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SARAH BAHR: Costume Designer for “Macbeth”

(Photo by Christa Haeg)

(Photo by Christa Haeg)

The other day, students from a small town southwest of St. Paul, surrounded by some of Minnesota’s most productive farmland, streamed into Park Square Theatre for their first live professional theatre experience. They’d travelled 130 miles in over two hours one way, dressed up for the special occasion and were absolutely thrilled to be here.

Upon discovering, in the post-show discussion, that the town has no formal theatre opportunities beyond community summer stock, cast members encouraged them to create their own projects and, just as importantly, try on as many roles as possible, both in front of and behind the stage.

It was against this backdrop that I received answers from Sarah Bahr, the costume designer for Park Square’s production of Macbeth from March 17 to April 9, regarding her background in design. At this moment, we introduce Sarah herself, perchance to inspire explorers into someday realizing their own dreams.

Sarah Bahr prepares Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) for a photoshoot (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sarah Bahr prepares Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) for a photoshoot
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The following is an excerpt from our interview:

Sarah, how did you come to become a costume designer? What was your journey to hone in on that as your passion?

I grew up in rural Minnesota, which started my journey as an artist. My mother taught me to sew, my father taught me to work with my hands and my grandmothers taught me to paint. I was always creating and using my imagination, though I didn’t fully understand I could choose a career in the arts until I was in high school. 

I attended the University of Minnesota Duluth to study costume design. I was drawn to the field because of my love for fabric, sewing, sculpting, defining characters through clothes and the collaborative nature of theater. 

After graduation, I worked as a stitcher for the Minnesota Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Guthrie Theater but soon realized I needed a big change. I moved to New York City to pursue a career in building costumes. After working at one of the many Broadway costume houses, I noticed how removed I was from the collaborative theater-making process and how I liked theater creation more than just making costumes.

My next opportunity came from NYU’s TISCH Graduate Costume Shop, where I worked for the next five years, working with the graduate costume students, building costumes, supervising wardrobe, coordinating craft projects and executing wigs and specialized makeup. On the side, I pursued a MA in Studio Art from NYU and studied fiber arts and sculpture in Venice, Italy, during my summers off.

True to form, I was ready for another change, and Minnesota called me back home. After assisting many seasoned designers at the Minnesota Opera and the Guthrie Theater, I knew my next step would be to hone my skills as a designer and pursue a freelance career. I studied under Mathew Lefebvre at the University of Minnesota and received my MFA in Design and Technical Theater.

The paths my life has taken me prepared me to work as a creative, a maker and a problem solver. I am grateful for the variety of opportunities I’ve had to get me to this point of my career.

What is your favorite part in the costume design process and why?

I love researching. I look for images as inspiration during all steps of my design and production process. I love how unexpected images I find on Pinterest, in books or my daily life can influence a world I am creating on stage. Research images are my favorite tool to use when discussing a project with my director, design team and actors; they help define what is in my head before I start sketching my designs. 

Is there something that you are working on after Macbeth?

I am designing set and costumes for a new comedy, Lone Star Spirits, at the Jungle Theater. I am also designing costumes for One Man Two Guvnors at Yellow Tree Theater as well as the world premiere of The Boy and Robin Hood at Trademark Theater.

As you shall see on stage, Sarah’s costumes for Macbeth will be stunningly thought-provoking to match all other aspects of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. You can also read more about Sarah Bahr’s work in an upcoming post, “Designing Costumes for the Brutal Period.”

Sarah Bahr with some of her costume designs for Macbeth (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sarah Bahr with some of her costume designs for Macbeth
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

Michael Ooms on Playing Macbeth

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At the beginning of Park Square Theatre’s season, Michael Ooms graced our Proscenium Stage in a comedic role in The Liar. Now he takes on a much more somber turn as the title character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth on our intimate Andy Boss Thrust Stage. The play runs from March 17 to April 9, often performed both day and night to accommodate general audiences as well as school groups, setting a grueling schedule for all involved. Michael aptly deems it an “endurance test.”

But challenge is exactly what actors relish, and Michael will certainly have his hands full of that as he grapples with his character’s complexities. How will he bring out Macbeth’s humanity, even as he portrays a power-hungry murderer? How will he prevent the audience from automatically hating him? How will he build empathy for his character?

“He’s more everyman than he’s perceived,” Michael says of Macbeth. “He did one terrible thing. Then he just had to keep going in order to survive.”

We call that “digging yourself in deeper”–making human choices that force a chain reaction of further hard choices. In Macbeth’s case, the choices just happen to escalate in a horrific direction.

What’s fun about playing Macbeth for Michael, though, is the opportunity to go through several personality changes as his character morphs from being an amicable, likable individual to a fearful, raging one as he becomes unhinged by his deeds. This role requires an actor to display a wide range of emotions.

Michael is certainly ready to test his mettle. He has ample experience in lead and supporting classical roles, including stints with the Classical Actors Ensemble, a Twin Cities repertoire company with a focus on keeping the rich plays of the English Renaissance relevant and alive. Not only has he played Macduff in a CAE staging of Macbeth, but he has also already played Macbeth himself in 2011 with Nightpath Theatre. So Michael will come to Park Square’s production “hitting the ground running,” not only in terms of memorizing his lines but also having insights to perhaps make different acting choices than before. In collaboration with Director Jef Hall-Flavin and the cast, Michael is excited to “see what he can bring to the table to ultimately work together to form a unified vision.”

Performing Macbeth for students is also something that Michael relishes because “unlike adults, they tend to come without preconceptions so their reactions are great barometers as to whether what you’re doing work.”

“The post-show discussions are especially eye-opening,” Michael continued. “They will interpret things in their own way, depending on where they are in life, and perhaps shine a light on a different perspective. I learn a lot from the kids, such as how well we’re telling the story. They are great mirrors reflecting back to us what we’re doing.”

Despite the rigor of his role, Michael knows that playing Macbeth is going to be a blast. He is unfazed by what is known as the “Macbeth curse,” which we shall discuss in a future blog post.

Michael Ooms with Vanessa Wasche in a rehearsal for Macbeth (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Michael Ooms with Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) in a rehearsal for Macbeth
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The Liar: Featuring Michael Ooms

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Michael Ooms:

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ROLE: Philiste, Alcippe’s friend

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT PHILISTE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Alcippe to his friend Dorante)

You know Philiste? The beau monde’s favorite beau?

(Dorante’s reply)

The man they call the Baron Comme Il Faut?
We know each other from Poitiers.

 

Michael Ooms with JuCoby Johnson and Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Michael Ooms with JuCoby Johnson and Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

CAST QUESTION:

This play will be visually and verbally stunning.  Every cast member, including you, must do “verbal acrobatics” with challenging wordplay and perfect timing with not just delivery but also comebacks.  As an actor, how do you get to the point that you can deliver such lines as if with ease?

This is a great question.  In order to pull a thing like this off, a multitude of facets need to fall into sync.  In my mind, there are two truly important elements: hard work and honesty.  As a cast, we work tirelessly to find the rhythm and truth of a piece.  While understanding the title of the play, The Liar, we all have to find our truths within it.  A lie is only as good as the belief it inspires.  And that’s what we work towards.  The belief in these words to inspire something.   Fact or fiction, the words must deliver the story that we as a cast are so graced to have been given.  David Ives has a great mind for so many things.  Among the grandest are language, truth and comradery (in my humble opinion).  Our ultimate goal has been to respect his work and bring it to life, as one.  And that’s the real trick.  To find the key together and unlock the thing.  From where I’m standing, this box is open; and it’s hilarious.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Classical Actors Ensemble: Doctor Faustus; Savage Umbrella: These Are the Men; Swandive: Five Flights; Pioneer Place: Tuesdays with Maurie; Gonzo Group Theatre: Long Day’s Journey into Night; NightPath: Our Town Film Mighty Ducks; Mighty Ducks 2 Training Classical Actors Ensemble: Company Member; Gonzo Group Theatre: Founding Company Member Upcoming Projects Savage Umbrella: The Awakening

 

Michael Ooms with his actor-parents Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens who have also delighted audiences on the Park Square stages Photograph by Connie Shaver

Michael Ooms with his actor-parents Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens,who have also delighted audiences on  Park Square stages
Photograph by Connie Shaver

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – Ends Oct 2

And More Lies!

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Cast of The Liar

Park Square Theatre’s 2016-2017 season begins with the area premiere of The Liar from September 9 to October 2.  Playwright David Ives’ laugh-out-loud comedy centers on the escapades of Dorante, a gentleman who cannot tell the truth, and his servant Cliton who cannot tell a lie.

In the spirit of the play’s hilarious premise, we asked people to share their own stories about lies with humorous results. The stories kept coming in:

When I was a kid, my mom bought my dad a smoker for smoking fish as her Christmas gift to him. He fished a lot, and we loved smoked fish. It was (and still is) quite expensive to buy but much cheaper to smoke yourself.

I knew my mom had purchased this smoker. It was a hard gift to wrap and would have been obvious as to what it was if it had been placed under the tree. So my mom hid it in another part of the house. Christmas Eve, after everyone had opened all of their gifts, my mom proclaimed that we were all done opening gifts, which was, of course, a lie. I think she wanted to prolong the secret and heighten the element of surprise!

I turned and looked at her and said, “No we’re not. Dad hasn’t opened his smoker yet!”

Whoops! My poor mom’s face fell, and I instantly knew that I had revealed the lie, and her secret/surprise was blown!

After a moment, however, everyone, including my mom, began to laugh about my faux pas.  My mom brought out the smoker, my dad loved it, and all was well. We still laugh about that event almost every year when we’re with my parents for Christmas!

——-

Here I am, sitting in the house my husband and I built with our own hands (and used to rent out), and it’s been almost 11 years since we lived here last.  All these memories keep popping up from when we were here and the kids were younger.  I also keep remembering funny (or not so funny) stuff my past tenants did.

One tenant, Eileen, was a real character.  I’m convinced she was a born liar because she would bluster her way around the truth to get whatever she wanted.  On the application to rent my house, she agreed to get the utilities in her name, “No problem; no problem.”

Soon after, she did her best to sell me on the idea of installing a wood stove, and it would save her money, keep her warmer, etc. I told her (several times) that I was quite happy with my propane furnace, thank you.  But over the next few weeks before she was supposed to move in, she kept working on me to get a wood stove.

Finally, before we were supposed to move out and she move in, I had the feeling to check on the utilities and found out Eileen had bad credit (oops), and the propane company would not give her an account.  At that point, my daughter and I started laughing. We did a big head smack–that’s why Eileen wanted that wood stove so bad.

——

One summer my niece had gone to the PRIDE parade and given me a glow-in-the-dark sperm keychain that she have gotten there. I attached it to my purse as a zipper pull.  One day an eight-year-old boy spotted it and asked me, “What is this?”

Without thinking, I said, “A glow-in-the-dark sperm.”

“A squirm?” he asked. “What’s a squirm?”

“No,” I said. “A sperm.”

“Squirm? What IS that?”

Then I caught myself and replied, “Oh, I meant a worm. It’s a worm!”

“Oh, okay. I thought you said ‘squirm’ and didn’t know what that is.”

A year later ….

The now nine-year-old boy was looking at the glow-in-the-dark sperm again and said, “I know what this is, and it isn’t a worm.”

“Really?”  I asked. “Then what is it?”

“It’s a tadpole.”

“Are you sure it’s not a worm?”

“I know what tadpoles look like,” he insisted. “And this is definitely a tadpole, NOT a worm.”

——

(If you missed it, go back to see the blog “Lies! Lies!”  And, yes, indeed–still more lies to come in a future blog!)

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