Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Poster is Revealed...

The poster art process for Nickleby started by meeting with the directors, Joe and Tom back in July. This is much earlier than we typically discuss artwork - but of course Nickleby isn't a typical show. In our initial meeting many themes were discussed including the people of Nicholas Nickleby, the locations, hope, loss, family, the Victorian era, the grand scale of this production, etc. We batted around dozens of ideas, going in many different directions, leading me to an interesting research process. 

Trying to capture some of the ideas Joe and Tom expressed, I researched random elements from street lights to brick walls to Victorian portraits. You can see a portion of the dozens of images below. With tons of collaboration, especially with Joe (who happens to be in the building), we finally landed on the concept of an old Victorian theatrical playbill. Because Nicholas Nickleby is a once-in-a-generation theatrical experience, we thought it important to emphasize the grand scale of the event, rather than narrowly trying to focus on one of its many important themes. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And Back on the Set

McKay Coble's set model is now complete. She's painted it and even included figures just for fun (or for scale). Either way, her attention to detail in this model is staggering to me, a lowly graphic designer. On the day I went in to shoot these photos, it took much longer than planned because I couldn't stop staring at the thing. Everywhere I looked there was something else amazing to see. Can't wait to see this actually built!

The parquay is actually painted onto the floor. The metal grates are highlighted and shaded to show age. It's amazing. 

I believe these figures are actually from Amadeus, and being recycled here. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Milliners Return!

When working in a specific period, I often do method research into millinery techniques of the time in question. In our costume library, we have texts from throughout history on how various articles of clothing were made in earlier eras. Granted, we don't follow those to the letter, rather we use them as guides for how to position seams or incorporate understructure to create particular period garment shapes, but within the demands of a performance. (For example, though an 18th century aristocrat might have been sewn into her dress each day, a modern actress might have a quick change, so we incorporate rigging to accommodate that.)

For Nicholas Nickleby, because a large section of the action takes place in a millinery shop, I also researched milliners of the time out of curiosity. What was it like do my job back then? Boy, was I surprised by what I discovered!

The 19th century was an interesting time in fashion, with the rise of what we now call haute couture--Charles Worth had established his fashion house in Paris to great renown, but yet it was also still considered shocking and downright immoral for men to involve themselves in the creation of women's attire. Charles Dickens himself even expressed this sentiment in his 1863 periodical, "All the Year Round," thus:

"Would you believe that, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, there are bearded milliners--man-milliners, authentic men, like Zouaves--who, with their solid fingers, take the exact dimensions of the highest titled women in Paris--robe them, unrobe them, and make them turn backward and forward before them?"

The prurient presumptions of the public surrounding the gender-integration of the millinery trade were not without foundation, too. Milliners' assistants were often poorly compensated for their work, yet spent their days in a richly decorated salon surrounded by beautiful garments, opulent accessories, and wealthy customers. Many women, tempted to live beyond their means, supplemented their milliner's wages with prostitution. The milliner of easy virtue was such a cliché that she often popped up in plays and novels of the period, and in fact, London's upscale millinery thoroughfare, Burlington Arcade, doubled as a red-light district in the late afternoons.

So, when Kate Nickleby is sent off to work at Madame Mantalini's shop amongst man-milliners like the predatory Mssr. Mantalini, no wonder she is less than thrilled. Sure, making hats all day might be a fascinating and creative trade, but at the time, she might well have been shipped off to a brothel in the eyes of "polite" society!

Trying to put it in a modern context, I think, ok, you've got this sheltered, naive girl whose father has passed away leaving her family penniless, her beloved brother is packed off to a teaching job in another part of the country, and her uncle comes to her and basically says, "Look Kate, I've found you a great job, where a young beautiful girl like you can use your many creative talents and earn a good wage to help support your family at this very reputable Strip-O-Gram company." And, you know, bravo to Kate, in that she chins up and gives millinery her best shot despite what people say and think about the trade, but no wonder she's so shellshocked and timid about it! 

Image above: Engraving of Burlington Arcade (den of iniquity and purveyors of fine hats), Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1827 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

AND NOW... -A Nicholas for Nicholas Nickleby!

We had to interrupt our regularly scheduled blog this week for an exciting announcement. The role of Nicholas Nickleby has been cast! We are thrilled to announce that JUSTIN ADAMS, last seen at PRC as Mercutio, will return to perform in the title role. 

Of his performance in PRC's Romeo and Juliet, The Independent Weekly's Kate Dobbs Ariail had this to say:

"Mercutio may be the best role in the play, and Justin Adams displays greater intelligence and humor than you often see and an unexpected delicacy. He swaggers cheerfully in his snug red pants; his barbs and challenges could be jokes."

For the complete Indy article about Romeo & Juliet, click here:

While we are still pending the most updated bio from Justin (the agreement was literally settled on Monday), here is the latest one I found online. This is taken from the Alliance's production of Eurydice last year. Additionally, here's a photo of Justin from that show along with the show's title actress, Melinda Helfrich. The photo is by Greg Mooney.

New York credits include Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Petruchio in Love, Shakespeare with the Acting Company; Edward IV in Her Majesty the King (World Premiere) at HERE Studios; The Boy in The Municipal Abbatoir (NYC Premiere) at 13th St. Rep.; and Merlin in The Knight in Rusty Armor with the NYU Tisch Freeplays. He most recently was seen as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at PlayMakers Repertory Theatre. Other regionalcredits: Ethan in the World Premiere of Jesus Hates Me at the Denver Center; Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream and James in The Miracle Worker with Texas Shakespeare Festival (in conjunction with Peking University). Film credits include: Independence: Beyond What She Expects, Babylion Productions; ASAS: Anatomy of Socially Awkward Situations, Arclab Productions; and Radio Cape Cod, Asilver Productions (upcoming). Justin is a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.