Changing Perspectives

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? 

Set designer Anne Mundell gives her presentation.

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. 

It took 12,636 "tiles" to make the back wall.

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.

Costume designer, Ange Vesco's favorite piece of research.

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.

The electrics crew works on the stage lights (L) while the shop carpenters hang a tiled subway wall onstage (R).

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.

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