Colors In Mary Poppins

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

In one of the post-show discussions, there was an audience member who asked us about the color of the costume design. We had a conversation of the concept of the design but none of us knew the exact process of how our costume designer Rory Scanlon developed it. Therefore, I brought the question to Rory and this was his reply.

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In picking colors, I chose the RED for Mary first, giving her the strongest pigment on stage. I wanted Bert and the children to be in the other primary colors, so Bert was BLUE and the children were YELLOW. That left the three secondary colors to fill the full wheel. Because the children are in opposition to their father so much for the show, I put George in Purple and chose ORANGE for Winifred since she is the “in-between” for Mary and the children. PURPLE worked well because throughout history it is the color of wealth because the purple dyes used were some of the most expensive. All these choices of colors left GREEN as the last color, which I left for the Park, since this is where the children, George and Winifred all go to “run away”. You will recall that the Park Keeper was in GREEN, helping represent that color. This gave the full rainbow to the production, perfect for a musical and for our concept that Mary brings color to the world of the play. – Rory Scanlon

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Mary Poppins Just A Bit More

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

One of the traditions in the BYU theatre department is to have a post show discussion with the audience, actors, and members of the production team after every Thursday night performance. To finish up our coverage on Mary Poppins, I want to share some of the great questions and answers that were discussed.

Q: This production looks very professional. Is it a student design team?

A: It is half and half. The cast are students; some are more experienced. For the designing team, we have several options: 1) We have professional faculty members with student assistants, 2) We have the students who co-design with other student designers, 3) And of course, we have student designers who design alone. These students have a faculty adviser to guide them when they need a piece of advice.

Statue

Q: How do the statues stay the same pose so long?

A: Through the rehearsal process, they tried many different poses, eventually choosing the ones where they could comfortably freeze for long time.

Q: Is it hard to sing and dance at the same time?

A: Yes, it is a challenge for the cast. However, the cast receive training on daily basis, which includes working on their stamina and breath support. Our music director, Gayle coaches them with the music.

Q: Why did the toy scene look a little bit scary?Mary Poppins

A: I had a conversation with the cast about that scene. Our discovery is that it is the last time that Mary tries to teach children how to respect and appreciate others, but apparently, Michael and Jane didn’t want to change their attitude. Mary feels a bit frustrated and she chooses to leave for a little bit afterward.

*Originally, this number was called “Temper, Temper.” When it opened on Broadway back in 2006, there was a young audience member who came see the show and was very frightened. This young audience member even crawled into her mother’s lap. The production team took note of this and other reactions and reworked the song to be less scary, resulting in a new song “Playing The Game” replacing “Temper, Temper.”

Q: How long do you prepare for this production? What was the process?

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Let’s Go Fly A Kite

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

“Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” written by the Sherman Brothers, is one of the famous song in Mary Poppins. The symbol of the kite was mentioned in the beginning on in the script when Bert sings :

A FATHER, A MOTHER, A DAUGHTER, A SON. THE THREADS OF THEIR LIVES ARE RAVELING UNDONE. SOMETHING IS NEEDED TO TWIST THEM AS TIGHT AS A STRING YOU MIGHT USE WHEN YOU’RE FLYING A KITE……

Designers’ Kite Idea

While we were exploring the idea of kite flying, scenic designer Michael Handley was able to share his personal story about the experience of flying kites with his family. He also discovered the cross symbol on the kite and was able to “mosaic” this idea into his design. Props designer Bradlee Hager then dug into some other research about how kites were designed in the early 20th century.

Flying a Kite 1910

This is the inspirational picture for Bradlee. Painted by Dame Laura Knight. Flying a Kite 1910. First Exhibited: London Riyal Academy 1910 No.712

In reality, people made many different kinds of kites; some are very long, some are very complicated. However, in the script, it is described simply as a “red kite.” Bradlee decided to create kites with the simplest design in order to not distract from the message of the show.

Kites In The Script

In the play, the first kite is shown by Michael Banks. He desires to fly kite with his father but is rejected. The “broken kite,” as described in the play, is like his broken heart, wanting to be loved by his father. After George Bank realizes the importance of the family, he takes a beautiful red kite and flies it with his son.

The power of this message is also shown in the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” scene in the movie Saving Mr. Banks. Up to this point, P.L Travers has not been happy with the way Disney had been adapting her book into a film. In the scene, the Sherman Brothers sing the song for Travers in order to show her the revisions they had made to George Bank’s character. The song transforms Travers’ attitude about the project, giving us a clue into the importance of that character’s journey.

More About Kites

One thing I like about the idea of the kite is that it goes alone well with a religious belief of BYU, which is centered in Jesus Christ. Further, it is echoing the department’s educational mission: “To promote literacy, creativity, and spirituality by exploring their interrelatedness in the arts of theatre and media, in an effort to illuminate and confirm truth and the infinite potential of the human soul.”

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What Would You Do If You Were……?

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

DSC0193607-681x1024When I was exploring the characters’ personalities and their relationships, I had a strong feeling that each one of them were meant to be together to learn a lesson. I do not know if it is solely an eastern belief that “family is the Tao place,” but I feel all the members in the Banks family were changed because of the journey they took together.

Let me clarify, the “Tao.” It is translated as “the way.” My father told me that family is the place, or the way, where we learn about ourselves and how to become a better person.

Each character in the play is facing challenges in life. If we imagine ourselves as one of the characters, what would we do? There are specific questions for each character on page 16 of the Mary Poppins’ program. We invite you to leave your in the comments below!  Continue reading

The Magic In Imagination

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by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

Mary Poppins snapped her fingers again, ready to “educate” the kids! In the world of Mary Poppins we see magic everywhere, However, how to show that magic is a crucial key for the design team. As it is the number one topic we have been talking about in the production meetings, before the show starts, I would like to give a you broad sense of how each designer has chosen to dive into this magic world.

At the beginning of the process, we created a magic moment list. This was a guide for the production team. We talked about the magical moments in other productions, movies and how these moments were done. In the meantime, the designers figured out who would be in charge of each moment. For example, we choose to let our projection effects designer, Ben Unguren, explore some images that could be done through projector, such as the instantaneous changes in the nursery and creating the colors in the park.

Costume designer, Rory Scanlon analyzed the relationship between the characters in the family and the relationship between Mary and Mr. Banks and Mary and Bert, and then looked for symbolic ways to reveal things about Mary’s character. For example, for him, Mary is the one who bring joy and light to the family. When you watch the show, see if you can you tell how that is shown through the costuming. Continue reading

The True Mary Poppins?

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

Some of you are probably already very familiar with the movie Mary Poppins, but have not watched the musical. Others may have watched the movie and the musical, but not yet read the novel. Last time, we have explored some comparisons between the three different forms of the story and talked a little bit about the characters. This week, I would like to share with you more about the character Mary Poppins in the novel and in the musical.

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In 2013, the Disney movie Saving Mr, Banks was released. It depicts the relationship between P.L. Travers and Walt Disney. It also gives the audience some background understanding of Travers’ childhood experience. It is said that her childhood experiences influenced her work on Mary Poppins, the novel, especially in how she portrays Mary Poppins.

If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that the character in the book is quite different from the movie and the musical. You may even understand why Travers was unhappy with how Mary Poppins was presented in the movie. In the novel, Mary Poppins, is portrayed as a grim, ugly old woman who denies she is magical but, at the same time, does not try to hide it. She is known by other magical creatures as “The Great Exception” because she maintained the magical abilities all children have. For example, she is capable of communicating with animals. When the children mention her magical powers, Mary Poppins denies them sternly and punishes the children when they acknowledge them.

mary7325827_origIn the movie and the musical, Mary Poppins is an elegant lady. Portrayed in a much more delightful way, Mary Poppins is always trying to uplift people and find fun in doing work. For example, she always tell the children “anything could happen if you let it.” She uses magic to clean the nursery and kitchen. She uses “a spoonful of sugar” to help the medicine go down. She sings happily with Bert. Her personality is well described in “Jolly Holiday” sang by Bert. Continue reading

Mary Poppins’ Novels, Movie And Musical

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturgimg_20161119_161303

Whenever you adapt a story from one medium to another, there are going to be changes. In the cast of Mary Poppins, taking the story in the original book to the silver screen and to the stage has resulted in too many changes to count!

A student dramaturg for a different production (Andrew Koenig) made the following chart to reveal some of the changes that have happened to the central characters. I’ve added a fourth column (BYU production) in hopes that you will think about the differences you see on our stage. After you’ve seen the show, I hope that you will come back and leave your insights in the comments below. Continue reading

Magic Moments and Mary Poppins

by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

magic [maj-ik], noun, the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc……

Magic, by definition, is a technique designed for entertainment. However, are there cases where it is more than that?

Welcome to 4th Wall, and to series about BYU’s production of Mary Poppins. I am Chang, Ting Chun, the dramaturg for this production. From now until you come to watch our show, I will be helping you to see Mary Poppins through different perspectives. I will cover some basic information about the history and story of Mary Poppins as well as bring in some information around the topic of magical moments. Hopefully, you will discover the magic of this production for yourself alone the way.

“Anything could happen if you let it” – Mary Poppins

To begin this series, I would like to give you a picture to think about.

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