Last week, we talked to Kathleen Doyle about her creative process in designing costumes for On The Town, opening next Friday here at Lyric Stage. Kathleen even shared with us some concept sketches for costume designs in the show! Enjoy!
Q. How’s it going ON THE TOWN? A. I’m having so much fun! The war created radical changes in fashion and clothing. The war drove actually design. So rather than taking cues from French haute couture, women all over the U.S.A. and Europe were dressing themselves in military inspired clothes, folk wear, home made clothes, work clothes, (which was a new concept), their own military uniforms because plenty of women served at home and abroad, of course, and even in their husbands’ and brothers’ clothes sometimes.
Q. What aspect of ON THE TOWN attracts you most? A. This is such an optimistic story. It was actually on Broadway during the war! It was a case of art reflecting life because during WWII, there were three million U.S. Sailors, Marines and Army men passing through New York City for one last fling before shipping out.
Q. What kinds of dramaturgy and research are you doing ? A. Lots of time at the New York Public Library Picture Collection! Just pouring over original images. Everything from the Sears Catalog to McCall’s, Simplicity, Vogue dress patterns. Finding knitters to hand knit snoods from vintage patterns. Reading accounts of real ‘Rosies’. Watching training videos that factory created during the war, including ‘How To Supervise Female Employees On The Line.’
Q. What are some especially fun costumes you’re working on? A. We’re shopping, borrowing and renting costumes but we’re also building costumes and hats and accessories! Distressing the factory worker’s clothes is always fun. And the Diamond Eddie’s Showgirls are going to be ridiculous! Lots of feathers, rhinestones, sequins and pouffs! We also have a satire on one of the top entertainers of the era, so playing with her iconic headdress is a blast.
Q. What is your sketching process like? A. Constantly changing! For ON THE TOWN, after trying to absorb the research, and meeting with Spiro and the creative team, I started with rough pencil sketches and reworked those as I read and re-read the script and listened to the score again and again. Then, as all of these ideas crystalized, I sketched out the characters again in watercolor. But the process is constantly evolving, as the ensemble rehearses and gets the show on its feet. So I’ll adjust the designs too. It’s a dance between dramaturgical research, the practical necessities that surface in rehearsal and my vision for each of the characters going out ON THE TOWN !
As Lyric Stage Company prepares for its opening of On The Town on May 10th, we asked actor J.T. Turner (Pitkin) a few questions about his time working on the production, as well as other questions about his career in theatre.
Q. What’s your favorite part of working on “On The Town”? A. I am excited to be working with this cast. For me, it is a nice combination of actors I have worked with in the past, and new actors that I get to work with for the first time. That makes for a fun blend. And I love working with Spiro, he is a director I very much admire.
Q. What does your role mean to you? A. Pitkin is a bit of a challenge, as his theme for most of the show is great tolerance towards his fiance. That changes dramatically in the show, in a wonderful song. So I am trying to play the humor of course, without making him a caricature.
Q. Do you have a favorite scene or song in the show? A. It is still early in rehearsals as I write this, so I am sure I will have many songs and scenes I love, but Michelle DeLuca really sells ” I Can Cook Too”, she does a great job capturing her character Hildy.
Q. What aspect of this show attracted you to it? A. This is an amazing show, but rarely done, so part of the appeal was a chance to work on a classic that rarely gets performed.
Q. Who or what inspires you as a performer? A. Passion. I am inspired by people that bring a strong love for what they do to their lives.
Q. Do you have any advice to aspiring actors? A. Life is about showing up. Audition for everything, be on time for your work, treat the stage with respect. Doing what we do is an honor, remember that, and cherish the work.
Q. If you could do any show, in any role, what would it be? A. Annie in the musical, Annie. I know it is a long shot, but I have faith.
Q. Have you seen the movie? How does the show compare, in your opinion? A. I have seen the movie, and while the movie is fun, it under serves the original show. And I say that not just because my character doesn’t appear in the film!
J.T. Turner (Pitkin, Worker, Ensemble) returns to The Lyric Stage having appeared in Big River, Kiss Me Kate, Man of La Mancha, and 1776. He is the Artistic Director of The Actors Company and is a professional lecturer and public speaker, in the areas of motivation and memory.
I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Amber Voner, who performed the essential role of Hair, Make-Up, & Wig Designer on our production of By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. In this THEATER IN THIRTY interview, we talk about her process and her inspirations, as well as Vera Stark herself.
The show runs through April 27th, so we do hope you’ll come by.
After last Friday’s opening night of By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, we got in touch with the fantastic Terrell Donnell Sledge (Leroy Barksdale/ Herb) to ask a few questions about his experience with this production, as well as to gain some insight about what theater means to him.
Q. What attracted you to working in Boston and being a part of Meet Vera Stark? A. This is a very smart, clever and poignant story that I couldn’t help but be excited about the prospect of working on. Lynn Nottage sets out to—and I believe succeeds at— creating a narrative discourse on a subject that at times seems impossible to breach. There are few things better than working on something that holds a close and personal meaning, and in many ways that is this play for me. I was also really excited to work with Summer L. Williams and be a part of her partnership with Lyric Stage.
Q. How would you compare the experience of working in Boston to what you’ve done in New York? A. There is a sense of being settled and at home that I see in my cast mates, our crew and everyone that is really special and often hard for me to feel in New York. NY is such a transient place that it is easy to forget what it feels like to be in a place like Boston and to be a guest invited into someone’s theatre home and community.
Q. Is this your first time performing outside of New York? Would you do it again? A. I’ve done a number of regional theatre productions, and find that I really enjoy visiting various theatre communities and experiencing life and work there. I always look forward to the travel and new experience.
Q. What has been your favorite or most challenging aspect about working on Meet Vera Stark? A. There is so much content layered into this piece. There are so many characters and points of view to track and encounter, and it was always my hope to do what I can to present my pieces of the grand puzzle so no one misses anything. Not enough people see theatre productions more than once, and our show is a clear example of why that should change. I’m still discovering the intricacies of what the story contains, and the more I see, the more I enjoy it. I want everyone to experience that.
Q. Do you have a favorite show that you’ve worked on in the past? A. Two, actually. The Duchess of Malfi, because my character suffered from lycanthropy, and How We Got On, by Idris Goodwin. The latter is a spectacular story about discovering who you are and the way music and art can preserve one’s story.
Q. What attracts you to certain plays or productions? A. I love theatre that has something to say and reveal to the audience. Whether it is how one man journeys through loss or it is examining a grander social subject. I think that if theatre endeavors to present the vulnerable and exposed truths that life contains, it is always worthwhile.
Q. Do any performers, directors, or writers inspire you? Who, and why? A. I’m inspired by artists who endeavor to capture the world they know. I love discovering the commonalities that exist in the specific perspectives individuals have as a result of their lives and experiences. That is one reason I was a fan of my director, Summer, before I’d even worked with her. I count James Baldwin and Walter Mosley as writers —though not specifically theatrical—who also have a gift for capturing and examining the world as they see it and in doing so, I believe empower others to do the same.
Q. If you could perform in any show, anywhere, what would you choose, and why? That is hard. I really enjoy working with the language in classical pieces and would love to direct a production of Julius Caesar. But in terms of acting, August Wilson’s, King Hedley II has been on my mind and my dream would be to do the films for all of Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books, as they deal with transitioning between worlds and the relationship between one’s past and how it impacts their present and ultimately their future.
Q. What made you decide to become an actor in the first place? A. Originally, I just wanted to because my older brother wanted to. I was in about second grade then, but over the years, I realized that try as I might to quit and do other things, when I was not involved in theatre in some form or other, I wasn’t as happy or fulfilled.
Q. For those looking to professionally enter the world of theater, what would be your #1 piece of advice? A. Kujichagulia: self-determination. Set your goals for yourself. You decide what you are capable of and can’t let other people decide that for you. If you don’t believe in you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else believes. So make up your mind and then always seek to be better than you were the day before.
Terrell Donnell Sledge is making his Lyric Stage debut. Most recently, Terrell completed work on set in Tim Reid’s and New Millennium Studios’ Troop 491 and Blues in The Night. Terrell holds an M.F.A. from Brown University/Trinity Rep and is a Yale University graduate. Terrell would like to thank God and his loving family for their support and commitment.WWW.TERRELLDONNELLSLEDGE.COM