Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Tempest:In Detail

I finally got around to documenting some of the puppets used in the production of The Tempest. Here are some of the better close ups

Ariel: My initial idea for Ariel was that s/he would be a shape-shifter and take on the form of various birds. the director, Malissa Kano-White was kind enough to indulge me. We had two actors playing the role. They would alternate lines accenting the amorphous male/female nature of the character and allowing for a great range of motion. The eagle worked as sort of the embodiment of the storm 
 The heron became a source of comic relief, due in large part to the actors' manipulation
 The owl was Ariel's gentle side.
 I tried to make the wings as naturalistic as possible
 The Director wanted Ariel to have a "True Form" that was non-corporeal and abstract, possibly made up of several components. After a lot of discussion and experimentation, we agreed on a floating two part mask based around the idea of a Celtic spiral. each puppeteer would control the mouth of one half. It required a great deal of co-operation and coordination
 The mask halves could split and join together, permitting them to work autonomously or in tandem. I initially designed the halves to match, but later realized  they would have more personality if each side "spiraled" a different direction. Here is the "Up" side...
 ...and the "Down" side. The puppets were backed with black fabric which made it possible for them to vanish against the dark background simply by being turned around
 Sebastian was one of the villains. I based my character design around archetypes. For this character, I wanted a lean and angular "Grand Vizier" look. at nearly six feet, this was easily the tallest of the puppets
 For Stephano the drunken butler, I wanted to accent the clownish sense of imperiousness and self centered nature. I gave him the proportions of a toddler. He has a vaguely porcine aspect.
 Several of the gender roles were reversed in this production. The wise councilor Gonzalo became Gonzala, a feisty yet kindly grandmother figure
 Trinculo the jester was one of my favorites. I wanted him to have an air of constant anxiety along with a  buffoonish cast.
 Antonio, Prospera's usurping brother, I wanted to have the air of arrogant entitlement of a "Burra Sahib"
 One of the concepts I wish I had more time to explore was the living nature of the island. I wanted to create the feeling that any part of the environment could spring to life. For example: this pile of boulders that was onstage for the whole show...
... became a terrifying "Hell-hound" to chase the clowns offstage. I actually researched medieval hunting breeds to get the look just right. I purposely used the same painted muslin that our set designer used for the backdrop to help them blend in
 The same is true with this seemingly innocuous  log of driftwood -
 ...that becomes a massive wolfhound!

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