Posts Tagged Ange Vesco
posted by Molly MacLagan, Literary and Dramaturgy Intern
Precious Little rehearsals started last Tuesday, and playwright Madeleine George was on hand to see her remarkable play take the first steps towards its City Theatre production. Precious Little follows gifted linguist Brodie as she receives cryptic results of a genetic test performed on her unborn child, and unexpectedly finds herself struggling to decide what to do about it. As a single woman with no romantic partner to turn to, she looks for comfort in an elderly speaker of a dying language, and an ape at the zoo that was formerly part of a language acquisition program. At the meet and greet before the first rehearsal, City Theatre staff members exchanged memories of visits to the zoo. City Theatre Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, who’s directing Precious Little, also announced that the cast and available company members would be making a field trip to the zoo. Then (after a light lunch of course) it was back to work.
Another exciting moment was the small birthday celebration held for the Assistant Stage Manager, Lauren Connolly. Check out photos of the meet and greet, design presentation, and mini-birthday party below. Check back soon for more about Precious Little.
posted by Molly MacLagan, Literary and Dramaturgy Intern
City Theatre Company’s production of Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s coming of age tale, closes on Sunday. Part of the same trilogy as City Theatre’s 2008 hit, The Brothers Size, the show follows the title character as he comes to terms with his sexuality and searches for meaning in the cryptic dreams he’s been having. Marcus’s father, Elegba, also dreamed we’re told. “I’m just confused,” Marcus says to the elderly soothsayer character, Elegua. “I mean, why my daddy dreams made you sad? What about my dreams make you get quiet.” Marcus wonders if perhaps his father’s dreams are the key to understanding his own. However, considering that Marcus lives in the fictional town of San Pere, Louisiana, whose name means “without father,” it’s no surprise that Elegba is nowhere to be found.
In spite of the angst that Marcus and his friends experience, the world the playwright has created is also one of hilarity and humor. Within moments of the play starting, Marcus’s friend Shaunta Iyun laments the heat of an August funeral in Louisiana, saying “Lord, I’m in hell and I ain’t even the one dead.” Such lines act as signposts for costumer Ange Vesco, who says of the funeral “I’m not sure any of them actually cares that Shango is dead. They’re here to be seen, and they’ll wear whatever the hell they want.” That kind of information is important in establishing character, she explains. When Shun enters the scene in her sexiest out-on-the-town getup, the audience learns something about her. She is a woman who isn’t defined by men, but also a woman who may not be the best example for her daughter, Osha. When Vesco and director Robert O’Hara discussed Shun’s character and clothing, the word “inappropriate” came up repeatedly. That’s something the costume needed to communicate clearly. “What I do is I use clothes the characters wear as a way to instantly convey information about them to the audience.”
Conveying information is a large part of what any theatrical design does. Sound designer Joe Pino says that he feels a responsibility to provide information on an intellectual level, but also on an emotional level. “Sound design is connected to the emotional life of the play, and the audience’s experience of that world,” he reflects. His job can be to create literal sounds, such as thunder, or to create an abstract sound, such as sugar. “[The story] at that moment is about the origin of the word ‘sweet.’ The words are already telling us what’s happening – the sound doesn’t need to tell us the same information again, so if it can be metaphoric it will help the audience to consider the deeper meanings and thoughts of the play instead of just illustrating the surface.”
This concept naturally carries over into costuming. The ensemble Vesco specifically created for Shua, the young man visiting from the North, was deliberately more urban than those of the other characters, and she describes the look as distinctly New York or North East. On a deeper level, though, Vesco wanted to create a look that seemed out of place when compared to the other characters’ wardrobes. She recalls “I wanted him to look like he didn’t belong. He had to put your antenna up that nothing good is going to happen with this person.”
Vesco points out that the characters in the play are larger than life. The designs support the world of the play, which is written in a highly stylized way with actors speaking directly to the audience to describe the inner life of their characters, so naturalism isn’t necessarily a part of the design process. Pino explains “The biggest challenge in a show like this is not getting too literal. Having worked with Robert before, I know he’s not really interested in literal sounds.”
Having the opportunity to return to McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays trilogy is another aspect of Marcus that both designers have enjoyed. Pino and Vesco both worked with O’Hara (and scenic designer Tony Ferrieri) on City Theatre’s production of The Brothers Size, and being reunited has been an exciting experience for both designers. Vesco says, “My favorite part about working on Marcus has been the chance to do another part of the trilogy. I think this play is so beautiful, and I really love Tarrell’s writing!” For Pino, working on another play from the trilogy presented some practical advantages, as well. “The Brothers Size was recent enough that I remember the sorts of sounds that I used for it, but far enough away that I don’t remember the specifics,” Pino muses. “So a lot of the sounds [in Marcus] are my memory of how that play sounded and how those textures would move out of the garage [where Ogun worked] and into the swamp [that surrounds San Pere].”
The sounds on that swamp in Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet are of a storm that’s looming. Pino and O’Hara recognized the importance of what Pino calls the “sensual qualities” of the play, its events, and its characters, and how those qualities inform the way the show might sound. “There’s sound under almost the entire show,” he says. “It’s subtle, but it’s there.” Pino’s designs help transform the set from place to place, discreetly providing a soundtrack for life in the projects and the world on the bayou. The transformations facilitated by the costumes are more tangible, providing the means for actors to do triple-duty, since Starla Benford and Jaime Lincoln Smith both play three characters apiece. The wigs in the show, provided by Penn Wigs, were a big help, but there are other ways to create distinctions between characters. Vesco explains that accessories such as a pair of glasses or different shoes not only create a visual difference, but provide different information about the character. Also, she says, “Luckily Jaime and Starla are both incredible actors, so my job was a little easier.”
Posted by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
Gita Reddy, who plays Nirmala in When January Feels Like Summer, and playwright Cori Thomas took some great photos at the opening night party, which they recently sent to me. I think it’s clear how much fun everyone was having, buoyed by a terrific opening night performance and a genuine and enthusiastic response from the audience. Enjoy the following opening night gallery.
by Angela M. Vesco, Costume Designer for When January Feels Like Summer
The world premiere of Cori Thomas’s When January Feels Like Summer is in the midst of previews, with the playwright, director, dramaturg, actors, designers, and crew all still hard at work refining the look and run of the show. Despite that, Ange Vesco took some time to let us know about some of the unique challenges of designing the costumes for this show. (Ange is also City Theatre’s Costume Shop Manager.)
I become obsessed with something new in every show I design. For example, with The Seafarer it was how distressed to make Richard’s suit and in Mother Teresa is Dead what kind of accessories an Indian man might wear. I have two obsessions with this show. The first is the hip hop style of matching your clothes to the color of your sneakers. Joshua Reese, Carter Redwood, and I worked very closely to determine their clothing changes. In creating the closet of clothes for Josh (Devaun), he kept steering me toward red-and-black shirts and making comments about how well they matched his red-and-black Nikes. It didn’t sink in and I kept trying colors which were not working. Finally a light bulb went on and I realized he was saying a person would buy their clothes to match their shoe color. Now, Carter’s (Jeron) colors are all in the same family of blues and greens (I futilely tried to sneak an orange T in there) but to differentiate between their characters, he doesn’t match exactly. I have since found out that guys will wear obscure sports team gear just because it might match the particular blue or orange of their shoes. The legendary Chuck D (of Public Enemy or P.E. as they are sometimes called) sported Pirates gear because of that capital “P” logo. I think it’s a sharp look. I am so fascinated by it I even found myself picking out a shirt to match the color of my shoelaces.
My other obsession, and biggest challenge, was how to transform Debargo Sanyal (Ishan/Indira) from a man to a woman in a natural, non-drag way. This experience is a first for both of us and we have been working closely together. We spent a good part of his first fitting talking about how women sit, how they stand, how to put on tights, and girly nervous gestures. We tried on a multitude of dresses, blouses, leggings, and skirts, including some of my clothes, to find the four outfits you will see on stage. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that he is often wearing a v-neck of some kind. We found this was flattering as it helps to visually draw the eye away from his broad male shoulders. Debargo was less than thrilled when I told him that meant he would have to shave his chest. It did give him a new appreciation for what women go through in the course of their everyday routine, though.
Debargo has a typical male forehead and square jaw and we needed to mitigate that as much as we could. In a separate fitting, we placed the wig on his head and my stylist gave him a haircut which frames his face and moves really naturally. When he wears the wig we found that if it sits lower than normal and we sweep some hair across the forehead, we can get a soft, pretty, feminine style. I used bracelets to make his wrists look more femme as well as a giving him a sparkly ring and necklace. Debargo has someone to assist him with his make-up, which includes two different kinds of mascara. I did teach him to do a few things for himself because he has to put on make-up on stage. His character has probably been wearing make-up for years in secret so it’s important that he look as practiced and comfortable as possible. I was positively giddy waiting for him to make his first entrance as a woman during tech. Luckily, for both of us, it went smoothly and we only had minor adjustments to do.
This show has the most costume pieces of any show I’ve ever designed and has turned out to be one of my prouder moments. I fell in love with this beautiful play during Momentum o8 [City Theatre's new play festival] and I’m so excited that we finally get to share it with the rest of the world. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. And maybe you’ll find that you, too, just can’t help matching your shirt to your shoes.
By Rachel Enck, Literary and Dramaturgy Intern
It’s been a few weeks since rehearsals began for our next play When January Feels Like Summer. Generally when I go into rehearsal, I look at it from a literary perspective. This time, I have the privilege looking at it from a design perspective as well. For When January Feels Like Summer, I’ll also be working wardrobe crew, helping actors with costume changes and maintaining the costumes through the run of the show.
The first time most of us got to see what the designers were thinking was at the first rehearsal. First the whole company answered a fun icebreaker question. This time it was, “If you could be anything else, what would it be?” Some of the answers were silly—a duck, a turtle, or a superhero, while others were more sentimental—an antique quilt handed down through generations, a grand piano, and a toddler. Mine was “a professional paid writer,” maybe not as thought-provoking, but as that’s what I went to school for, it fit and who wants to waste an education?
After that, set designer Anne Mundell revealed her set model. It was the first time most of us had seen any of the designs. She and director Chuck Patterson described needing it to be versatile, to house small scenes that have the capability to easily open up to bigger ones. Chuck wanted to allow the actors discovery room and he wanted to show the idea of being transported to these different scenes and places. Both were inspired by the idea of closing subway doors. They wanted a bunch of entrances and exits like a subway, and three scrims in the background to light up and convey mood or tone, and like always, our production team is creating a perfect life-size version of the model. At this point in time, some of the set is standing on stage, but most of it is in pieces in the shop, where the carpenters are working on getting it loaded in to the stage.
Then our costume designer, Ange Vesco, showed images she used for inspiration. They ranged from a garbage man to a post-op male-to-female Indian transsexual. She used real photos for her design research, as this is a contemporary play with realistic clothing. Most of it she’ll buy and alter to suit the play’s needs.
On the first day of rehearsal, I sat listening for the first time to playwright Cori Thomas’s words. She explained that she was sitting on the subway in New York City, and two African-American men were sitting behind her loudly talking about a woman who needed to fix her teeth. Cori told us that they were being obnoxious, using poor grammar and foul language, but on further listening, she realized how truly concerned they were for this woman, that they cared about her. Her perception changed and a play about mistaken first impressions was born.
Even sitting in just a few rehearsals and actually observing the process of a world premiere with the playwright in attendance is so educational. It’s always a study for me when I meet the playwrights—what worked for them, what should I do differently? Working somewhere that only does new plays is fantastic for a recent college graduate, especially someone who wants to be a writer, because I meet people who are excited to get their break through, and it makes me feel hopeful and encouraged. No amount of training prepares you for the real world. Some lessons I learned in school have certainly fallen by the wayside. Others remain true: always be kind and courteous, cite your sources, and fill the coffee pot if you drink the last cup.
Last week marked the beginning of rehearsals for Human Error. We were pleased to have playwright Keith Reddin join director Tracy Brigden and cast members Tasha Lawrence, Ray Anthony Thomas and Matt Walton in the rehearsal room. Costume Designer Ange Vesco and Resident Sound Engineer Liz Atkinson were also in attendence.
After Keith Reddin spoke about the genesis of the play, Ange Vesco touched on her ideas for the costumes and Tracy Brigden shared the model of Luke Cantarella’s set design. Rehearsal then began with a read-through of the play…we’re off to another great start!
Posted by Christine Pini, Artistic Assistant