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The Curious Tech of the Watson Intelligence

When I was able to catch The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence at Park Square and I was struck by not just the themes of technological fluidity in our history, but how the show itself was able to convey those big ideas through the technical design. Lights, sounds and especially the costumes all worked together to thread a connection between the late 19th century and the new millennium. As technology is the main concept being driven home here, and specifically it’s relationship to humanity (i.e. personalities, communication, companionship) it was impressive to see how the tech elements of this show interacted with the humans on stage and in the seats. 

Beginning the show, the lights and sounds offer a feast for the senses, and then each scene transition proving to be just as entertaining as the action of the play. In fact, the show begins with a sound montage of various phone sounds such as historical voice recording messages and that ubiquitous “ding a ding a ding a ding” of the modern iPhone. In the dark of the house I listed to the laughs of nostalgia and recognition. Hand-in-hand with the audio landscape were the lights that portrayed shadows of turning gears, conjuring thoughts of a bygone industrial age. The coolest thing about the lights, I must say, were also during the transitions and those were the silhouettes of a man who may-or-may-not be Sherlock Holmes, forever calling on his blundering assistant, Watson. I could tell this was actor, Adam Whisner, back lit behind a screen and the effect was pretty captivating.

The backstage "Steampunk Fairies" of Sam Diekman and Rachel Lantow, get to join in on the fun with their own costumes.

The backstage “Steampunk Fairies” of Sam Diekman and Rachel Lantow, get to join in on the fun with their own costumes. Photo by Connie Shaver

 

Whenever the stage wasn’t shrouded in shadowy mechanics and abuzz with the sounds of telecommunications, we had the actors on stage to engage us in the story. Aiding them (and connecting the past to the present) were the costumes that invoked the imagery of steampunk. That is, the anachronistic blending of modern styles with the Victorian era. How fun it was to see ruffled shirts, ascots and waistcoats set against the backdrop of a modern apartment! This of course, was for the dramatic effect of being able to seamlessly transition from one century to the next. Making the transitions all the more imperceptible was the fact that rather than changing garb completely, the actors would layer their clothes how they needed. For example, the actor Kathryn Fumie started off in a nice, standard set of jeans, knee-high boots and a long-sleeved shirt/skirt. Well, over the course of the show I watched this base layer get both stripped away to the underwear and elaborated on with a wonderfully Victorian dress and hat. The boots were a great design idea because I realized they’re a fashion element that has always looked good!

Check out this more in-depth summary of steampunk, but knowing even a little is enough to enjoy the rich ideas offered up by the designers and my goodness, I almost forgot to mention the actual set of the play! Like boots, brick walls have been a staple of design for centuries and so it works here to reflect both time periods. Cleverly we know it’s the present day by the addition of a neon sign or fiber-optic paneling. Simply take them away and voila! You’re in 1876 before you can even say “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence”.

A great look at a scene that takes place in the 1920s. Just one of several time periods invoked throughout the play.

This play, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, is certainly a well-rounded play in terms of acting, directing and design. Owing to the technological themes of the script, however, warranted a blog solely dedicated to such aspects as applied to the show. Hopefully when you see it for yourself you can keep what I’ve said in mind, and find your own appreciation for the sensual feast you’re to encounter. 

 

TEST: Costumes 102: After the Show

TEST: Costumes 102: After the Show

In a previous blog, “Costumes 101: Before and During the Show,” Production Manager Megan West revealed how costumes are created or acquired and handled before and during the show.  But what happens to them after the play is over?

Park Square Theatre has minimal space for costume storage, and outside storage is expensive so very little is kept after a play is done.  Rented items are returned, actors may purchase costumes, and leftovers are donated.  Only very specific items that may be reused, such as Nero Wolfe’s yellow pajamas, and common stock that are often needed, such as white dress shirts, tailcoats, some shoes, wig heads and petticoats (great to wear during rehearsals if actors need to get used to the motion of full skirts), are stored.  During the summer, West goes through the labeled and well-organized bins again to look for overstock that can go.  Her rule for shoes:  If the lid no longer fits on the bin, then get rid of something.

     Costumes in Storage           Costumes Storage

Costumes in Storage

 The exception to the “toss rule” has been a collection of at least a dozen boxes of vintage wear by deceased costume designer Jack Edwards, whose career spanned over 50 years, taking him from Broadway to the Guthrie Theater.  Restoration cost for these handmade and sometimes fragile items would be costly, but thus far no person or organization has been interested in taking them as a donation to archive or use for educational purposes.  Every item in each box has been catalogued (numbered, photographed, and indexed).

Megan West with dress by designer Jack Edwards

Megan West with dress by designer Jack Edwards

The costume storage area is kept as orderly as possible with everything in its place, ready to be used for yet another show.

 

Costumes 102: After the Show

In a previous blog, “Costumes 101: Before and During the Show,” Production Manager Megan West revealed how costumes are created or acquired and handled before and during the show.  But what happens to them after the play is over?

Park Square Theatre has minimal space for costume storage, and outside storage is expensive so very little is kept after a play is done.  Rented items are returned, actors may purchase costumes, and leftovers are donated.  Only very specific items that may be reused, such as Nero Wolfe’s yellow pajamas, and common stock that are often needed, such as white dress shirts, tailcoats, some shoes, wig heads and petticoats (great to wear during rehearsals if actors need to get used to the motion of full skirts), are stored.  During the summer, West goes through the labeled and well-organized bins again to look for overstock that can go.  Her rule for shoes:  If the lid no longer fits on the bin, then get rid of something.

     Costumes in Storage           Costumes Storage

Costumes in Storage

 The exception to the “toss rule” has been a collection of at least a dozen boxes of vintage wear by deceased costume designer Jack Edwards, whose career spanned over 50 years, taking him from Broadway to the Guthrie Theater.  Restoration cost for these handmade and sometimes fragile items would be costly, but thus far no person or organization has been interested in taking them as a donation to archive or use for educational purposes.  Every item in each box has been catalogued (numbered, photographed, and indexed).

Megan West with dress by designer Jack Edwards

Megan West with dress by designer Jack Edwards

The costume storage area is kept as orderly as possible with everything in its place, ready to be used for yet another show.

 

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