s endless.
On costuming modern day shows… Sean Murray seems to think I have a pretty good eye for dressing people in current fashions and has honored me with the title of costume designer for three Cygnet shows – all taking place in present day. But the innate difficulty of costuming a show that doesn’t depend on a historical time period for colorful expressions of the day is that – if you do it well – it will very often go unnoticed. And let’s face it… no artist (of any sort) wants their work to go unrecognized.
To deal with this, I approach each show with a secret concept…something I’m pretty sure the audience won’t pick up on but satisfies me none-the-less. InI allowed the Iraq War to exist, not only as the background for the play, but on the stage within the costumes; the war between the characters playing themselves out in Peter and Craig’s all-American dress and Kelly’s subtly Middle Eastern-feeling fabrics, colors and jewelry. In , Beane requests “a rainbow” as a birthday gift, and upon his discovery of his new love Molly, the grays in the costumes dissipated into brilliant hues – even and especially in Joan and Harry’s apartment.
So when it came time to costume, I began my musings for my special secret concept. I read the play. I read it four more times… Nothing. I went on-line and perused everything I could find about stamp-collecting, looking for the hook. Zippo. I thought about my mother. Where was that endless creativity? Maybe there was an artistic limit. Apparently my max for Cygnet was two shows. The gig was up.
Finally…I admit it… I went on-line to look at the Broadway production photos. Then, other production photos. I felt uninspired. They were all the same. Dennis donned in a sleazy leather jacket. Jackie attired in the apparently requisite jeans and a hoodie. Mary bequeathed with the unflattering matronly threads of a spinster. Where was the whimsy? Worse… Why the stereo-types? This was a play submersed in cons and trickery, after all.
My inspiration came mid-conversation. Anytime I mentionedto a friend, their response was the same. “Stamp collecting? Does anyone even do that anymore?” They imagined a production rife with antiquated lessons on the creation of the postal system. The delightful irony of the Quentin Tarentino-esque ride our audiences will take amused me. But then, there it was! These characters ARE submersed in a world of vintage collections. They are the world’s most obsessed tiny-art collectors. They LOVE the beauty of a bygone era. And they are suckers for the most intimate details.
I began my search for modern-day clothes with a vintage-feel. Aside from Jackie, who discovers the crazy under-belly trade as the play progresses, the other characters seemed to naturally slip into each vest, tie, spectator shoe and hat; their love for classical elegance expanding into their fashion and limited only by the size of their billfolds. And, as luck would have it, the gorgeous cast of actors embraced and enhanced each handkerchief and glove with a modern-day spin. Sandy Campbell can wear a hat and Jackie-O sunglasses like no-one’s business and Manny Fernandes seems born to wear tailored suits and luxurious watches. John DeCarlo’s natural charm and humor lends itself to the feather in his hat and I’m quite certain that Jack Misset wore a bow-tie in another life.
I love art. I love theatre. And I love my mom. As is often the case, she was right.
Yesterday was our first preview for. It’s always exciting for me when we open a new production but I especially get excited when the audience really get’s into a show. Last night was no exception. There was plenty of gasping and nervous laughter, just what you hope for with a suspenseful thriller.
All of us at Cygnet were pretty excited to assemble such a great cast. Three of the principal characters inworked together previously in our 2007 production of . was such a fun production and these actors have a wonderful chemistry together. Manny Fernandes once again plays the guy everyone is afraid of, and Sandy Campbell and Jessica John play the eccentric half sisters. Rounding out the cast is John DeCarlo, last seen in Cygnet’s production of and Jack Missett from Cygnet’s Curse of the Starving Class of a few years back. The characters in are pretty quirky and the actors have tapped into their characters perfectly. I think the actors are going to have a lot of fun with this one.
The production is staged by Cygnet Associate Artistic Director, Fran Gercke. Fran gets great support from the spot-on design team of Jessica John (yes, she’s also doing the costumes), Eric Lotze (lighting), Matt Lescault-Wood (sound), Bonnie Durben (props) and Sean Fanning (set). I do love it when all of the components come together so nicely and click. I just can’t wait for the theatre goers to come out and see it for themselves.
is a San Diego premiere and one of the newest plays by Theresa Rebeck, one of Broadway’s hottest playwrights. We’re so excited to have been able to secure the rights to this one. runs at the Cygnet Rolando stage through May 10th.
It’s Saturday morning and we are getting ready to begin technical rehearsals for. Technical rehearsals can be exhilarating, because you finally get to see all of the elements start coming together. The lights and sound are added. The finishing touches are put on the costumes and the set. And while the twenty or so hours can make for a grueling couple of days of “hurry up and wait,” it is always amazing to come out of it on the other side and see the huge leaps the production has taken towards being a final product.
At Cygnet, tech means it’s time for a couple of traditions. The oldest being the magic of watching Eric Lotze work his wizardry on the light board. Eric has been designing lights for Cygnet since the very beginning, and I’ve never seen any designer who can manipulate the lights as fast as he can. With his eyes darting across the ceiling from one light to the next, his fingers fly across the light board’s buttons. It always reminds me of those accountants in old movies with their sleeves rolled up, visor pulled down, a stogie firmly planted firmly in one corner of their mouth, their right hand a blur producing a steady and rapid clicking from the keys. I swear I’m always waiting for his left hand to reach out and pull the lever. There’s no doubt why he has won several awards. His designs always add another level of dimension to the production.
Matt Lescault-Wood, is doing the sound design. Matt has done several designs for Cygnet this season, including the fantastic collection of 80’s music that was on display during, but this will be my first experience watching him work. What I’ve heard of the sound design so far, it is going to be jazzy, hip and cool. It’s always great fun to hear a musical representation of your character and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has for my sadistic stamp collector.
The other tradition, which just began this season, is a pancake breakfast to kick off the technical rehearsals. It’s really nice to have a few moments before we delve into the work for the designers, cast and crew to come together like a family and share a meal. Plus feeding theatre folk is always a good idea. Of course the success of this breakfast may rest on my culinary skills. Somehow I was designated the flapjack flipper for this production. Oh, the pressure. I hope I don’t burn them.
The term “set design” is really such a boring phrase for, well, the set design. Costume design is really the wardrobe of each individual character, lighting and sound designs are the atmospheres, props the personal objects of characters, and the set design is the environment. The hard world of the play. Tactile.
One of the challenges with Theresa Rebeck’sis that it floats between three different environments. Not odd or uncommon or unusual in theatre. But normally it always leads designers, directors, and everyone else involved to ask: “Okay, how do we do this?” So then you start brainstorming and come up with a few great ideas, a couple of good ones, and several that lead to kind of uncomfortable silence (those ideas, unfortunately, normally emanate from me!). has to move from a seedy, basement-level stamp shop to a street cafe to the parlor floor of a brown stone and back again. Sean Fanning’s set allows the actors to enter from the world above down into the stamp shop – the world below. And then this combatively comic world of philately simply, easily, and fluidly becomes a worn but still somehow elegant family home. And I am considerable jealous of the cast that gets to play in this environment because there is a great attention to deliberate detail.
In the process of design, it’s always curious to me how you can run the risk of going too far. You can add too much “reality”. Sean Murray was wise to advise that you can go too far and open a kind of Pandora’s Box in which nothing is left to the imagination, everything is real, and what once was going to be a partnership between the suggested reality of the designer and imagination of the audience is no longer possible. I think we’ve avoided that, I think Sean Fanning has avoided that. Instead what he has created is very deliberate, very precise, very beautiful and still leaves much to the imagination….Now all we have to do is add the lights, the sound, the costumes, the props, learn our lines and not bump into anything!