Tickets: 651.291.7005

Posts Tagged Doug Scholz-Carlson

How To Dress A Pirate (and Other Zany Characters)

Park Square Theatre‘s adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance by Doug Scholz-Carlson has Gilbert and Sullivan on a steamer, heading to New York for its opening. But–oops!–they’ve left the score in London! Forced to recreate the show from memory during their voyage, they use their ship mates as the cast and all the costumes they’d packed along in their trunks. In the world outside of the play (and the play within the play), the person who created all those clothes and accessories for our production is Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein.

Rebecca gave the costumes for The Pirates of Penzance a Victorian-like feel but didn’t make them super-realistic. This stage costume-y aspect to the clothes supports the idea that the passengers on the ship (the real people) are playing parts in a show.

The premise is also that Gilbert and Sullivan have to make do with what’s on the ship, which includes just a small number of available people to play all the roles so Rebecca used color to help audiences more easily identify the characters. For instance, all the pirates have red, black and gold in their costumes, and the police are in blue. This color-coding also helps the actors make fast costume changes.

What I could not help noticing about Rebecca’s design renderings is how beautiful they are–like beautiful children’s storybook illustrations. This turns out to be a common compliment that Rebecca has heard many times before.

Rebecca feels like she’s been designing costumes “forever.”

“I’ve always liked clothes even as a kid,” Rebecca recalled. “My mom taught me to sew when I was five. I was interested in clothes as an art form and liked going to museums with fashion exhibits. I was also always interested in theatre–seeing plays.”

In junior high, Rebecca attended a magnet school that focused on the arts. They offered a costume class that produced the costumes for school plays. When she took the class in eighth grade, as Rebecca put it, “The sky opened; the angels sang. I knew I wanted to be a costume designer.”

Rebecca went on to attend an arts-oriented high school and obtain a BA in General Theatre. She then got her master’s in Costume Design from New York University.

Three years ago, Rebecca and her family moved from New York City to Minneapolis when her husband became the head of the sound department at the Children’s Theatre Company. Rebecca herself has found the Twin Cities to be a great arts community for professional opportunities, which includes her current stint at Park Square Theatre. Be prepared to keep seeing more creative works from this talented New York transplant on our stages for years to come.



NOTE: All renderings shown are by Rebecca Bernstein

Tickets and information here.

Brian Sostek, A Mover and A Dancer

Doug Scholz-Carlson (l) and Brian Sostek (r) in a rehearsal with cast members
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

In The Pirates of Penzance, Brian Sostek is the Movement and Dance Director, creating the overall movements–not just for the dance sequences–in the show. It’s actually a collaborative process, starting with discussions to hash out concepts with Director Doug Scholz-Carlson, before the actors even step into rehearsals. They consider such issues as: What kind of feel do they want for this or that number?

Unlike Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Music Director Denise Prosek, who have a script and scores to follow, Brian doesn’t already have the moves written down. He gets to work on a blank slate, though ever mindful that whatever created must support the telling of the story.

During the start of rehearsals, the cast spent an intensive three to four days with Denise to practice the music before working with Brian. The actors were hired for their acting and singing, rather than dancing, abilities so his first task was to see how they move. That helped him assess how to capitalize on their strengths and how much to push them beyond their comfort levels.

“I told the actors to expect to fail a lot,” Brian said. “Our objective is to find out what works or doesn’t.”

This process of trial and error placed great demands on the actors. Sometimes they’d have invested much energy in learning particular moves, only to have them changed.

Brian also continued to work closely with Doug and Denise throughout rehearsals. It was an organic process where sometimes Doug would be working with the cast and Brian would suggest that they try something or vice versa. Their collaboration became such that they felt comfortable jumping in to build on what the other was doing.

Brian Sostek leads cast members in movements during a rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Although his mom and dad had been in show business before becoming academics in dance and theatre, respectively, Brian himself hadn’t planned to follow in their footsteps. He’d transferred from Swarthmore College to Carleton College in his sophomore year with the thought of majoring in Political Science and Russian.

“Then I took a class on African American poetry, and it blew my mind,” Brian recalled. “That led me to start writing more.”

In 1990, Brian earned a BA in English Language and Literature/Letters. Even so, his first job upon graduation was an internship on environmental education in Virginia.

It was Brian’s return to Minnesota–specifically to the Twin Cities–that ultimately led him down his professional path. He’d done some improv at Carleton so auditioned to get into Dudley Rigg’s’ Brave New Workshop. Failing to get cast turned out to be serendipitous. He went on to audition at the Northrop as a background dancer for a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet. (Brian thinks he got the job for being one of only three males who’d showed up, but having studied dance under his mom likely helped as well.)

Later, Brian auditioned for Joe Chvala and ended up performing with his percussive dance troupe, The Flying Foot Forum, for approximately four years. Becoming a dance instructor at a ballroom dance studio also became a major source of income.

In 1996, Brian met dancer Megan McClellan and moved to Los Angeles for about four years before the two returned to the Twin Cities. In 2000, they created the inventive theatre and dance company, Sossy Mechanics. Today Brian remains a successful writer, director, choreographer, performer and teacher.


Tickets and information for The Pirates of Penzance here.
Tickets and information for French Twist, featuring Joe Chvala and The Flying Foot Forum here.

A Look Over His Shoulders: How Eli Schlatter Designs

The set of The Liar is moving onto Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage for the play’s September 9 to October 2 run.  Scenic Designer Eli Schlatter has spent months getting us to the moment when concepts become reality, following similar steps that he’d taken many a time for other productions.

After reading the script twice, Schlatter met with both Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein to get their input.  His collaboration with Scholz-Carlson involved going through each scene in the play to discuss what would be needed and Schlatter’s providing research images as possible concepts.

Now armed with some sense of what the show should look and feel like, Schlatter did further research and conceptualizing with thumbnail sketches.

A sketch

A sketch

Once Schlatter and Scholz-Carlson decided to go with a very classic and two-dimensional set design (refer to the August 28 blog, “Flat Land: The World of The Liar“), Schlatter made what is called a white model.  This is an unpainted white cardboard model of the set scaled according to actual Proscenium Stage measurements to determine how the set will fit and look in the space.  Schlatter used a ruler with a quartering scale (one inch equals four feet) for measuring and added model people for perspective.

A white model

A white model

His next step was to create a means within the design for scene changes.  For The Liar, the two back center walls could be opened or shut like doors to change the space for the action to move upstage or downstage. Schlatter then produced a color model of the set.

The color model

The color model

After meeting with Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Schlatter made further decisions about such matters as surface texture before producing paint elevations–very detailed, scaled plans that show the scenic painter exactly where, what and how something must be painted onto the entire set.  They look somewhat akin to drafting plans with specific painting specifications throughout. The shop crew is also provided with a section view, which shows how the set looks from different directions, as well as execution drawings that show all the dimensional details.

Eli Schlatter (left) with Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

Director Doug Scholz-Carlson (left); Eli Schlatter (center); Assistant Technical Director Ian Stoutenburgh (right)

The Park Square shop crew have been busy building and painting the set. While it is quicker to build a two-dimensional set, more pressure is placed on the painting to be especially well done, though luckily the human eye tends to fill in any details on scenery that’s not represented on the stage.

As Schlatter completes his work for The Liar, he won’t be putting his feet up to relax anytime soon. He’s already working with the Artistry in Bloomington to design for Little Shop of Horrors and Bad Dates.


Theatre News for you!

Sign up to get the latest Park Square news