Posts Tagged Kathy Kohl

Girl Friday Productions Stages 1943 Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH

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Girl Friday Productions Stages 1943 Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece
THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH by Thornton Wilder

Media Contact: Connie Shaver
612.308.5785 shaver@parksquaretheatre.org
Tickets: 651.291.7005 or
parksquaretheatre.org

St. Paul, MN, Jan. 8, 2019 – A surprisingly modern and optimistic tribute to the invincibility of the human spirit, Thornton Wilder’s THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH, produced by Girl Friday Productions and directed by Joel Sass, opens February 9, 2019 on the proscenium stage at Park Square Theatre. Girl Friday Productions brings its signature large ensemble cast to this comedy of epic proportions.

“All I ask is the chance to build new worlds…” – Mr. Antrobus in THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH.

Winner of the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH juxtaposes everyday life with the historical and mythological past to create a wonderfully odd world. The play follows the adventures of an eternal American family residing in prehistoric and contemporary New Jersey who prevail over a series of apocryphal catastrophes. The ice age, the great flood, world war, family strife, political conventions… the Antrobus family, their maid Sabina, and a host of other characters survive through eons of calamity with their hope intact. Continually facing the end of days, humanity perseveres. This 75-year old comedy about resilience and hope feels fresh and profoundly relevant for today.

Girl Friday Productions is offering a rare opportunity for Twin Cities’ audiences: the last local professional production of THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH was their own. “When Girl Friday first explored this work in 2009, our country was in the depth of economic crisis,” says Girl Friday Productions Artistic Director Kirby Bennett. “Ten years later, we find ourselves at a time of moral peril, facing different yet familiar world calamities: conflicts at home and abroad, a refugee crisis, climate change, a loss of faith in our leaders, a loss of hope. THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH explores all this and more, in ways that are at once unexpected, hilarious and moving. And where else will you see a dinosaur and mammoth onstage?”

Acclaimed Twin Cities’ theatre artist Joel Sass is both directing and creating the scenic design for THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH. A longtime collaborator and advisor to Girl Friday Productions, Sass previously designed sets for Girl Friday Productions’ OUR TOWN and STREET SCENE. His work has been seen regionally and nationally at the Guthrie Theater, Jungle Theater, Park Square Theatre, History Theatre, Open Eye, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arizona Theatre Company, among many others. A prolific director, designer and adaptor, and winner of multiple local and national awards, Sass is among the most lauded theatre artists in the region.

“So many people read the play for the first time and cannot believe it was written in 1942,” comments Sass. “THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH still feels utterly fresh, edgy, funny and topical—and if it were written this year it would still be worthy of its Pulitzer Prize. A particular joy of working on this production will be the double opportunity to collaborate with a handful of people I’ve known and grown with for nearly two decades—and another group of amazing talents I have admired around town but not yet worked with. Together we will tackle this ‘mammoth’ of a script and bring its humor, political critique and optimism to a new audience.”

Actors Alayne Hopkins as Sabina, John Middleton as Mr. Antrobus and Kirby Bennett as Mrs. Antrobus lead Girl Friday Productions’ stellar ensemble cast of 15, which features many Twin Cities’ favorites as well as upcoming talent. The full cast includes: Kirby Bennett, Ernest Briggs, Pedro Juan Fonseca, Wendy Freshman, Kathryn Fumie, Alayne Hopkins, Sam Landman, Alice McGlave, John Middleton, Victoria Pyan, James Ramlet, Taj Ruler, Neal Skoy, Mike Swan and Dana Lee Thompson. Joining Sass on the exceptional design team are: Lighting Designer Mike Kittel, Costume Designer Kathy Kohl, Projections Designer Kathy Maxwell, Sound Designer C Andrew Mayer and Properties Designer Rick Polenek.

THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund; and by the Saint Paul Cultural STAR Program. THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is being produced by Girl Friday Productions as part of Park Square’s “Theatres in Residence” Series.

Photo of Alayne Hopkins as Sabina by Richard Fleischman HERE
Group photo by Richard Fleischman HERE. Pictured left to right Front row: Taj Ruler, Kathryn Fumie, Neal Skoy, Back row: Dana Lee Thompson, Kirby Bennett, John Middleton, Alayne Hopkins, Ernest Briggs.

About Girl Friday Productions
“It’s wonderful to see these rarely produced gems.” – Girl Friday Productions audience member

The little company that does big plays, Girl Friday Productions focuses on larger scale American plays of exceptional literary merit that are less frequently produced today. The company’s mission is to nurture artists, inspire audiences and illuminate the human condition. Girl Friday Productions chooses to focus on a singular major project every other year. This approach maximizes efforts to work with challenging texts, large and skilled ensemble casts, and distinguished directors and designers. Girl Friday Productions’ work is characterized by exceptional literature, humanity, relevance and stimulating theatricality.

Founded in 2004 by Artistic Director Kirby Bennett, Girl Friday Productions’ most recent productions were IDIOT’S DELIGHT (Lavender Magazine notable performances in 2017), THE MATCHMAKER (2015 year-end recognition from Twin Cities Theatre Bloggers), CAMINO REAL (Lavender Magazine notable performances in 2013) and STREET SCENE (2011 “Top Ten”/Year End Highlights in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Lavender Magazine; Ivey Award for director). Other highlights include THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (MinnPost “Favorite for 2009”) and OUR TOWN (Pioneer Press’ “Top Ten Shows of 2007”).

Girl Friday Productions presents THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH by Thornton Wilder
February 7 – March 3, 2019

Location: Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage
Historic Hamm Building in Downtown Saint Paul
20 West Seventh Place
Saint Paul, MN 55102

Tickets: Preview: $20/$27/$37; Regular Run: $25/$40/$60; discounts for seniors, students,
age 30 & under, groups, fringe buttons, MPR members, active military personnel; Pay What You Wish February 25.

Tickets: parksquaretheatre.org or call 651.291.7005 (noon – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday – Friday)
Information and company website: girlfridayproductions.org

Performance Schedule (18 performances over 4 weeks)
Evening shows at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm. The specific performance dates are:
Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 pm Preview
Friday, February 8 at 7:30 pm Preview
Saturday, February 9 at 7:30 pm Opening night and reception
Sunday, February 10 at 2 pm

Wednesday, February 13 at 7:30 pm Post show discussion
Thursday, February 14 at 7:30 pm
Friday, February 15 at 7:30 pm Audio description and sensory tour
Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 17 at 2:00 pm

Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 pm
Friday, February 22 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, February 23 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 24 at 2:00 pm American Sign Language and post show discussion
Monday, February 25 at 7:30 pm Pay What You Wish

Thursday, February 28 at 7:30 pm
Friday, March 1 at 7:30 pm Open captioning
Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 pm Open captioning
Sunday, March 3 at 2:00 pm Open captioning, closing performance

– End –

Kathy Kohl: On Creating the Costumes for “Watson Intelligence”

THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE, on the Park Square Proscenium Stage until April 30, jumps in and out of three time periods notable for intense technical and industrial advances: the Victorian era, early 20th century and present time. This time-jumping aspect created unique challenges for its costume designer, Kathy Kohl, but they were successfully met by going with Director Leah Cooper’s proposal to create in Steampunk style.

“It was a great idea,” Kathy said, “as this look can layer all of the periods simultaneously, which makes costume changes from one time to another a matter of adding period-appropriate pieces rather than trying to effect a full costume change. It’s a really fun style to do, too, and interesting for an audience to puzzle out what piece belongs to which period, plus it’s flattering to every actor shape–and kinda sexy!”

Merrick CostumeMost of my challenges for this play came with the quick changes that happen with each character change,” Kathy continued. “These I achieved with the usual tricks: a little Velcro, a lot of snaps, some elastic laces for shoes. For instance, Merrick asked to try a shirt collar that could snap up instantly for his monologue with ties, so I stitched in a one-inch belt stay product onto the under-collar. Also, Watson the Android needed a special look when he hooked up to his battery chair. For this, I hand-stitched strings of tiny LED lights into a layer of his vest. In fact, all the hardware is hand-stitched.”

With all the hardware in the costumes, Kathy had to also consider how they could be safely laundered.

“Pants are turned inside out to protect them and other costumes from snagging in the wash,” Kathy explained. “Watson’s vest front panels are Velcroed and fully removable so the vest itself can be laundered. I did have to remove some little gears from Eliza’s jeans because she scraped her hand on one in a quick change in dress rehearsal.”

Watson CostumeKathy’s finished costumes stayed close to her initial renderings, but some details–namely having to do with fabric choice and trim–were adjusted as needed. For example, Eliza’s striped leggings were no longer available, and Merrick’s boxy plaid jacket just didn’t look right on him.

“Watson is very active onstage and has lots of quick changes,” Kathy added, “so I needed to rethink the industrial trim placement on his pants so he wouldn’t get caught on a belt buckle or get scratched by the snap tape that I used.”

Because the play has a small cast of three, Kathy could think through the costume plot carefully and hand off the tracking list, which tells what each actor wears in each scene and what they change into, to stage management early in the process. This allowed Stage Manager Amanda Bowman to plan change timings and where they would happen backstage.

Eliza CostumeThe actors were also given rehearsal clothes to wear (e.g., for when Merrick must change from modern to Victorian in a half sentence during his monologue), which helped to establish a useful muscle memory for them early on.

“This show required a combination of shopping thrift stores, some retail, a bit of building–Eliza’s 1890s coat and some smaller pieces–and rental,” Kathy said. “Leah was present for fittings–always an efficient way to make sure everyone’s okay, including the actors, with how things look and feel.”

Come see for yourself how Kathy’s work impacts the overall production during its final week on stage. Then have some fun pondering what costuming decisions you may have made if you’d been in her shoes.

 

(NOTE: Don’t miss reading the prior blogs “Kathy Kohl: Doing What She Loves” and “What the Heck is Steampunk Anyway?”)

Kathy Kohl: Doing What She Loves

 

Kathy Kohl (left) with stage manager Amanda Bowman (right) (photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Costume designer Kathy Kohl (left) with stage manager Amanda Bowman (right)
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

People choose their careers for many reasons: It’s what they think that they should want to be. Their parents want them to be that. They do it for the money. They really don’t know what they want to do. They love doing it.

Fortunate are those who can ultimately create a profession from a lifelong interest. Kathy Kohl, the costume designer for THE (curious case of the) WATSON INTELLIGENCE is one of those lucky people.

“I started sewing when I was little, stitching together clothing for my cat, who was not amused!” Kathy said. “I received further training through 4-H and made much of my own wardrobe in high school. I was always interested in historical clothing via old pictures and books of art, but because I was primarily a musician–playing piano and trombone, I didn’t get into theater until I was an adult.”

Kathy created her first costumes in the mid-’70s. They were commissioned by her husband Allan, who is a children’s storyteller and needed a Robin Hood costume for his presentation of the Sherwood Forest folk. She also designed a Maid Marian one for herself.

“Just for fun, I took a pattern-drafting class around that time at the extension service where we lived in Wisconsin,” Kathy recalled. “And when the call came many years later from a community theater that needed a Victorian nightgown that couldn’t be found in commercial patterns, I was on my way.”

For many years, Kathy was not only a costumer but also an actor on the college and community level.

“But my need to see the full finished production was too strong,” Kathy admitted, “so I made the difficult choice between the two, and costumes won.”

Besides her work on Watson Intelligence, currently on Park Square’s Proscenium Stage until April 30, Kathy is also the costume designer for Girl Friday Productions’ Idiot’s Delight, which will be on Park Square’s Boss Thrust Stage from June 29 to July 23.

“After that I’ll be following its director, Craig Johnson, to northern Vermont for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at a new theater in Greensboro, Vermont, very near where I grew up! ” Kathy said. “The venue is built like Shakespeare’s Globe, complete with a groundling area in the audience. Should be a blast!”

(NOTE: Look out for the upcoming post about Kathy’s costume designs for Watson Intelligence.)