A Million Tiny Deaths – The Senior Work of Emily Rosencrantz, ‘11.5 (Acting) and Kelsey Ferguson, ‘11.5 (Directing)
Hepburn Zoo Theatre, Middlebury College, December 8-10, 2011
All photos credit Cha Tori
This was a compilation of scenes from different plays spun together to create something new. A sort of “Senior Showcase” if you will. Because of the fluidity, transparency and swiftness of the transitions between scenes, time periods, and styles, my role (and challenge) as a costume designer was to participate in the creation of an overarching aesthetic that would bind the scenes to one another and pull the audience into the world the actors occupied. Unlike designing the costumes for a well-known, single play, my work here cannot be presented or understood without some measure of explanation – independent of the totality of the audience’s experience, my choices as a designer are obscured. You, who have somehow stumbled across this page in the vastness of the internet, cannot access the sound design, nor the disorientation of entering the theatre through the backstage door — they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a play is worth millions. So take these photographs as windows into a stranger world – glimpses of my contribution to a gesamptkunstwerk – a total theatre experience in which the costumes formed the visual foundation not only of each character and setting but as a thread which connected the diverse scenes and snippets of relationships into single, entangled, emotional and atmospheric experience.
I sought an aesthetic somewhere between the minimal and the fantastic – the bare bones (in the case of the corseted women, quite literally) protruding before the audience’s eyes, swift changes made possible by the expedience of hanging costumes on trees and a Brechtian acknowledgement of the “actorness” of the actors. The characters, though distinct, begin to blur as their stories intertwine. Each actor, therefore, had a base costume and something which follows them throughout their scenes, over and under which we might layer color and texture, silhouette and accessory to shift the time, the place, the mood. Some remarked that this show might have been done with almost no costumes whatsoever, the actors all in black, or jeans and t-shirts, or something equally universalising and unremarkable. Kelsey (the director) and I felt that the evocative qualities of fantastical, period and ahistorical costumes could serve to express the non-verbal elements present in the texts with which we were dealing and better serve the production as a whole, inviting a visceral and compelling response from the audience, hinting at a visual analysis of the power structures that created the relationships we see before us. Therefore you will encounter here an effort at swift evocation of time, place and character, detailed in its way, yet striving for an accuracy of feeling and function – appropriate to the here and now of the show, rather than historical precision.
Christina Fox – at the top of the show – in base costume – ready for the audience to enter.
A sense of the atmosphere as the audience entered – a liminal space in which the actors improvised various twisted children’s games and playground dynamics before the show began. Gillian Durkee, Christina Fox.
In liminal space, Nathaniel Rothrock flies on Christo Grabowski’s back.
Nathaniel Rothrock as Pierce and Emily Rosencrantz as Maddie O’Hart in a scene from The Clearing by Helen Edmundsen
Christo Grabowski as Amadeus Mozart and Gillian Durkee as Constanze in a scene from Amadeus by Peter Shaffer.
Emily Rosencrantz as Rosie and Gillian Durkee as Jackie in a scene from My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley
Emily Rosencrantz as Queen Marie Therese and Christina Fox as her Lady Servant in the corset lacing scene from Las Meninas by Lynn Nottage
The Queen faints from tightlacing too much in the corset lacing scene from Las Meninas
Christina Fox as Dorcas (a wench), threatening a “Roman Soldier” with witchcraft in Scene 1 of Loveplay by Moira Buffini
Brian Clow as King Louis XIV in a court scene from Las Meninas
Louis listens to the sound of “his” new baby in the Queen’s womb in the court scene from Las Meninas
Nathaniel Rothrock as the Doctor inspects the Queen for signs of pregnancy in the court scene from Las Meninas
Gillian Durkee as the Queen Mother in the court scene from Las Meninas
In the transition between Las Meninas and My Mother Said I Never Should, the men undress the women and wind them up like dolls.
Emily Rosencrantz, Gillian Durkee and Christina Fox in another scene from My Mother Said I Never Should.
Christo Grabowski and Brian Clow as Saxon soldiers trying to make sense of rape in Scene 3 of Loveplay by Moira Buffini
Christina Fox as Woman “vomits” after being repeatedly violated by the saxons in Scene 3 of Loveplay
Christina Fox as Sussie the hunchback and Nathaniel Rothrock as “Herman” her twin brother in excerpts from Crossing by Reza de Wet
Christo Grabowski as Maestro and Gillian Durkee as Esmerelda enter out of a storm in excerpt from Crossing
Maestro tastes the wine in excerpt from Crossing
Esmerelda in Crossing
Maestro describes his work as a hypnotist to a protective Herman and an enchanted Sussie in excerpt from Crossing
Emily Rosenkrantz as Emma and Brian Clow as Sam in an excerpt from In A Northern Landscape by Timothy Mason
Sam comforts Emma in excerpt from In A Northern Landscape
Curtain Call: Brian Clow, Emily Rosencrantz, Christina Fox, Christo Grabowksi and Gillian Durkee