People or Projections?

by Ariel Mitchell, dramaturg

“Devised theatre is a personal stretch for me. I didn’t choose my major because I love theatre, necessarily, but I do love the creativity that devising gives to the discipline. Building a play moment by moment is challenging and at times frustrating. The creative process for some people is very individual, but this type of creativity feeds on collaboration. I suppose that is the part I like best is the push towards creative collaboration.” -Chelsey Roberts, costume designer and performance writer

One of the main goals we had for Gone Missing and The Cleverest Thief, was to incorporate new media with the traditional in a new way. So obviously costumes can’t just be costumes right?

Chelsey Roberts, our costume designer, decided that a trendy but monochromatic palate would be the way to go for actors who would have to play multiple characters in both New York and Provo. Most of the changes with be accomplished by adding accessories and changing physicality and vocal quality.

Idea for costumes

An idea for what our ensemble might look like (just the girls that is)

Most of our costumes will be pulled (meaning taken from what the costume shop has stored), but there might be a few special pieces created just for our mediated moments.

The cool thing about white jackets or skirts is that they can easily transform into a ready-made projection screen.

Here are some examples of Chelsey’s inspiration…

Projection on people

Projected shawl

projected wedding dress

So if you see a white piece of clothing… chances are it could become something incredible. I’d keep my eye on it. Things aren’t always what they seem.

“Nice customs curtsy to great kings.” Henry 5 Act 5, Scene 2

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

Brigham Young University’s Young Company production of Henry 5 will bring with it a different, but perhaps not wholly unusual cast. The title role of King Henry V is being played by Mackenzie Larsen, a pre-acting major. In fact, there are four women in the cast of seven, and only one female role in the script. All the women are playing male roles.

The cast of BYU's Henry 5.

The cast of BYU’s Young Company Production of HENRY 5.

Making a cross-gender casting choice in the title role of Henry 5 may come as a surprise to some theatre goers, but it is not without precedent. From the beginnings of professional English theatre in the 1560s to the closure of the theatres in 1642, boys were the performers of female roles in an age when it was considered unacceptable for women to act. Cross-gender casting (boys playing women) was therefore a familiar and acceptable practice, even an expectation, in Elizabethan theatre. However, women did not begin to appear on the stage in England until 1661, and when they did, they played women.

A lot has changed in the last 350 years. Casting women in male roles while reading the character’s gender as female is becoming a bit of a trend in theatre and film today. Fiona Shaw played the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard II in London in1996. While the production received initial mixed reviews (mostly because of casting Ms. Shaw as Richard), it did open up the idea that a woman could play a woman in a man’s role, rather than attempting to portray a male in the way boys portrayed females in Elizabethan theatre. For example, this idea was carried further when in 2010 Helen Mirren played Prospera in The Tempest, a decidedly female portrayal of the exiled sorcerer.

Mackenzie Larsen plays King Henry V in BYU's HENRY 5.

Mackenzie Larsen plays King Henry V in BYU’s HENRY 5.

The director of BYU’s production of Henry 5, Megan Sanborn Jones, stated that part of her decision to cast a female in the title role lay in the fact that “there are simply not enough great roles for women, particularly in Shakespeare.” She also found that she gained new insights into the role through this casting choice. It prompted a very particular way of adapting Shakespeare’s script into a 50-minute play.

When Mackenzie Larsen learned that the title role would be played by a female, she was excited. “I loved the idea of having a female put in such a position of power.” As she became more familiar with the script she found that some of the lines are about “manning up and being like a King.” Larsen states, “The way these lines read with a woman as Henry gives them new meaning and gives the audience new perspective. The factor of being a woman and trying to prove yourself to a bunch of men makes Henry’s story that much more inspiring.”

Larsen says she has found that one of the challenges in taking on this role has been actually playing Henry as a girl. But she has found that once she stopped worrying so much about making the part fit the way people expect it to be, and just allows herself to be in the moment, she overcomes those concerns. She says, “Being present is powerful enough.”

BYU’s Henry 5 opens February 6th and runs through February 16th. Tickets are on sale now.

A Wrinkle In Time: An Introduction

by Patrick Hayes, dramaturg

Hello 4th Wall Readers!

My name is Patrick Hayes and I am the Dramaturg for BYU’s upcoming production of A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Rodger Sorensen. I am very excited for the upcoming production. We have a fabulous cast of actors and an excellent production crew that will be onboard to assure that this production’s version of AWIT is one of the best ever produced.

As this is my first venture into social media production blogging I will attempt, with each posting, to leave little snippets of ideas, actor interviews, script excerpts, photos, or other material that will help you, the reader, in gaining an insightful knowledge and picture of the production at hand.

With each post I will also try and post quotes from the script. I feel this will be a fun way to connect to the script / performance.

Let me tell you a few things that make this production so special:

1). We have a brand new script! Professor Sorenson and our playwright (Kate Forsythe) have been working on an adaptation of the book for the last three months.

2). A concept of audience interaction with the actors on stage that drives the principle story on stage.

3).  An object oriented performance where found objects drive some of the action / interaction.

Until next time! I leave you with a quote from the script.

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Nailing Down the Script (otherwise known as killing babies)

by Ariel Mitchell, dramaturg

Over the course of devising, we have become very attached to certain ideas, interviews and moments. Some of these include a couple who posted a plea on Craigslist for their missing Chihuahua, while warning potential finders not to touch him, or a guy we met at the BYU Creamery on 9th who enthusiastically relayed his story of his lost water bottle (which we then turned into an epic rap battle).

We are fond of these moments and people we have come to know and love.

But, unfortunately, we have too many wonderful moments to fit into our 30-35 minute play.

That means one thing… It’s time to kill our babies.

As a class we sat down and listed all of the moments we liked. Then we looked at out main organizing principle, or theme, we want to pursue: how do we deal with loss? Looking back at our moments, we threw out the ones that didn’t explore this concept: stories about things people had lost rather than how they dealt with the loss itself. Unfortunately, that means that the water bottle rap battle didn’t make the cut.

This list of moments will be given to the writers and they will work out the nitty-gritty details of transitions and the creation of a cohesive whole.

Although these cherished moments have been cut from the script, they will live forever in our hearts.

And maybe on youtube. 🙂

 

A Director’s Vision: Stephanie Breinholt Imagines Sevant of Two Masters

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see a Stephanie Breinholt show at BYU, then you know that she loves to take classical texts and bring them to life with big, bold choices.  Her upcoming production of The Servant of Two Masters is no different.

One of Stephanie’s favorite classical texts, Servant is full of crazy characters, zany antics and extreme situations.  Stephanie wants to emphasize the cartoon aspects of the script, creating a modern interpretation that is bright, colorful and hilarious.

In Stephanie’s original pitch for the show, she described the following:

“I would like the piece to feel like a 3-D version of a cartoon…The feel of the show that I’m currently looking for can best be described through the following clip from Strictly Ballroom:

The elements that strike me about the clip are broad strokes of character that are matched in design elements, extreme non-realistic lighting when appropriate, larger than life costume and makeup choices and movement, and the theatricality of the environment.”

As you can imagine, the design team is pretty excited about this.  Check back to see how they are using Stephanie’s vision to create our crazy comical Servant world.

Design Insights-Holiday Costume Concept

by Mallory Mckey, Co-Costume Designer

In the early stages of my design work as I was finding images and researching—I was trying to think of some way each character was connected. I was also trying to find my color palette. I’m a visual person and I love seeing color and texture.  I was thinking about gold and silver a lot for some of the characters, and then I realized that was the connecting piece. Gold, silver, and money!  Once I hit on that idea, there was no stopping me.  I immediately started looking up pictures of money and specific bills and coins.  The more I looked, the more I could visualize the characters and who they were.  Everything was clicking into place in my head.

I read the script again with the idea of each person representing a specific type of money.  How they presented themselves, how they saw the world, and how they related with people all made sense.  Now it was my job to show that in the clothes.  From the money, I got my color palettes for people, and from my research started my designs.  It’s not completely obvious, and people might not even see it at all.  But, through my perspective, each piece, accessory, and style was designed with this in mind.

Below you will find images that inspired the design for the Seton household.


A Playwright’s Perspective: Creating a World

by Ariel Mitchell, playwright

I’m not a playwright who really pictures things. If you asked me about any of my characters, I would be able to tell you all about what they think, who they are, and how they sound, but ask me what their hair color is and I stare at you like you have three heads. I am one of those people who will read a book and picture the characters as faceless blobs until the movie comes out to tell me what they look like. It’s terrible, I know. Especially when it came to casting. I’m just glad I didn’t have to make the final decision.

I find that this attribute is actually a talent in some ways. For example, because I didn’t have a specific image of each character, it didn’t break my heart when the director’s, dramaturg’s, and stage manager’s opinion on who should play a part all differed with mine. I just figured they knew what they were talking about and I trusted their judgment.

It also came in handy when director George Nelson approached me with the idea to set the play on a turntable. A turntable?! Usually world premieres are fairly true to script and not very conceptual, so when the idea of a turntable was mentioned… well, to say I was surprised would be an understatement. But I nodded my head and urged George to pursue his vision for the piece.

And it is fantastic.

The ideas that each member of the cast and crew have contributed make the words come to life. They create the world. And although I may not see where everything is headed or I may hear the characters deliver a line differently in my head, I love what this team has done with the script they were given.

I look forward to seeing what the next production will be like.