By Haley Flanders, dramaturg
(While the BYU production is closed, The Fisherman and His Wife is still busy touring at local elementary schools. There will also be two FREE performances at the Provo and Orem libraries. Details below)
One of the most captivating elements of this production of The Fisherman and His Wife is the brilliant way the fairytale characters come to life onstage through movement, costume, and masks. While the play’s plot is quite simple and repetitive, the hour-long performance remains engaging due to the physical elements, both in the actors’ movement and their appearance.
On Sept. 29, the production team presented their work to the TMA 160 (Theatre Production 1) class. Here are some highlights:
Director Néstor Bravo Goldsmith desired the show to look like scenery in motion: the dramatic movement of the characters, the flowing design of the sea creatures’ tie-dyed costumes, the audience pantomiming the waves, the fisherman’s cape during blowing during the thunderstorm, etc. It was also important to him that the show remain entertaining and surprising at each turn. Many things were added to the script, yet others were removed. For example…
Néstor created the character of the seahorse, played by Emma Truax. His reasoning: since the flounder is a prince…he needs a horse, of course! It also helped create variety and visual interest as the fisherman visits the seashore 5 different times. A pink extension braid was added to the actress’s hair so that it would sway like a horse tail. Even though she was a mute character, she made many sassy horse sounds throughout the show!
The seahorse was also made the deliverer of the many wishes that the flounder granted for Isabel. Each time a wish came true, a small replica of the wish, such as a crown, would appear in a conch shell at the front of the stage. The flounder would take out the replica and place it in the seahorse’s coral-shaped backpack. She would then bring it to the fisherman’s home. Then the transformation occurred, both the house…and Isabel!
Another way to create scenery in motion was through the flounder’s headpiece. Ross Wilcox mastered the fluid movement of a fish both in and out of water, but his headpiece also had to move like a fish. Designer Donnette Perkins (who also designed the seahorse) made the headpiece out of 3 pieces, then hinged them together, so they could sway back and forth.
This helped make Ross’s performance of a sea creature all the more convincing and engaging to watch. The headpiece was designed after the famous painting “Jonah,” by James C. Christensen, former BYU art professor, and host of the Homecoming Spectacular this past weekend. Click here to see the “Jonah” painting.
As for the face, the makeup designers (Valeri Day and Michaela Fordham) made different half-masks for the fisherman and Isabel to wear after the granting of her wishes. Since she gets greedier each time, Isabel’s face was meant to slowly change into a pig (She “hogs” everything; get it?) Her eyebrows would also change to become more villainous. The fisherman’s nose and eyebrows would change, too, to show that she has control over his appearance.
For the actual production, the eyebrows were used, but the pig nose was removed; it made Isabel not look as intimidating, according to pre-show audiences. Instead, Lizzie Mickelsen wore a pixy-shaped nose to make Isabel appear stuck-up and selfish. She also makes the fisherman wear the mask with the large nose and eyebrows, so that he looks royal, just like her. His sharply negative reaction to the masks on both their faces truly heightened the tension to the play and the change to their relationship. It took trial and error to make sure these design elements aided to the mood and message of the play, rather than being a distraction. In the end…less is more, just like the play teaches us.
*I will post pictures from the FREE library performances! I hope to see you there!
MONDAY NOV 3rd, 7:00 pm at the Provo Library (550 N University Ave, Provo, UT 84601)
MONDAY NOV 10th, 7:00 pm at the Orem Library (58 N State St, Orem, UT 84057)