Acting out

Today’s guest artist: Mariecris.

Growing up as a little girl I loved watching musicals! I hoped one day to go to New York City and see a real Broadway musical. While I lived in Boston I only made two trips to New York and did not see one play. (Sadly these trips revolved around my siblings’ search for a White Castle and my friends’ quest for high quality knock off purses.) The thing about play performances is their existence is finite. They open and they close. They start and then they end. Each interpretation of the play is unique. Each performance is different. Those who are unable to attend are left only with the glowing or damning newspaper reviews to envision the general tone and feel of a play. However, while working here in the Archives, I have made a great discovery: the Alaska Repertory Theatre, Inc. records.

The Alaska Repertory Theatre was a non-profit professional theatre company that began in 1976 and closed in 1988. It is an amazing collection that holds much of the organization’s records. My favorite part of the collection is the production books. Production books hold the records created when producing a play. In production books you can find scripts with stage directions, costume sketches, lighting plans, prop plans and inventories, rehearsal reports, and all sorts of records.

It is incredible the amount of work and thought that goes into putting a play together. Getting the behind the scenes look at producing a play helps me act out the play in my imagination. It is interesting to see how the directors’ interpretations were influenced by the issues of the time. It is even more incredible to see all the details that scene, lighting, costume designers, actors, and crew do to communicate that interpretation. Below are a few quotes taken from the1985 Twelfth Night production book that provide an inside look into play producing. Enjoy!

Production Meeting 8/17/85

“Roy stated that he has asked for a “kind of geometric limbo” in terms of what Illyria is. Superimposed on this contemporary view of a neutral kind of feel to the play. He feels that this is essentially a piece about contrasting two views; the contemporary and that which is more antique on a neutral space. Michael have added a thumb structure which will set the play in an almost surreal kind of place. Roy stated that it is not a naturalistic play and that the ideas are rooted in human emotions.”

“Orsino is an athlete who is about 35-40 and who is beginning to age a little.To keep his image of himself in good shape, he works out, and each scene that we see him in, he will be involved in some kind of athletic pursuit. He is a cliché of what we consider the masculine image. In terms of costume he will be the most “Tudorized” of all the men – an ideal view of the romantic 16th centaury “dude”.

Olivia is Orsino’s opposite in terms of sexuality. She is the epitome of femininity and she is a studied beauty.”

“At the end of the prologue, there will be a dramatic shift in the synthesized music. The lighting will shift to cold and stark with streams of light coming across the state. Shakespeare will tear down the enormous muslin banner (made probably of stage muslin) and exit through the house with the banner.Festes will then set the sun dial at 3 o’clock and will probably remain onstage. At this point, the Illyrians will enter, carrying matching briefcases … When Favian enters, he will be carrying some sort of large trunk or box (to be determined). All the movement will be done in pantomime and dance.During this scene (and prior to Viola’s entrance) there will be four or five wide pieces of blue (and possibly blue/green) fabrics (brought on by the actors) that will serve as sea waves a la Kabuki. These will also be “operated” by the actors. When Viola enters, she will be quite wet (not dangerously so, Roy Assures us).

We will need two mirrors – each time we see Orsino or Olivia, there will be someone holding a mirror for them.”

Costume meeting notes:

2. Olivia: Roy suggests 2’’ heels, wedges are OK. Important that this tall lady look ridiculously high. She wears ruffled dress through Act 1, with floor length veil….Her make-up is almost Cleopatra-like in style for Act I; winged look for the eyes. By the second act, the effect is reduced; and by the third, the makeup is natural looking. Wears wig throughout the whole show.

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