Design (Working In The Theatre #268)

Design (Working In The Theatre #268)


(APPLAUSE) Welcome to the American Theatre
Wing seminars, which are coming to you from the Graduate Center of the City University
of New York. As founders of the American Theatre Wing’s Antoinette Perry “Tony” Award
and President of the American Theatre Wing, I am indeed happy to be able to bring you
these seminars. They offer a unique opportunity to hear performers, producers, playwrights,
directors, designers, and a host of theatre professionals discuss the realities of working
in the theatre. Since introduced in 1973, more than 900 of Broadway’s and Off-Broadway’s
and Off-Off-Broadway’s best have participated. The Wing is more than the Tony Awards, which
are proudly given in recognition of distinguished achievement in the craft of theatre. We are
a continually expanding organization, with year-round programs dedicated to serving the
theatre through the community. The Wing began as a volunteer organization, and today, most
of the work we are able to do is because of the volunteers, who give so willingly of their
time. We are a source that helps develop new audiences. We initiated “Introduction to
Broadway” in 1991, and since then have enabled 70,000 New York City high school students
to attend a Broadway show, many for the first time. We continue to reach out with our newest program,
“Theatre in Schools,” through which professionals, like those you will meet today, volunteer
to go into classrooms to discuss working in the theatre. This in-classroom targets every
facet of the business of theatre, from playwrights and directors to press agents and poster artists
and costumers and lighting design. Not only do we want these young people to become theatregoers,
but we want them to know the wide range of other job opportunities that exist in our
business. We are a means of bringing the magic of theatre
to thousands who cannot get to the theatre itself. The Wing’s hospital program dates
back to World War Two and the Stage Door Canteen. It continues today with performers from Broadway,
Off-Broadway and the cabaret world, volunteering their time to do over 100 shows each year,
in nursing homes, veterans’ hospitals, children’s wards and AIDS centers in the New York area. We are proud to be of service, happy to have
a wonderful working relationship with the theatrical community, and are grateful to
everyone who makes what the American Theatre Wing does possible. Now today’s seminar
on Design is headed by Professor Tish Dace, who is a theatre critic as well as a historian
of the theatre, and Tony Walton, who is one of our most eminent designers, and now director.
And so, I’m going to turn it over to them to introduce the panel who are the winners
of the American Theatre Wing Design Award, which unlike the Tonys, cover Off-Broadway
and Off-Off-Broadway as well. And now, Tish Dace and Tony Walton, would you please take
over? (APPLAUSE) Thank you, Mrs. Stevenson. I’d like to introduce
my panel, starting over in this direction. We have Robin Phillips, who has directed plays
in such remarkable theatres as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Stratford Festival Theatre in
Canada, Lincoln Center, the New York Shakespeare Festival, and hither and yon and all over
the place, in several different countries. Most recently, JEKYLL AND HYDE, on Broadway. He is here, actually, however, because he
has shared the 1997 Scene Design Award for his scenic design of JEKYLL AND HYDE, working
with James Noone, who has also designed at many, many places and a lot of plays at the
Manhattan Theatre Club, I believe. Some of my favorite sets of his are THE GIN GAME and
COWGIRLS and FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE. And I can hardly wait to see what
he’s done with Martin Sherman’s A MADHOUSE AND GOA, neither part of which takes place
anywhere near Goa. He and Robin have not only won the American Theatre Wing 1997 Scenic
Design Award, sharing it with Christina Poddubiuk, who could not be with us today, but they also
won the Drama Desk Award, the three of them, in Scenic Design. And then moving along, Beverly Emmons was
originally a dancer. And she’s done a great deal of dance lighting, as well as theatre
lighting. In dance, working with some of the greats like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham
and a group of remarkable people like that. She’s led a lot of experimental theatre
and is very sensitive to the nuances and complexities of that. And of course, she’s lit a great
many big commercial projects, and in fact, has been nominated for seven — at last count,
did I lose one? — seven Tony Awards. She and, I guess it was John Burry? AMADEUS. Won together, shared a Tony Award for AMADEUS.
She’s won several American Theatre Wing Lighting Design Awards, most recently for
both JEKYLL AND HYDE and WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN. But she also, within our recent memory,
won for PASSION and for THE HEIRESS. And I can’t think how many earlier ones. We were
just trying to put that together. She’s also the Artistic Director of the Lincoln
Center Institute, which engages in educating young people and providing opportunities for
young people to see theatre and runs a nifty black box there, called the Clark Theatre. Moving on over in this direction, we welcome
Basil Twist. Basil is a third generation puppeteer. He was a puppeteer in PETER AND WENDY, which
we’re going to talk about today. He also is the only American graduate of the International
School of Puppetry in Charlesville, France. And his solo puppetry extravaganza, THE ARANADY
SHOW, which was presented at last year’s International Festival of Puppet Theatre,
has just won a Bessie Award. Congratulations, Basil. Next to Basil, I’d like to introduce Liza
Lorwin. Liza produced Lee Breuer and Bob Telsin’s THE GOSPEL AT COLONUS, THE WARRIOR ANT, and
SISTER SUZY CINEMA. She’s also a playwright and she’s here today to discuss her collaboration
with designer Julie Archer on PETER AND WENDY, which Liza produced and also adapted from
the J. M. Barrie novel about growing up. Next to Liza, Danny Gates, the partner of
the late Howard Crabtree, is a clothing manufacturer, and he worked with Howard some on the award-winning
costumes for Howard Crabtree’s WHEN PIGS FLY. And next to him is Mark Waldrop, [who]
did almost everything on WHEN PIGS FLY, in terms of creating it, that Howard Crabtree
didn’t. (LAUGHTER) Which means he co-conceived it with Howard, he wrote the sketches and
the lyrics, and he directed it. He’s won several awards, including the 1995 Edward
Kleban for Most Promising New Lyricist, and he and Danny are here to talk about their
collaboration with costume designer Howard Crabtree. And finally, I am very thrilled that Tony
Walton could join us as co-chair. Thank you. He has done dazzling designs for theatre,
film and television. And to prove it, he won an Oscar for ALL THAT JAZZ, an Emmy for DEATH
OF A SALESMAN, and three Tony Awards. His most recent American Theatre Wing Design Award
was for SHE LOVES ME. He also, in 1991, was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. And
in addition to being a costume designer and a set designer, and by the way, he received
nominations this year in both of those categories — I’m a loser this year! (LAUGHTER) — in set design for two shows and then costume
design for one! But he also, in the last couple of years, has been directing, which means
that one of the logical directions for this panel should be to talk about the way that
directors and producers work with designers, and writers work with designers, and designers
work with themselves as directors, (TONY LAUGHS) and directors work with themselves as designers!
And I think we could spin this topic out for quite a while. Why don’t we start off with costumes? I
think it would be a good idea, Danny, if you explained how you came to be sort of working
with Howard on the costumes, and what happened. I mean, Howard died very shortly after finishing
the costumes, is that correct? Just a few days? Right. Yeah, he died June 28, which was about
a month and a half before the show opened. And how many days after the costumes were
pretty much finished? He had finished a great percentage of them.
What he hadn’t finished, he had basically seen what had been cut out and they were all
being built, you know, by seamstresses, both in our houses, in here and Manhattan. So he
had seen, I would say, ninety percent. He had finished ninety percent of the work. We
used to have fittings. Mark used to drive the actors out to the house. You ought to say where the house is. Oh, it’s in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
It’s a schlep. It’s a two hour drive for Mark. And he would drive each one of the actors
out, and we would fit them downstairs in the dining room, and then we’d take them upstairs
to the bedroom, where Howard was pretty much bedridden. And he would oversee the whole
thing, and this was too long and that was too short and this was too wide. And the corrections
would be made and the actor would go back downstairs, and then the next one would come
up. So this went on for a few weeks. Yeah, over a period of about five weeks. So he saw everything basically on somebody.
He might not have seen everything totally complete, but he was there, many times climbing
right out of bed on his hands and knees. He saw it in his mind’s eye. And there were
a lot of things, like the way the costumes would work together, when the full stage picture
was complete, that I never understood until we actually got on stage, and I went, “Oh,
that’s why he picked that color.” You have to remember that Howard really never
saw the backers’ auditions. All of the pieces that go around the costumes, he had never
seen, he was not that completely aware of. He knew the ideas Mark had, but there were
no sets. There was nothing, you know, that would show the accentuation of the costumes. Maybe we should back up. You and Howard co-conceived
it. Umm-hmm. You suddenly had a brainstorm? Well, I was almost dragged into this project,
against my better judgment. But it turned out to be a wonderful thing for me. But Howard
had another show, called HOWARD CRABTREE’S WHOOP-DEE-DOO, which he performed in. And
I had a few songs and sketches in that show, but it wasn’t my show. And right after that
show closed, Howard and one of our producers, Gail See, came to me and said, “Okay, let’s
write another one. Let’s write the next Howard Crabtree show.” And I had a lot of
trepidation that it would be compared to WHOOP-DEE-DOO, maybe unfavorably, maybe considered to be
SON OF WHOOP-DEE-DOO. But you know, Howard was very insistent. He had that gift, you
know. But if you look at WHOOP-DEE-DOO and you look
at WHEN PIGS FLY, it’s a progression. It’s a progression. Howard with no money was WHOOP-DEE-DOO. Finally,
Howard had money, that’s WHEN PIGS FLY, and he still overspent the budget. (LAUGHTER)
And if Howard had lived, I think there probably would have been a third, where he got even
further. Well, we should say that WHEN PIGS FLY has
been running since when? A year ago August? Yes, the fourteenth. So tomorrow is our five
hundred. Yeah. So have you forgiven him for overspending
the budget? Yes. We didn’t actually overspend it, he just
looks like he overspent it. (LAUGHTER) To show us what you mean by that, would you
like to invite an actor out, up on the stage? Yes. We’ll bring them up in the order in
which the costumes appear in the show. So that would mean first we’ll have Keith Cromwell,
who is our dance captain, and the only man in New York who could understudy all five
of the actors in the show. (LAUGHTER. KEITH APPEARS; APPLAUSE) This is for a number called
“You’ve Got to Stay in the Game.” And just to give you an idea about how Howard
and I worked together, the show deals in a sort of metaphorical way with a lot of gay
issues. And in WHOOP-DEE-DOO, we had had a lot of success with a number called “Tough
to be a Fairy,” where the fairies were with wings and wands, you know. So when we were
approaching this show, we said, “Well, what term haven’t we used?” And we thought
of “queens,” and we went through a long list of queens. Very long. (LAUGHTER) Literal historical queens, chess queens, fairy
queens. (LAUGHTER) Any kind of queen you could think of. And we finally came up with the
idea of the four queens from a deck of playing cards. And so once we had that metaphor for
the number, I could go off and write the number and Howard could design his playing card costumes,
which he tried to make rather two-dimensional looking. And the choreography in the number
sort of accentuates how two-dimensional the costume is. (KEITH DEMONSTRATES; LAUGHTER) It appears that the headdress is in some way
zippered onto the skull cap. Is that [right]? Yes. That’s another thing that Howard got
to be (LAUGHTER) very good at. He was very aware, he had worked in the costume shop of
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. And he said it was like his graduate course, to take all those costumes
and turn them inside out, see how they came apart for cleaning, and understand exactly
how they were made. So he always designed with an eye towards practicality, like the
zipper that lets the crown come off of the skull cap. Thank you, Keith. (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) And the next one up will be John Lesiniak
and he is wearing a costume from the opening of the second act, which is called “Wear
Your Vanity with Pride.” This is a Restoration look (LAUGHTER) of sorts. (APPLAUSE) Is the wig foam? The wig is foam, and Howard did do these.
He sculpted those wigs himself. Those are actually his own two hands who made the wigs
for this number. This is a good example of how we would come up with a number to facilitate
a trick. Now, this number, all the costumes in the number are different, but there are
two ladies who start out sitting at vanity tables, and at a crucial point in the number
stand up, lift the vanity tables up onto their hips and then a ripcord is pulled and the
vanity table skirts fall into full skirts that match the costumes. That was a trick
that Howard had wanted to do for years. And he said, “Now, in this show, we’re going
to do that trick, so write a number for it!” (LAUGHTER) And that’s what we did. But Howard did study historical drawings.
Like, there are red heels on these shoes, which apparently is very correct for that
period. That’s a detail I never knew anything about. (LAUGHTER) And the costumes in this
number are mostly made of upholstery fabrics that were dyed and used in unconventional
ways. Thank you, John. (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) And next we have James Heatherly. He’s wearing
one of the finale costumes. There’s sort of a running gag in the show about Howard’s
high school guidance counselor, who wanted him to go into a number of professions other
than costume design. And one of those professions was chicken farming. (LAUGHTER) So in the
finale, Howard manages to bring it all full circle and embrace the careers he was supposed
to do through costume. So this costume represents chicken farming, in a sort of a skewed Ziegfeld
kind of way. And one thing that Howard was brilliant at
was understanding that in the visual humor of the costumes, once you made the entrance,
that was a laugh. But then, he was very good at building tricks into the costume, so that
you could get a laugh farther into the number. And all the finale costumes have tricks in
them, which are revealed at the end of a little Ziegfeld chorus girl kind of verse. So James
would say, “It’s sad to earn a living supplying poultry buyers. I start out with
these sweet young chicks and end up plucking fryers.” (JOHN PULLS A CORD AND RUBBER CHICKENS
DROP FROM THE HEM OF HIS SKIRT; LAUGHTER) Now, I daresay you didn’t travel this into
town into your car. No, no. These were constructed out there for
the most part. These were constructed there, yeah. You had a number of fleets of trucks to bring
them all in. No, we had one pickup and many trips. (LAUGHTER) Thank you, James. (APPLAUSE) Where were the costumes made? Where were they made? They were made, for
the most part, out at their home in Bucks County. In Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We have a farm
with a lot of space. But still, it was crowded. Did you have people, little old ladies sewing? We had a couple people out there. Much of
it, Howard did make. He was able to complete a lot of it before he died. We did have a
head seamstress out there, who worked at the house and out of her house. And then, the
final touches were put on here in New York. We have a costume house here who did the final
things. It was a fascinating thing to be out in this
beautiful farm in this rural setting. And there’s a flying pig costume in the show
and a centaur costume in the show. And at one point, sort of in this green meadow between
these trees was this clothesline and there were these huge foam shapes (LAUGHTER) of
a horse and a pig. It looked like a slaughterhouse. (LAUGHTER) Are most of the costumes rigged for quick
change? They all are. Howard was very conscientious of that. I would ordinarily say, “What did you as
a director want from your costume designer?” But it sounds like on this show, it was more,
“What did your costume designer want from you as a director?” (LAUGHS) It was a very unconventional way of working,
but it seemed to [work]. For some reason, having the limitations put on me — it’s
hard to call them limitations when you see them. They’re not really limitations. They
just kind of opened me up. They opened up my creativity. Howard was a wonderful collaborator
in that way. Liza, what did you as a producer want from
Julie Archer? What did you two start talking about in 1990? Well, when we first started talking about
it, it really started around the idea of design. You mean your adaptation started around the
idea of a design? The project itself started around the idea
of design. And Julie had done a piece for Mabou Mines earlier in the eighties, called
VANISHING PICTURES, which was based on the idea of sort of oversized pop-ups. And she
had wanted to do a larger piece that would have oversized pop-ups, like a pop-up book,
be the entire set. So that was the original idea. We were looking to do a project together
that would be based on these oversized pop-ups. And I don’t know how PETER AND WENDY, the
novel, [came up]. I think Julie, we were talking about PETER PAN. I asked her if she had read
the novel. She hadn’t yet. But it was a great favorite of mine. And my approach to
it was that it should be a narrative. I think that the two original ideas were to approach
the theatrical piece narratively, which of course Mabou Mines has a big tradition of
narrative theatre. And Julie’s was to do it sort of as a book, this pop-up book. So
they fit very neatly, these two ideas. It then developed into a piece about adult
imagination, childhood imagination, imagination of the artist, the imagination of anyone reading
and becoming thoroughly absorbed by reading. And so, everything in her design — well,
of course it ended up that it’s not strictly only pop-ups. And it turned out to be really
too hard to do an eighteen foot paper pop-up. (LAUGHS) Which, in actuality, is you know,
three times eighteen feet to get it to fold down and fold back up and so forth. It’s so depressing. (LAUGHTER) I mean, we’ve
all had a go at that. We keep trying! We still call it the pop-up set. What would have had to be eighteen feet now?
The pirate ship? The Lost Boys’ home? The house. The major pop-up piece is really
still the house, which we also, as we developed it, there came to be an idea, and because
it’s narrative we could do this, that we would think of the scenes as shots, filmically,
so that we could go close up or pull back. And we could be inside the nursery. Again,
some of these things, I think, are ways in which we think about the scenes, but not necessarily
what you see as you’re sitting in the audience and watching it. But we start in the interior
of the nursery, and at a certain point, we sort of pull around to looking in through
the nursery window. There is a moment when the whole Darling house
raises very slowly, like a pop-up and folds back down. And as a producer, early on when
it was workshopped, one of the things I did is made sure that the crew was directed to
pull it up very, very slowly, because it was to have its moment as a pop-up. Which is,
you know, not generally how a crew thinks about making a move like that, so. We should tell our audience here that there’s
one actor in the usual sense, human live actor, Karen Kendall, who narrates and does voices
and so on. And the rest of the characters are played by puppets. Basil, which puppet
have you brought us? I’ve brought the Peter. Of course. I’ll show you. Peter in a box. This is Peter, that Julie designed. And it’s
hard for me to completely bring him to life, because part of the concept of this show was
we were inspired by a Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku, where there’s three people
working the puppet. So I would work the head and the right arm, and then two additional
puppeteers would work the left arm and the legs. And this allows for a very, very elaborate
manipulation. And also, part of this technique is to have
a separate narrator, and one narrator who does all of the voices. This is also part
of the Japanese tradition. So having Karen do that was in keeping with the Japanese style,
which Mabou Mines has worked actually with a Japanese Bunraku master before, so this
was another project in that style. Julie designed two Bunraku puppets. There was the Peter puppet
and also the Captain Hook puppet. Peter, part of our notion was that he’s
much younger than he usually is. He really is meant to be about five years old. And he
is based on some photographs of J. M. Barrie with a family that he was very close to and
that he developed the stories with. A little boy, Michael, he’s really based on. So yes,
he can be very lifelike and little boylike, in fact. This is a very different kind of [puppet].
(LAUGHS) I wish Karen was here. I don’t do the voice for the puppet. There’s someone
else who did the voice, which was an amazing experience to work. It took four people to
bring one character to life, so I can just bring a fraction of him now. But it’s a
very different Peter Pan than many people are familiar with. It’s a much younger and
slightly nastier (LAUGHTER), mischievous child. And although the puppeteers are veiled in
performance, which is also after the Bunraku tradition, where they’re traditionally in
black, although in ours they’re in white, in rehearsal, I did watch Basil mouth every
single word. (LAUGHTER) So every little gesture he makes is pretty subtly connected to every
word that Karen spoke. So you were acting every single moment for
Peter. Definitely. But in a way, the magic of this
puppet, this puppet is sort of like an antenna for all the different energies coming to it.
And Karen and I would sit [side] by side, and Karen would actually do the voice of Peter
and she would also play Wendy. So there would be scenes where they interact. Karen would
be sitting right here, and they would interact. And I really believed the puppet was alive.
(LAUGHTER) I mean, I really believed it, and I just felt like I was attached to him, that
this was the source of all the power. And in fact, it’s like a lightning rod for all
the energies of the many people that it took to create this one character. Basil, could I ask you to turn Peter outward
a bit more? Sure, great. Yes, that’s good. Ah, yes! (AUDIENCE OOHS)
See, that’s what he wanted to do! (LAUGHS) Would it help if I lifted his arm or does
it just get in the way? You’d have to be on the other side. But
really, it’s a major dance to coordinate all three people behind this tiny puppet.
And especially when you’re flying and moving all over. Tony, did you design a pop-up set? Well, I’ve had a few tries at it. Have you,
Jim? Yeah, I think I’ve tried three times. My first effort was PIPPIN, where the opening
of the show has nothing on stage and then Ben Vereen pulls his little momentarily lost
kerchief out of the stage and pulls the whole set that comes up and goes. And there are
three or four, I think, pop-up sets in that production. But I must say, I was not entirely
satisfied. And yet, kind of thrilled that I’d pulled some version of it off. And when
we were doing the tech in Washington, we went through all the stuff rather laboriously,
and Jules Fisher, who was lighting it, and I were really kind of tickled with where it
was going. And then finally, all that went away and we
were in a bare stage again. And Ben Vereen is standing there alone, and a little straw
hat comes whirling out to him and a cane comes whirling out to him and a spotlight hits him
and it’s just black void. And Fosse says, “Ah! That’s what I call a set!” (LAUGHTER) That’s how directors work with designers,
is it? Yeah. But I have to say I miss him every day.
He was wonderful to work with. Well, that was an achievement of the lighting
designer then. (LAUGHTER) That’s right. Jim, what is your pop-up set story? Do you
have one? Have you tried that? Actually, I did a show with Howard and Mark
a couple of years ago, called WHATNOT. Oh, yes. And we tried to do a couple things, attempted,
on our very small limited budget. But we did some fun things. We had a fish that ate two
characters. It’s still in my basement. (LAUGHTER) Cool. Trying to digest them, right? I don’t know what it’s doing, but it’s
down there. So we attempted to do it, and we achieved
some of it. Umm-hmm. Does the fact that any of these things are
down in the basement keep you awake at night? No. The things in the attic. (LAUGHTER) Robin, obviously I want you to talk about
how you worked with the other designers and how you happened to design the set for your
show. You all came somewhat late to JEKYLL AND HYDE. I gather it started with a different
director and entirely different designers. And you presumably came aboard before the
other designers. What happened? I don’t know what happened, other than being
asked to do it. The principal set designer actually had died,
Peter, who was my long time right arm, yes. Peter — last name? Peter Gould, yes. He had been the right hand
man also for SUNSET BOULEVARD and had been very responsible for that amazing principal
set with the staircase and how to get rid of it and, you know, how it would fly and
slide forward and all of those things. That was his territory. And he died, I think, just
before the opening of SUNSET BOULEVARD. And then, but you replaced the original director,
too? Can I just say, before you go on, because
I’m so fascinated by the other side? Yes. There wasn’t one mention of manipulation,
but of actually living him. And it seems that it is absolutely the center of what we’re
all about. A great conductor, you can be as thrilled watching, because he is actually
living the performance with the singer, and breathing with the singer as well as with
the orchestra. And exactly as you were describing your work with Peter. And it’s what we all
do, I think, or try to do. Yes. Actually, we had a little fight sequence
in rehearsal yesterday for MAJOR BARBARA, in which B. H. Barry, the great master of
fight scenes, educated us all in the fact that it’s the passive person in the fight,
the person who’s about to get thumped, who is actually the person who’s driving the
whole thing. You know, someone grabs the neck, it’s the hand that comes to protect that
hand that actually is pulling the attacker across the stage. And it’s like this, it’s
extraordinary, yeah. B. H. choreographed the fight scenes with
the puppets in the show. Oh, he did? Oh, my goodness. His first and only puppet fight. (LAUGHTER) If you can imagine a scene between Peter and
Hook, and then six other puppeteers trying to follow them around. I mean, to keep [it]
that the action is leading from the puppets, and the puppets are dragging these other six
people behind them in this very fast-paced fight. It was something. And you never tripped over each other? No, never. (LAUGHTER) Never, ever! Wonderful. Just wonderful. So I have no idea
the background of being asked to do [the show]. Well, suddenly the other director wasn’t
there, and you were hired initially as director. That’s right. And did what I usually do,
which is while preparing a show, I usually start with a sort of concept book. That’s
mainly because I’m not an educated man, and I quite often find it easier to push a
picture or something in front of somebody to say “I sort of feel like this,” than
to wrestle with words. And having produced that book, our producer, Gary Guinness said,
“That’s what we want.” And we mercifully than found Jimmy, who could turn that into
something that would actually stand up. (LAUGHTER) You mean, that’s our design? That sort of
thing? Well, yes, they fell in love with that and
said that that’s what they wanted. Where did it come from? Where did it come from? I produced it, the
book. Did you bring the book? I did, I brought the book. That’s what I
basically start off with. And it just starts off with a model and photographs, taken with
— Beverly will be very disapproving. Actually, she wouldn’t be disapproving. You’re the
one lighting designer who wouldn’t be disapproving! I have three lights in my sitting room. Had you made this model yourself? Yes. Oh! Had you made this model before you were hired. No, I was hired. And then you did this. What were you hired
[for]? Yes. I wasn’t hired as a designer at that
point, I was hired as the director. But I work in funny ways, so because they liked
that, we then had to find somebody who would work with me on that. Very often, that just
gets thrown to a designer, and the designer understands what I’m about but comes up
with something entirely different. And on this occasion, we’ve actually stayed pretty
much with it, because we found somebody remarkable in Jimmy, who was able to put all his expertise
and immense artistry, I must say, into the detail of it. What about the directing part of it, then? Then I went on and directed. Or did you mean,
what about the directing when somebody changes [the set]? Yes. That’s okay, I’m happy with that, too.
But we had a particular problem with JEKYLL. We had an original story, which is probably
the state-of-the-art writer, and then a book and a lyricist and a composer. And trying
to put those three things together and to build an environment in which pop music can
live with a sometimes very much a hundred-years-ago text, and sometimes in the libretto, a not-hundred-years-ago
text. So it was trying to create an environment in which those things, we felt, could live,
is what we struggled to do, all of us. And Jimmy didn’t come very late, but you came
where it was pressure. Yes. And Beverly came very late, where it was immense
pressure. And it was tough, painful. (LAUGHTER) But actually, often very rewarding. And like
that extraordinary creation, sort of what we’re all about. There’s something so
thrilling about theatre, when regardless of all of us, something else happens here. And
for all the pain and the torture and the detail and the fittings and the pinpricks and the
sweat and the tears, it’s when this thing that we actually don’t have any control
over starts to happen, and we don’t honestly know why. It’s thrilling. So it was worthwhile.
The pain was worthwhile, because there were many moments of our red box, that was exciting. What about the backdrops? At what point did
they enter the show, and where did they come from? Most of them are in the book. They were very
early on, and they’re mostly all quite famous pictures. There’s a little bit of computer
distortion, for copyright reasons. (LAUGHTER) It’s again quite tricky to not end up — you’re
not doing SWEENEY, you’re not doing OLIVER! And what sort of Victoriana is this music,
is this text? It’s quite a problem, so that you don’t set up an expectation theatrically
that you’re going to get a lot of little waifs singing, “Food, glorious food!” (LAUGHS) Oops, wrong show! So he came to you,
Jim, and he said, “This is it, do it.” What did you do next? The first day I saw this book. The next day,
Robin and I met at the Plymouth Theatre and we sort of mapped out the territory. And then
I just went and made a– Wasn’t that the most? Do tell about it,
because it was the most extraordinary day. We went in and did, from what we had already
said were the proportions we liked, proportions to do with the human being as opposed to do
with proportions to do with the theatre. And we put those proportions on the stage, and
it was just the two of us together in the empty theatre. And we went back. We stuck
poles up, and we went back into the auditorium. And we didn’t change them by half an inch. Wow. We didn’t touch them. They were perfect. And there are two pillars at the back, right
at the back of the Plymouth, and there were exactly on the lines of our box, so they masked
not a thing. Do you use them in the show, the pillars? No. No, you don’t. But it was an amazing day, wasn’t it? Yeah. The proportions were perfect. It just sat there. We never changed the proportions
again. Sorry, Jim. When did you build the model? Well, after that day, we came up with the
idea that what isn’t there are these towers that move on and off. We have four of them
going up each side of the stage. And we sort of started talking about that, so that I just
went home, and I made, literally out of just white paper, the shapes that we came up with
that day and started working on these towers. And Robin and I got together a couple days
later. Actually, you were the one that had the courage
to be expensive. (JAMES LAUGHS) The towers are there. These are three flat towers, lying
this way. And in the end of the book, we’ve already gone to three towers up like that
nicely. Very nice. But now they’re up like that, we can’t
move them. And Jimmy was the one that had the courage to say, “Why can’t you move
them?” (LAUGHTER) Set designers think like that. Coming from the “knock wood” craft of
theatre, I was shaking and saying, “No, you can’t! You can’t make it move!”
Jimmy said, “Sure, we could make it move.” But that was the first kick up the backside
that you did, just to say sure it could move. (JAMES NODS) It’s probably lucky the towers weren’t
in the book in the first place, or you wouldn’t have got a go at it. That’s right! It was a wonderful revelation. Can we bring that model out here? Can we see
that model? Of one of the towers? Yes, show us what you’re talking about. This is a C tower. It’s stage left. They
travel on and off stage. They’re made out of steel and smoked plexiglass, and what this
allows Robin, as the director, to do is, by positioning these in different ways, actors
can move in and out, as if you’re going down alleyways and streets. And you really
get that feeling of London. And the main thing you see is a silhouette. And we looked at
pictures of London streets, and the way they were built is sort of always jagging out,
different architectural elements, and we applied them to these towers. So in an abstract way,
they’re all different. Each one is a little different. They’re all different. And mainly taken,
which Tony would know, from Cheney Walk. Umm-hmm. Just little profiles of Cheney Walk, back
before all the bridges were there. And we used plexiglass, which was quite tough for
Beverly, because we were using plexiglass as a sort of metaphor for fog. We didn’t
want to have to be in permanent smoke. So that everything is actually seen through smoked
glass. Beverly, what problems did that create for
you? Well, you have to know that you’re dealing
with something shiny. Yes! And therefore, the follow spots cannot be
a straight front shot, must be a diagonal. Otherwise it goes right into the audience’s
eyes. Yeah, if someone’s standing in front singing,
it would slam right into this and right back at an audience. So someone’s standing in
front singing, if you get ‘em like this, the splash is off to the side. There’s always
a splash. If you have something shiny on a stage, you have something shiny on a stage.
And the issue is that the whole team deals with the implications of that, because presumably
you put it there because you wanted what it would do. And the issue that was more complicated really
than the plexi, we could shoot through it when we needed to, was the fact that when
they moved in and out, it put the sidelight either so far back to get out of the way of
the offstage position that it then shot through all of this wonderful steel work. It really
had a quality of nineteenth century iron. And one of the things that interested me is
that the script talked about the smells of the river and the smells of the alley. Well,
that’s the lighting designer’s job. (LAUGHTER) And to create that mood that would suggest
that yes, there are people out there, and you really don’t want to go down there,
where they came from, was part of the side light problem. And these things moving in and out, I had
one choice [which] was, you know, to make something very complicated that would perhaps
ride with it or change focus and all that. And the other thing was to take more John
Cage approach and decide that it didn’t matter. And in that sense, as the set moved
in and out of the light, it created wonderful design patterns that could splash and throw
shadows. And we used the Varilights that also, in moving, could move as this moved or could
move through all of this ironwork. And it proved beautiful, just beautiful, and important
to the feeling of the whole piece. To represent also your absentee costume designer,
I might refer back to your mention of wanting to try and make something different from the
original OLIVER! and the other Dickensian things one thinks of, if you can imagine anybody
this old, I was the original designer approached to do the original design of OLIVER! And I
had the same impulse. We don’t want to see a lot of adorable little stage kids as the
Dickensian ragamuffins. And so, I came up on this first meeting with the producer with
the idea that all the children should be played by midgets and dwarves, so they would look
like the original illustrations in the original [book]. So I didn’t last very long. (LAUGHTER)
One must be careful of one’s inspirations and how to deliver them. Jim, can we see the rest of that model? I’m
just itching to see it. You do have a whole model back there, don’t you? Or is this
what you brought? No, I just brought some of the towers. You brought pieces. Show us the rest of them. The rest of the towers? Yeah, set them up. This is a B tower, which fell apart a second
ago, which closed like this. The stage is raked, so they’re tilting a little. And
these are the A towers, which were down here, which don’t move. Now, which way is downstage? Downstage is this way. Oh, so isn’t that like this way? Well, they play like this, and then these
go on, right. Right, and then these move. And then there’s a D tower up here, which
is similar to this tower, which doesn’t move, it stays there. So it’s just the B
and the C towers, as we call them. How do you actually create backdrops out of
photographs? I mean, these weren’t projections, right? Not very well, here, I didn’t think. (LAUGHTER) It’s a tough thing. Okay, we were in the shop at the same time
as you were doing STEEL PIER. And it’s a machine. It’s about sixteen feet long. And
it prints three dots. It has three little jets. Four little jets,
and they’re printing all the primary colors. And it’s very difficult. Rushing along back and forth, and essentially
just making this gigantic translucency. It was a translucency, wasn’t it? Yeah. And it’s very difficult to match the
colors. It’s hard to get red. Yes. And also, you need more than sixteen
feet, so then you have to piece it together. So it’s absolutely astonishing, because
it’s something of the future, and yet there’s so much of it that’s still primitive. They’ve
actually fixed these translucent panels together on a rough old garage carpeted floor. So the
odds of not getting a mis-slice, or you know, a hole where they’re taping it. And they’re very expensive. Yes. So they give you about two inches to proof.
And you can pick any part of the picture, but it’s very difficult to match the colors
and get the right colors. And then you know, they print six feet of it and you realize
that you made a mistake. You’re looking at all of it on a little
computer image to try and figure out what you’re doing. So when this huge thing starts
to emerge, all you see are these mystical dots that have no relation to what you think
you’ve talked about. We chewed a lot of fingernails. Yes. And you were doing the same thing, because
you were dealing with the real steel pier? Yes. And somewhat, for similar reasons, I
think, because the thing was a rather depressing, gritty story, we wanted to not let it just
become a romance, but to try to bring something of the feeling of a real sky, a real background.
You know, whether it’s steel or whatever. Since you had an airplane! Yeah! (THEY LAUGH) But you know, instead of
a sort of romantically painted scenic version of that, to try to have the whole thing erupt
from some sort of reality. So I think in both our cases, all our drops were sort of stacked
together at the back. Beverly, there must have been enormous differences,
working on JEKYLL AND HYDE and working on WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN, in the nature of
the collaboration and the nature of the material. I mean, I felt in WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN
that your lighting was absolutely a character. This is a Joe Chaikin/Sam Shepard collaboration
with two performers, very minimal sort of set, and these huge shafts of light that were
like a human being. And alternating monologues and intimate scenes between the two characters.
What were the differences in working conditions and collaboration and challenges and goals
and so forth? Well, in every way, it’s a different theatrical
event. Joe and Sam had written a very sort of thoughtful, quiet, meditative even, discussion
of a man locked in a cell and a woman who comes to visit, for it’s not clear what
reason. There was a lot of talk about food. But really, for me, it was an issue of making
that cell different every time we came back to it. I mean, just it would fade out and
come back to something new and therefore alive. But it’s still always the same place. And
to have some reflection of what was emotionally going on, except that there’s nothing emotionally
going on that anyone had discussed. It was not a verbal agreement with any of
us. It was just whether it felt right. So I couldn’t sit here and say what I did,
because there aren’t any words about that. I mean, one of the things that I find most
interesting about lighting is that when you discuss it, it’s all wires and plugs and
bulbs and trivia peripheral to what is actually the experience of people seeing it. And it’s
not verbal, what is actually going on is not verbal. It’s also really the only major new thing
that’s happened to the theatre in a couple of thousand years, you know? Yes. And it’s exploding. This was my first,
with JEKYLL AND HYDE, budgetary-wise was a vast difference, of course, and expectations
of audience and so forth, in the two productions. And this was the first time I had used the
wiggle lights, the Varilights. Could you tell us what that means? This is a technology which came to us through
the generosity of rock and roll, where the equipment, first of all, it’s not incandescent,
it’s arc sources. So the quality of the light is brighter than incandescent equipment
and it is colder, its white is colder, by, you know, a thousand or so degrees Kelvin.
It is therefore, also, not a wire which heats up in a bulb that therefore dims, but rather
it is a source that’s on all the time in the lamp and goes out! on! You can flick it,
in a way, whereas a blackout of a stage light goes euunnnh. We couldn’t have done the
JEKYLL AND HYDE song the way you did it. It’s also moving, the light. Yeah. And from a distance, from a computer,
one can assign it, where it should be next and how fast it should travel there, and if
it should have gobos in it and colors change and so forth. What does it travel on? It hangs in one place, physically in space.
And then it has server motors that drive to its destinations. A hundred and eighty degrees,
and almost three hundred and sixty degrees. But does the lamp itself move, or does the
reflector, as it were? No, in this case, it’s the lamp itself moving.
There are other technologies where the source stands still and a mirror moves. And that
has its own uses. But in this case, we used the real thing that itself moved. But that
flick, between Jekyll and Hyde, where he goes from one position to the other, and the lights
go bang! You can’t do with incandescent. That’s essential. The moments when Jekyll,
you know, takes the drug and it hits him, and suddenly the whole world twists. And lights
could go on and off before, but now lights that were on as shadows suddenly [change]. And so, you can go from something which is
experientially real for an audience to something that is surreal and expressionistic. Is this
what’s going on in his system? Is this what’s going on in his mind? And you can engage people
that way, perhaps more intensely than you could before. Is it fair to say that because it’s versatile
that you can use less equipment than you would with a conventional lighting rig? Yes, yes. Yeah, because it can change color
and it can be in different places at different moments. So one lamp can be five hundred different
specials. So it makes a lighting rig much more versatile. It sounds like it makes cueing the show, however,
much more complicated. A nightmare! (LAUGHTER) A nightmare! But it’s sort of, it’s alive. Tony was
saying it’s, you know, the newest thing in a few thousand years. But it is interesting,
if you go back to Plutarch, that the real Antony, as opposed to Shakespeare’s Antony,
arriving to see Cleopatra, the thing that he writes about most is the extraordinary
lighting and the millions of little lights that he had placed on trees and all over the
place as he arrived to meet Cleopatra. And to have Plutarch talking about lighting on
that occasion, as opposed to the banquet or the peacocks stuffed with figs or whatever,
seems to me an absolutely amazing story. And when we were discussing with Sam Wanamaker,
the new Globe, everybody was sort of saying, “Of course, there will be no lighting, because
there weren’t any.” And those academics that drive me — perhaps I shouldn’t be
saying this in this building (LAUGHTER) — drive you crazy with the knowledge that is based
on, it seems to me, fantasy, saying there would be no lighting. And you say, “Now, wait a minute! He gets
the plot from Plutarch, and we know that the Roman soldiers had brass shields and could
actually catch the sunlight and semaphore to each other, ‘The troops are coming,’
whatever. Do you tell me that the man is not, with an open roof, capable with HAMLET with
an under-the-stage ghost about to appear, that he’s not capable of placing somebody
in the back of the auditorium with a brass shield and getting a flash of light into the
darkness. (TONY LAUGHS) I mean, it’s absurd to think that we didn’t have lighting. It’s a different kind of lighting, yeah. I’m not talking about [that], of course,
I’m talking about the academics that tell us that the Globe doesn’t have lighting.
But the fact that that was moving, we seemed to be coming, and Canada’s just done an
opera with the chorus walking around with huge searchlights that move with them and
go across the audience and things. There’s something very exciting about lighting being
able to move. And as you were saying, Beverly, that wonderful happenchance when the towers
moved and you felt that something in the wings was causing the shadow. Is that a person moving?
What is it? It brought the wings alive, because of the movement. But I agree with you. In the Baroque theatre,
where we’re led to believe there was virtually no lighting, except for the chandeliers and
stuff. But you know that’s not true. (BEVERLY NODS) If you look at the designs, you can
see clearly that the shadows were all one way on one set and another way on another.
And they must have had torchieres outside the windows or something, you know. But I
agree, the academic view of it is rather disappointing. Yes. One of the wonderful things about the JEKYLL
AND HYDE design, for all of us, really, is the fact that we go all the way from this
new modern equipment to live fire. And the pyrotechnology, done by Greg Mee is just extraordinary.
And to have the reality of a flame, with the reality of all of the steel and the plexiglass,
and the clothes, which are terribly real, in this sort of phantasmagoric story, it stretched
it. It helped stretch it all the way. Yes. Real, but heightened, yes. Well, that’s the wonderful thing about the
electronic lighting, as opposed to candle lighting, is the control, the mood. Yeah. But then also going totally backwards.
Beverly has Varilights. There’s a moment, as we’re going into the laboratory, where
there’s a sort of transformation from one scene to the other. That was one of the most
difficult things about this, was the fact that there’s no scene change written into
the thing. Everything ends with a song, and at the end of the song, you’re in another
place. And there’s no time, no music to get you from one [to the other]. You have
to somehow get there during the song each time, which is a nightmare. The movie, yeah. (LAUGHS) But Beverly had, it says something about a
spot glistening with light or something. Sparkling, sparkling shine. Right. Anyway, it was a very descriptive little bit
of tiddly-push in the middle of the song. And you had Varilights and all the reflecty
thingies going sparkle, sparkle. And a mirror ball! And lasers. And lasers. So you had the very latest, and
these little pencil lasers doing things, and the old-fashioned mirror ball, just sitting
there sending little sparkles. It was the combination of one end of our technical experience
to the other, wasn’t it? That was extraordinary to see. Yeah, and Bunsen burners, fires on the moving
table. Yes. Has lighting made the most changes, the most
change of all in theatre, would you say? Changes you can see. Certainly the technology
and materials that you guys use are equally modern. Well, they are, but you know, we tend to downgrade
what people like Belgeddes [did], and way before the Second World War and the First
World War actually, there were remarkable things being done. And we’ve sort of lost
the sense of what those guys, Reinhardt and people did. Isn’t that the important part of it, that
we don’t know about it, we, the audience? To not know, isn’t that the most successful,
when that happens? Umm-hmm. Well, you know, that suggests another interesting
question to ask here, which is, is the best design always design that doesn’t make us
conscious of the design? I mean, for a while I’ve thought so. And then I see something
like WHEN PIGS FLY, where surely a lot of the laughs do spring from the costumes, their
appearance, their tricks, what the actors can do with them, how they fit into and perhaps
even inspire your lyrics and vice versa. I mean, obviously, there is a kind of design
where we are meant to be conscious of it. How do you all feel about that? What is good
design and should we be noticing it? I think the minute you make a rule, you’re
going to appear ridiculous. (LAUGHTER) Because I long to see LION KING, where you
can see quite clearly that it’s a performer and the stilts are on the air, and yet, at
the same time, you can clearly see the giraffe. Right. Yes, yes. And as you were saying, there are all the
people in Japanese theatre. One of the most moving things, I think, is that relationship
between the animator and the puppet. I did a show with teenagers, and there was a real
stud little football player was in this. We had a seventy foot muskrat, and he was on
the tail, this little bruiser. (LAUGHTER) And two stories, a young ballet dancer had
chosen to be in this thing, too, and she was on one of the sticks doing the head. And it
was a huge thing, there were twelve of them. First of all, the head was much too heavy,
and we said to this perfect little ballerina, you know, perhaps we should swap her and would
she like to go onto the hand? And she just thundered at us, “I will do the HEAD!”
she said. (LAUGHTER) And the head she did, with superhuman strength. But this bruiser boy on the tail, when it
moved, because it was such a huge thing, the speed that he had to go to keep the tail moving.
And in forty years, one of the most moving experiences for me in the theatre was watching,
eventually in performance, this teenage football player with immense concentration on keeping
the tail of this creature alive. It was just so moving. It was almost unbearable to watch,
because of the absolute commitment to the life of the creature that it was creating. But the question of what makes good design
is really impossible to answer. The leading critic of the New York Times for a while came
out, and remember this, Jim? Yes. There was an article about “What Makes Good
Design?” I think that was the title. And his answer is that there are these productions
on in New York at the moment. And the ones that are the best designs are the ones that
you would want to live in. (LAUGHTER) What?! (LAUGHS) Now, if you make a list of what’s it at
the time, you know that good design in the theatre is as far from interior decoration
as you could possibly imagine. But there we were. I think, talking about what Julie Taymor is
doing with LION KING, which I haven’t seen, I’m also dying to see it, and then the Bunraku
kind of thing, something Howard and I used to talk about a lot is that the greatest moments
in the theatre are when you get the audience to participate in an illusion with you, where
you’re believing it so much, if you can do it right in view of the audience and have
them believe it. We did an early thing with puppets. We were always flirting with puppetry,
we never really got it right, I don’t think. But there was one place where we had someone
playing three people, and you know, one on each hand and a head in the middle and three
little bodies that stood on top of a piano. And we found that the guy who was doing the
voices for all three could just move this mouth and just not even have to conceal the
fact that he was talking and your eye only went there. And that was so much better than
trying to hide it, you know? The audience was so much more delighted. Can you talk about puppetry and studying in
France? And we hear that a great deal. Is there no school of puppetry here that is equal
to the one in France? There’s not a school of puppetry. There
are universities that have a department or that offer classes. But this one school is
really a unique school. And there are several schools in Europe. But this one in France
— And the Henson company does train people in
a lot of different forms. They train people for their purposes. Well, their interest stretches way beyond
their own. Oh, definitely. I have received their benefits
and they have aided me in many ways. But definitely the training that they offer specifically
is for what they do. But if I might say as a puppeteer, I started doing puppetry because
I could do everything myself and there was not a line between design and narrative. Because
clearly, as has happened in your show, the design certainly influences the narrative.
And for me, that was why I was doing puppetry. I could do everything. I could do the lights,
too, and I could do the performance. And in fact, I find especially in puppetry
that the design is so integral to the performance. Julie Archer also won an American Theatre
Wing Award for EPIDOG last year, and she won an Obie for performance, for the puppet that
she had designed. And I thought that was so brilliant, that she would be awarded a performance
award, the designer. And I’m sure you would agree, those costumes are performing. Yes. I think, you know, that certain people, Julie
Taymor, I think Howard was one of them, obviously this woman is one of them, whose design is
not sought after. There is not a vehicle in theatre right now that could really truly
show Howard’s talents. Something like JEKYLL AND HYDE, none of these. So I think, out of
frustration that some of these people get together and create. I mean, that’s what
Julie Taymor has done, create their own venues. And in doing so, like when WHATNOT opened,
you do everything. And immediately everybody is, you know, “What? You’re directing,
you’re creating, you’re starring in it?” It becomes a problem, you know? But no one
else is out there offering you things. You know, no one’s out there. And it forces
these people to create them themselves. It’s true talent. It’s raw. At its best, though, the theatre that’s
happening on the JEKYLL side is trying with a collection of people to achieve the same
thing. And that is that finally, when we all come together, it’s not the individual parts
but the experience together, something happens that we cannot describe or put words around
that is an experience. That design/language, language/design, music/design, whatever that
may be, when we all come together, we won’t even try to say what the experience is. It
is live theatre. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) And it happens, and we experience it. We feel better
because of it. We’ve understood in a way that you can’t understand by reading the
book or being lectured or whatever it may be. The experience somehow tells us something. Jerry Zaks said something very similar to
my students at the Actors Studio, about he as a director comes with his dream and the
design team come with their variations on the dream, sometimes their own. And what comes
out of the combination is the audience’s dream. And hopefully, it’s not a nightmare!
(LAUGHTER) That’s right. That’s good. Do you want to do anything other than what
you’re doing? Do you want to produce? No, no, no, no. (LAUGHTER) No, I love designing for the theatre. It’s
the greatest. Beverly? Absolutely. You do? No, absolutely, I want to do what I do. Well, you are doing something else. Tony has
gone into directing. I’m totally a theatre creature, although
I do try to get other things going to support my habit. (LAUGHTER) But you will always be design, along with
directing and movies. Do you want to go into producing? I have produced, in England, half a dozen
things. Three of them with Hal Prince, actually. But I didn’t realize how much of it was
hand-holding and being a kind of major nanny. Psychiatrist. Yes, exactly, yes. Do you want to be on Broadway at any time? I’ve been on Broadway as a performer, for
a number of years. Oh, do I want to do — Be a Broadway producer? I never want to produce! (LAUGHTER) Directing. Do you want to direct on Broadway? That is the one job in theatre I wouldn’t
touch, producing. I agree. And yet, Liza does it. It takes incredible heroism. Well, listen, you know, we don’t want to
skip over Danny, though. No, Danny, I mean, you’re a clothing manufacturer. Have you
gotten bitten enough by the theatre bug that you would consider it? No. No? It’s a talent. I mean, there’s a difference
between constructing a garment and designing a garment. And what Howard did is not within
my realm of consciousness, it’s just not. I’m like the worker ant. You know, I can
do all of that. I’m a behind-the-scenes person. He’s the talent. He’s the one
who possessed a vision that none of us can duplicate. I mean, I think that if even the
people in WHEN PIGS FLY got together and tried to create another one, we couldn’t go to
the places that Howard took this show. It’s just not possible. Did you study to be a clothing manufacturer? No, it just sort of happened. It was one of
those things. You know, you just sort of get into it and keep moving and swimming and it
just happened. To pursue Mrs. Stevenson’s question, Liza,
are you happy producing and writing? And do you have a preference? I think what moves me is the particular project.
And I do not think of myself as a producer, although it’s what I’ve done most. (LAUGHTER) Some major projects! So certainly, you know, GOSPEL was on Broadway.
The Dodgers were the real producers there, although I was a producer on it and worked
on it. That’s not something that I would ever want to do again. (LAUGHTER) That’s
somebody who’s a career producer. That’s what they want to do, and they have other
sorts of things in mind. For me, it’s in the way that all of these projects, it sounds
like there was a vision. It could have come from any particular artist. The spark could
have been first the writer or the designer or even a producer. I mean, my feeling is the producer has a great
deal of creative input, into seeing the sort of whole picture, both in terms of the nanny
job and really the artistic vision as well. And what you are sort of bringing out in the
production and what you’re not. And certainly, all of us, working with other producers, you
know, people say, “Well, there’s the artistic sign and there’s the budget side.” But
you know, the budget is the art side. How the budget is spent determines how the project
is. So hopefully, the producer is a collaborator, too, and is having to compromise in the same
way that everyone else is. But I always say I’ll never do it again. (LAUGHTER) And what about the playwriting? Oh, I love that. But what I really like to
write — and this is perhaps why what I’ve written is narrative — it’s not in play
form. And I’ve been lucky to collaborate with Lee Breuer, who is of course himself
a writer as much as a director. So although that created some sparks in the directing
of PETER AND WENDY, because he generally directs his own writing and therefore has complete
control, he was able to take a really narrative work and bring out those metaphors, make it
a theatrical experience as a director. I hesitate to ask Basil if he’s doing what
he loves or wants to do anything else, because I have a feeling if we offered you a trillion,
zillion dollars that you wouldn’t tear yourself away from it. Is that right? (LAUGHS) Well, I — What was that theatre again? (LAUGHTER) A zillion trillion? I’d love to do bigger and better things,
but of course, I’ve been fortunate in working small in my own work. I mean, I work with
other companies and work as a puppeteer, and also as a designer with other companies. But
in my own work, it’s been lucky that I work on such a tiny scale, because I am able to
basically do everything myself, and I enjoy that. So I enjoy all the things I do, and
I like to perform and design and direct and write and sing and create. And I’d love
to do more. And if I had a million zillion dollars, I’d do something really great!
(LAUGHTER) What are your current projects? Robin, what
are you working on or looking forward to right now? Three plays. Classical and modern, but period-setting
piece. Yes? (LAUGHTER) I heard you say something
about MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT. Is that [one]? I’m not allowed to talk about that. (LAUGHTER) You’re not allowed to talk about that. Well,
then — I’m mostly working on, which is really thrilling,
and why I feel such a connection to the other side of our semi-circle, I’m working on
a first, for me, feature animation. And that’s classical. And it’s just thrilling. I saw
my very first [demonstration]. They were showing me about animation and giving me from A to
Z. And a very sweet guy had pages and was showing me just through from the beginning
how he starts. And there’s this black sheet of paper and he did the little circle and
then put a little face. And then finally quick, quick, quick, he drew, and finally flicked. And it went from this blank sheet to something
that was recognizable. And within seconds, he had produced, just in a very simple line
drawing and a flick, he had actually produced something that said, with his voice but with
the drawing, “Hi!” And I was speechless for twenty minutes. It was the most extraordinary
moving thing to see. And like animating Peter, to see his concentration, not only his hands
but his face and his shoulders and everything as he drew, it just was the most amazing experience
of creativity for me. And it’s a thrill to be working on it. Jim, what are you doing? I’m working on CYRANO DE BERGERAC, Martin
Sherman’s MADHOUSE AND GOA and SUNSHINE BOYS. (LAUGHS) That’s quite a combination. Do you want
to say anything about them, where they are, what sort of work you’ve done? CYRANO’s at the Roundabout, A MADHOUSE is
a small production for Second Stage, which is a tiny little theatre. And SUNSHINE BOYS
is for the National Actors’ Theatre, which I’ve done a couple of other shows for. Where did you come from? Where did I come from? (LAUGHS) Well, I started
working in the theatre when I was very young, so I started out as a carpenter and a painter,
and I just sort of evolved into being a designer. No, I meant, where did you grow up? Upstate New York. And then came to New York to be part of the
theatre? Yes. That was the reason for coming here? Yes. Beverly, what are you working on? I’m doing a piece, MISSIONARIES, for Liz
Swados, at BAM Majestic, in a couple of weeks. CSC is doing a production, a modern version
of PHAEDRA. After Christmas, a couple of small projects. And my ongoing work at Lincoln Center
Institute, which is to put together a repertory for the whole of next year, school tours which
include producing some theatre and which leads me to interesting directions. And changes of pace. Are there with associates with Beverly Emmons
that do lighting? How many? No. No. It’s you? No, I think if somebody calls me up and asks
me to do the lighting, they expect me to show up. (LAUGHTER) And they want what I have to
[offer]. Good. Is that true of you, Tony? Expect me to show, yes. Indeed, yes. And what
am I doing? Yes, why don’t you tell us what you’re
doing. (TONY LAUGHS) The insanity that you’re engaged in. Well, I’m actually trying to work out a
possible transfer version of 1776, the setting, which is on an on again, off again basis every
other day. But we’re having to move it from the Roundabout, which is a very friendly space,
into the Gershwin, which is the largest theatre in New York, if you don’t count Madison
Square Garden. So that’s a current nightmare. I’m doing a lot of rehashing of costumes
in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, as all the replacements come rocketing
in and out. And at the moment, I’m in the tail end of my second week of rehearsal directing
MAJOR BARBARA for the Irish Repertory Theatre. Directing and presumably designing the set
and the costumes? By default, yes. How do you collaborate with yourself? Well, it’s very tricky. (LAUGHTER) I must
say, actually I found on THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST last year, I had a thing that
I had come up with that I really liked for the final act, when all the characters are
on stage. And it was a view of the lake, out of the sort of summerhouse. And I was really
drawn to it, and I kind of socked it in the model and everything and was definitely going
to go with it. And then, I started to imagine directing in it and I realized (LAUGHS) that
it was much too interesting! (LAUGHTER) You were upstaging your actors. Yes, so I did cut back. But as a designer
on this one, I keep thinking, “Well, I think my bicycle shed doors could do for the Salvation
Army shed.” (LAUGHS) No, because it’s a no money situation, so you do what you can.
And actually, even in 1776, all the tablecloths are the green drapes from THE IMPORTANCE OF
BEING EARNEST, from last year! (LAUGHTER) And much of the furniture is my own, as is
the easel. And you know, it appears to be on Broadway, and for legal purposes, it is.
But of course, none of the other things apply. We get no money to make the set. We get no
money to design it. And there’s no royalties. And so, you do what you can to do what you
can. So if you move into the Gershwin, you get
your easel and your furniture back? Well, no it would go. (LAUGHS) It would go on to Broadway? If something appears to be working all right,
no producer says, “Well, let’s get a new one of those!” (LAUGHTER) Mark, what are you doing? I’m working on two scores, writing lyrics
for two new scores, and for one of them, I’m writing the book as well. One’s based on
an Isaac Bashevis Singer folktale, and one is based on a French farce from the eighties.
And they’re both very visual. I feel like the time I’ve put in with Howard really
has a wonderful residual effect on my work. And one deals with magic, and in the other
one, the leading lady plays two roles, so there’s all kinds of quick change. And I’m
able to think in those terms very vividly now, so I’m using it. You’ve got a handy group here! (LAUGHTER)
In the absence of Howard. Yes. Liza? Well, I think I’d like to say what Julie
is doing next, since I’m here for her. First, PETER AND WENDY is going to the Geffen Playhouse
in Los Angeles, in December and January. And Julie is in Italy now, at the very beginning
of a collaboration of a piece that will be directed by Ruth Maleczech for Mabou Mines,
about the Baylin Prison in seventeenth century Mexico, a prison that was created by the Catholic
church. It was to be a sanctuary for women and women were lured in who had no other means
of support or who were actresses or prostitutes, one and the same (LAUGHTER), and then pretty
much found themselves in this prison, unable to get out, the windows walled up. And Julie is working with, you know, early
religious imagery, and is going to do a very simple visual. The original idea is that it’s
to be the only visual, with no lighting, although Julie, who is the one who practically has
to pull this off, of course knows that there will be lighting. But it’s an acetate strip
on which there will be a full series of imagery that will be pulled at various speeds through
an overhead projector, and that’s it. Thank you so much. On that note, I’m going
to have to end this wonderfully, wonderfully enlightening discussion on working in the
theatre, from the point of view of the creative artists, the people that the audience in front
doesn’t see and doesn’t see them take the bows which are rightfully theirs. They
are winners of the American Theatre Wing’s Design Award, which carries with it a very,
very small monetary award, but enormously large in recognition of the talents that have
been here today. Thank you, Professor Tish Dace, and thank
you, Tony Walton, for conducting this extraordinarily wonderful panel of people. We are coming to
you from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. And this is but one of the American
Theatre Wing’s year-round programs. Thank you for being here. (APPLAUSE)

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