By Sarah Gubbins
Chicago Dramatists/About Face Theatre
Directed by Joanie Schultz
Set design by Chelsea Warren
Costume design by Izumi Inaba
Sound design by Miles Polaski
There are a few things to celebrate.
The least of which is not the well-deserved success of Festen at Steep Theatre. “Festen” means celebration…but this party gets a little…um…uncomfortable?…when certain things are revealed about the man being celebrated. Steep Theatre pursued this script for a long time before they landed it, and it was delightful to work with their talented ensemble, as well as to team up with director Jonathan Berry and set designer Dan Stratton again after the much-lauded Suicide, Inc. last year.
And for something completely different, I am looking forward to teaming up again with Lookingglass’s David Kersnar on two projects next season: first up is Goodnight Moon. A musical based on the book we all know and love from childhood, it will come to life at Victory Gardens with a production by Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Then in early 2012 Lookingglass and David Kersnar are back at the Chicago Symphony with a special co-production. Into the Big Green Meadow was a blast last year, so I am excited to be invited to play again.
Also in 2012 I’ll be back at Lifeline with the same wonderful team from Wuthering Heights and Mariette in Ecstasy, adapter Christina Calvit and director Elise Kauzlaric for Pride and Prejudice. Can’t wait!
By David Eldridge, based on the film and play by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov and Bo hr. Hansen
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Set design by Dan Stratton
Costume design by Janice Pytel
Sound design by Christopher Kriz
Research and renderings
Festen began its life as a story captured on film by artists using the “Dogme 95″ outline for film-making, which emphasizes naturalism and eschews any special effects of lighting or elaborate camera set-up. When playwright David Eldridge adapted the story for the London stage, he channeled that school of thought into an emphasis on gaining a gritty, uncensored look at the relationships of these twisted family characters.
In Jonathan Berry’s Steep Theatre production, the goal of the design was to ground the family in a world that feels rich, but dark; and allows scenes to move fluidly from one cold hotel room to another, before settling around the large celebration table where the secrets, lies, and accusations that mar the patriarch’s birthday take place. In lighting, that meant supporting the deliberate, spare set with a cool-to-cold color palette, sharp lines of light for figures to pass into and out of rooms, and careful use of high contrasts between highlight and shadow. Christian’s struggle with the truth is underscored by visions of his dead sister, supported with light by a mysteriously warm and shadowy look that obscures the face of his young niece and drives him deeper into confusion. Once all is laid bare, and all of his siblings are forced into a confrontation with their father, an awkward breakfast under a soft, less shadowy light suggests that from the ugly truth might arise new life.
It is a busy January.
The New Electric Ballroom opens at A Red Orchid Theatre on Tuesday, January 25th. My grad school chum (and revered Chicago director) Robin Witt directs Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s weirdo play about…well, its about loneliness and love and the safeties and dangers of locking oneself away from the outside world. Its dark and disturbing and funny. AROT Artistic director Kirsten Fitzgerald and founding ensemble member Guy Van Swearingen appear with Kate Buddeke and Laurie Larson and, man, do these kids know how to tell a story. Jessica Keuhnau designed the set, Izumi Inaba designed the costumes, and AROT ensemble member Joseph Fosco designed the sound.
Next, I am thrilled (understatement) to be back at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! I have just posted photos of Into the Big Green Meadow from November. That project was so much fun, and I am so delighted to have been invited back. Opening to an audience of school children on Friday is From the City to the Country. Guest Conductor Mei-Ann Chen leads the CSO in several selections that highlight how the sounds of the orchestra can set the scene, from the cacophony of the city to a gentle country rain. We will hear from Gershwin, Bernstein, Copland, Bach, Rossini…and a guest appearance by “Inspector Noteworthy.”
Then I take a quick walk down to the #12 Roosevelt bus and head to Provision Theatre for Shadowlands. It is my first project with Provision. They have a lovely space and it is a beautiful little love story, so I’m quite excited to get in and get started. Shadowlands is directed by Provision artisitic director Tim Gregory, with scenery by Inseung Park, and costumes by Isaac B. Turner. Previews start February 2nd, and the show runs through March 20th.
I have added production photos from Scorched at Silk Road Theatre Project. It runs through November 21, so there are still plenty of opportunities to see a truly haunting story. Its the Jeff Recommended Chicago premiere.
Into the Big Green Meadow took place at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last week to four packed audiences of delighted (and delightfully well-behaved) kids. At Symphony Hall. Which is huge and beautiful! The show was a tribute to the music of Sergei Prokofiev, featuring the childhood favorite Peter and the Wolf. I will post some production photos soon, but I will take a moment to salute the always brilliant work of Marianna Csaszar and Alison Siple. David Kersnar, my grad school chum who I haven’t worked with since his thesis project Marisol, directed the show that was co-produced with Lookingglass. And Brett Schneider brought the magic and the whole thing was…magical!
And in Old projects that are News: I will be re-designing lights for the re-mount of Wind in the Willows at City Lit this December. City Lit Artistic Director Terry McCabe will direct Doug Post’s script. Its a musical–look out for dancing Weasels and Toad!
By Wajdi Mouawad, translated by Linda Gaboriau
Silk Road Theatre Project
Directed by Dale Heinen
Set design by Tom Burch
Projection design by Mike Tutaj
Costume design by Carole Blanchard
Sound design by Peter Storms
Design process images
The design challenge of Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched is to create a space that supports a story that flows in and out of time and place, sliding backwards and forwards from the present tense to decades earlier, from North America to the Middle East, intersecting as the two adult twin siblings discover the secrets of their mother’s past. Using clues she has left behind for them, the twins travel from Montreal to Lebanon, working backwards to uncover the truth, while their mother’s story is unveiled to the audience in scenes that move forward and overlap with the twins’ journey. Tom Burch’s set evoked the bullet-ridden buildings and the hot, dry texture of the Middle East, while a large, modern, plastic-looking slab seems to have crash-landed on that environment, providing a ground zero for the present-tense, present-continent scenes. The lighting design idea was inspired by the burning-hot photography of Rebecca Guberman Bloom, contrasted with the cool contemporary interiors of photographer Doug Dubois. Tourism photos of Lebanon provided an inspiration for the romantic lavender side-lighting that underscores the love story fighting for a place in a war-torn environment.
There is a lot of music in my work at the moment.
In November, I will light a delightful collaboration between the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lookingglass Theatre. Peter and the Wolf opens at Symphony Hall on November 6th. David Kersnar is directing, Marianna Csaszar is designing our set, and Alison Siple is designing the costumes.
Also in November, I am working with Roosevelt University on a pair of operas. Joanie Schultz is directing Savitri by August Holst. Blake Montgomery is directing Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortileges. Marianna Csaszar is designing costumes, Margaret Goddard is designing the set.
And of course, the aforementioned Opera America Director-Designer showcase.
This fall I will be collaborating on a design for the Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase. The showcase is a program offered by Opera America, a national service organization for opera. Finalists in the design competition will present their design ideas to general, artistic and production directors at Opera Conference 2011 in Boston.
George Cederquist will direct our design for Marco Polo by Tan Dun. Sally Weiss will design set, Mina Hong will design costumes.