Friday, November 21, 2014

Becoming the Witch in Into the Woods

By Lisa Brescia, The Witch, Into the Woods


After appearing as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at PlayMakers, I was eager to return to work with Joe Haj again, as he is one of the finest directors I’ve ever worked with. When he invited me to come back and play the Witch in Into the Woods, I felt excited to collaborate with him again.

Photo by Jenny Graham
The chance to play two sides of the same character was very intriguing to me. Before her transformation in Into the Woods (spoiler alert here), the Witch is a decrepit, old crone with supernatural powers who was robbed of her youth and beauty due to someone else’s deceit and thievery. Like all fairy tale characters, she has a wish. She longs for her former body back, and sets in motion the plot which can grant her wish. But, like all wishes which come true, these things can sometimes backfire. Sondheim and Lapine have written a brilliant show which asks the question: is there really “happily ever after?” And at what cost?

Photo by Jon Gardiner
The costume and mask/wig designers deserve a standing ovation for their work on the Witch (along with every other character in the show). Looking at my reflection before making my first entrance in Into the Woods, I no longer see Lisa at all…the image looking back at me makes me laugh, and breaks my heart, which is exactly where I like to live most as an artist.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Working with Puppets

By Donovan Zimmerman, Puppeteer, Into the Woods

 
Here is Milky White at my studio in Saxapahaw in early stages. I started with the sculpting of the head over a clay mold then papier mache’. While the mache’ dried I wove reeds into a body shape to later be wrapped in cloth.

I wanted to make her look under fed and somewhat woebegone so I made rib and hip shapes more pronounced.


Later, I added eyelashes, paint and other details to bring Milky to life.

This is the Chicken that lays the golden egg nearing completion at my studio.The body is a a stuffed cloth shape then covered in feathers. The head is newspaper and tape with cloth attached to a stick which the Jack controls. The beak is made of leather and the eye is glass to give it a reflective quality. It later got a pupil to help it look more life like as well.

The crows came together from pieces shown here. Head, wings, feet all made separately then attached with a mixture of sewing and gluing. This is a view of the slightly chaotic and very messy business o puppet making.

Donovan working with the Black Bird Puppet


To see more of Donovan's work, check out Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers thru December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PlayMakers adds Nov. 29 performance of ‘Into the Woods’

Photo by Jon Gardiner
PlayMakers Repertory Company announces that due to popular demand the theater has added a holiday performance to the schedule of its hit productionInto the Woods.” The Thanksgiving Weekend performance will be on Saturday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The Stephen Sondheim musical has received audience and critical acclaim calling the PlayMakers’ production “oh-so-right” “outshines the original” (The News & Observer), “fantastical, fabulous and foreboding fun” (Triangle Arts & Entertainment), “a wonder” (The Daily Tar Heel) and “in a word, enchanting” (The Five Points Star). 

Into the Woods is a multiple Tony Award-winning musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The show was originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

Beginning with a childless couple, a witch and a curse, Into the Woods reveals the shadow side of classic fairytales by the Brothers Grimm in a funny and poignant exploration of the wishes we make, and what happens when they really do come true.

Producing Artistic Director Joseph Haj directs. He has directed some of PlayMakers’ most popular entertainments including musicals Cabaret andBig River.”

Into the Woods is presented through Dec. 7 in rotating repertory with William Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Tickets are still available to both shows individually or as part of PlayMakers’ 2014/15 subscription packages. For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call the PlayMakers Box Office at (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org.

Performances are in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Department for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road, Chapel Hill. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vegetation Creation for the Witch in "Into the Woods": Part 2

By Rachel E. Pollock, Costume Crafts Artisan, PlayMakers Repertory Company

Today I'm talking about vegetation, part two! Recall from my last post that we're working on Into the Woods, and that our Witch's first look is quite vegetable-covered, which has meant a lot of fascinating craft projects for me and my two colleagues on Team Witch, Denise Chukhina and Sam Kate Toney.
 


For reference, the design rendering by designer Bill Brewer. Note the beans and the fiddleheads on her!

Here's a close-up research image of the type of fern we're trying to replicate for the costume.



Sam Kate took millinery wire and various silk flowers which might be made to look like the fiddlehead. She zigged the wire down the center of the leaves...


...and then spiraled them up! Each fiddlehead has a triangular wire base so that we can stitch it to the gown and control its orientation with respect to the silhouette of the costume.

And here's our pile of magic beans! These are just segments of Mardi Gras parade throws, merrowed up into bits of synthetic fabric and blasted with a heat gun to shrivel them up all natural-looking.
 

To hear more from Rachel, check out her blog labricoleuse.livejournal.com

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers thru December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vegetation Creation for the Witch in "Into the Woods": Part 1

By Rachel E. Pollock, Costume Crafts Artisan, PlayMakers Repertory Company
 

Rachel E. Pollock
We're currently in production on our repertory shows this year, Into the Woods and Midsummer Night's Dream. Today, I've got a behind-the-scene peek into one of the many cool special effects we're doing in the costume crafts world to create these two huge, magical shows.

Our costume designer for Into the Woods is Bill Brewer, of UNC-School of the Arts. I've been aware of Bill's work for years and met him many times at conferences and symposia, but we'd never worked together. Really excited to have the chance on this great show!

For his concept of the Witch's first costume, he envisioned a dress covered with actual vegetation from her garden, in which Jack's magic beans grow.


Costume design rendering by Bill Brewer

See those cabbages and twigs? That's what today's entry is about! Basically, we're casting them in latex.




Here you see draper and craftsperson Denise Dietrich working on casts of several leaves. Our makeup designer, Caitlin Molloy, cast three actual leaves for us--a collard and two cabbages! We tint the liquid latex with acrylic paints, brush it into the molds in layers. We put in a layer of tulle for stability between coats 3 and 4, and when we peel them out, they look like real vegetable leaves! Then Denise can place them on the garment.

 A collard cast ready for demolding. See the rectangle of white tulle in it?


We're also making the twiggy trim along her skirt hem from latex. We paint it out in layers onto these ceramic tiles, then roll it up around strips of muslin into sticklike forms like you see above.

Pretty cool, eh?
 

To hear more from Rachel, check out her blog labricoleuse.livejournal.com

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers thru December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bill Brewer's Sketches for "Into the Woods"

Here are a few more of Bill's sketches for Into the Woods.

The Baker's Wife
Cinderella
The Baker's Wife
Beautiful Witch
Cinderella
Mysterious Man
Stepmother
Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers thru December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bill Brewer on Designing Costumes for "Into the Woods"

By Bill Brewer, Costume Designer, Into the Woods 

We all know the fairytales we grew up with. Cinderella and Prince Charming, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Sondheim and Lapine have challenged everything we think we know about these fairytales. Into The Woods gives us a happily ever after that isn’t. I wanted to find a way for the characters to move beyond their iconography and become relatable as human beings.

The Wolf
I grew up with these tales during the 1950’s, an idyllic respite in the American story. It was a time between wars and a time when the American Dream reigned supreme. Everyone wanted the perfect life and family; a fairytale existence was yours for the taking if you worked hard and lived right. However history tells us that idealism was short lived. 

The Witch
Viewing the characters through a 1950’s lens allows us a relationship not offered with the removed “once upon a time” approach. In my mind, the woods represent the world; it can be a scary place once we leave the safety of our homes. The world can also be full of adventure! But adventure involves risk and the potential of life altering events. Once we experience the world our lives may never be the same but it is a risk most of us are willing to take.

Red Riding Hood
Want to see more of Bill's sketches? Check back in later this week!

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers thru December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Scenic Design for the Rep

Marion Williams at work. Photo by Laura Pates.
Marion Williams is the scenic designer for Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She was last at PlayMakers for Cabaret, when she brought 1930's Berlin and The Kit Kat Klub to life. For the Rep, Marion was tasked with creating designs that captured director Joe Haj's vision for Into the Woods and director Shana Cooper's vision for A Midsummer Night's Dream. These have been brought together in designs that mix forest and library, and will captures the sense of imagination that permeates these productions.

Here are a few of Marion's design models for the Rep:




Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers November 1 - December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Introducing Shana Cooper

Shana Cooper
Shana Cooper makes her PlayMakers' directorial debut with 
A Midsummer Night's Dream. She brings a wealth of Shakespeare directorial experience with credits including Romeo and Juliet at Yale Repertory Theatre, Love’s Labor’s Lost at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Taming of the Shrew at California Shakespeare Theater, and Richard III at the Yale School of Drama.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shana’s favorites, being the first play she ever directed. She recently created an “audacious” production of Midsummer for Berkeley’s California Shakespeare Theater. Shana says she’s especially drawn to Midsummer because of Shakespeare’s exploration of the metaphysical in the play; how he portrays the human world as the surface of an unseen world that affects and sometimes overrules human actions. She feels the unseen world, the world of the fairies and the dream, seems like the unconscious. Shana explains that one of the challenges of staging Midsummer is establishing differentiation between dream and reality. She says she loves that imagination itself is the very foundation of the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers November 1 - December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creating Lighting Designs

By Josh Epstein, lighting designer, Into the Woods and A Midsummer Nights Dream
Josh Epstein
Theater design of all types often begins by thinking about metaphors. As designers we try to get to the heart of what the playwright is saying and find a visual way to enhance or clarify that message. Sometimes it is about establishing a grounded, “real” place to set the play in and sometimes it is about creating an abstraction. When you are working on two plays at once there is an additional challenge of trying to find the commonalities between two completely separate works to create some sort of through-line between the two: from Shakespeare to Sondheim and back again. In the case of both of these plays the most obvious commonality is the woods. As a designer I have spent a lot of time thinking 

Working on the lighting for the Rep. Photo by Laura Pates.
about how these woods should feel for the actors and the audience. And in the end I came to the realization that it is less about literal trees and bushes and more about the idea of journey. And from a lighting point of view that meant finding a way to evolve the space and embrace the exploration without grounding the location too specifically. I have tried to create an environment where we can evolve from a starting point where there the lighting reveals everything and has a sense of solidity and architecture to a world that is full of shadow and texture. The characters adventure from what feels like a world with a clear and steady footing to a place that hides mysteries and the unknown and they emerge on the other side. I hope the audience joins them as they discover and relate to the journey for themselves.

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night's Dream at PlayMakers November 1 - December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.