DSF’s Producing Artistic Director David Stradley will be directing this summer’s THE COMEDY OF ERRORS. He’s writing a blog entry each month to let DSF’s fans into the creative process behind the production.
In the cult classic mockumentary Waiting for Guffman, Parker Posey issues the immortal line, “It’s the day of the show y’all” before the community theatre performance of Red, White, and Blaine. Well, we’re not quit at that stage with The Comedy of Errors. But as a director, I’ve had another phrase going through my head, “It’s getting real, y’all.”
I spent the fall and the winter alone with the script and my thoughts. Now other people are starting to show up! When I last wrote, I had just come out of the first stage of auditions. Well, now our professional actors are cast and I can imagine just who is going to be playing all of these wonderful roles. (We’ll announce casting in a few months – every once in a while actors leave the cast for other projects, so we hold off on announcing until closer to the summer.) Now, when I read the script I hear the voices of the actors and it starts to inform in a very practical way my sense of the characters. DSF actors work with a multitude of other companies in the Philadelphia area. If I cast actors I haven’t worked with before, I’ll try to go see other shows they are doing so I can learn more about their tendencies as actors. I’ve got a long list of shows I want to see this spring!
I’ve also been engaged in creative discussions with our design team – another step in the process that makes things very much real! What comes out of those discussions will directly lead to what you will be staring at in three dimensions when you show up at Rockwood this summer. A lot of the discussion revolves around the idea of the “world of the play.” And this most directly impacts the costume design.
This whole idea of “world of the play” is something Shakespeare never really worried about. Out best guesses are that Shakespeare’s actors pretty much always wore Elizabethan garments – clothes that were modern in that time. Yet very few of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Elizabethan England. His actors wore the clothes they had, or that were given to them by their patrons, or that they bought from servants who had been left expensive clothes in their masters’ wills, and mainly focused on communicating differences in social status (perhaps for plays set in ancient Greece or Rome they would put a toga over their regular clothes).
I tend to shy away from costuming our actors in Elizabethan garments. For one thing, they are hot!!! But I feel it also tends to put a degree of separation between the audience and the characters – oh, those people aren’t like me they are in those old clothes! At the same time, I also tend to shy away from completely contemporary costumes. A lot of Shakespeare’s plays just don’t make sense in a contemporary context (Hey Romeo, why didn’t you just text Juliet and ask her what was going on?). I frequently ask costume designers for their help in creating “a world” that contributes to the overall emotional experience I’m hoping the audience will have with our productions.
For The Comedy of Errors, I’ve asked our talented costume designer Sarah Mitchell to help create the weird and wonderful atmosphere of Ephesus – a place of unexpected beauty and swirling color. Ephesus is in modern day Turkey. So, we looked at historic Turkish garments. But in a search for looks defined by intriguing lines and bold color, I stumbled upon the work of fashion designer Issey Miyake. We both responded very strongly to his work. Sarah is starting to pursue “a direction that is not strictly contemporary, but lends itself to bright colors and interesting silhouettes – with splashes of Turkish flair.” Our lighting design will hopefully feature colorful lanterns, and I can see Sarah’s costumes as bringing a human dimension of color to the stage, complimenting the lanterns hanging above.
So, these are the step we are currently taking towards “making it real.” It’s a very exciting time as many other wonderful creative minds start to contribute to the vision that will shape this summer’s production.