Posts Tagged Cori Thomas
posted by Rachel Enck, Literary and Dramaturgy Intern
Playwright Cori Thomas, author of When January Feels Like Summer, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Sharon Eberson a story that proves it is a small world–especially in the theatre. Check it out here.
posted by Rachel Enck, Literary and Dramaturgy Intern
That’s what playwright Cori Thomas told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Sharon Eberson she felt about coming back to City Theatre to premiere her play When January Feels Like Summer. Read Cori’s entire interview with Eberson here.
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.