Sunday, May 31, 2009

What was Mabruk about to do?

I wanted to talk real quick about another moment from "The Last Unicorn" that I've been working on: Mabruk. As a reminder, he's the old evil wizard that Haggard already has in his employ when Schmendrick, the Unicorn and Molly arrive at the castle. When Haggard realizes that despite Mabruk's undeniable power he actually might be made happier by Schmendrick's incompetence, Mabruk is summarily dismissed. Mabruk isn't happy about that- so he starts to work some terrible magic to get revenge. Now, the question (not really answered in the book) is, what exactly was Mabruk going to do? He gets interrupted by Amalthea, so we never find out. This is one of the parts of the play where I think a little mask and puppet design would help:

First you can see the mask- this is an old sketch and though I like the bushy eyebrows I might not include the moustache- I'm thinking I want to use the same mask for both Nikos (yes, Nikos actually appears onstage in this adaptation!) and Mabruk- just use different beards. So I can highlight similarities between the two- both are masters of the trade to which Schmendrick aspires- just one is nice, and one is...not-so-nice.

As you might be able to tell from the sketch, here's my idea for what Mabruk was about to do- in our adaptation, he turns himself into a huge, horrible monster. He's vindictive enough that he wants to get his revenge on Haggard personally. So we've got these monster arms I've started work on that other actors will manipulate, while we give the actor playing Mabruk a little extra height as well by hoisting him up. The third component of this moment is some sort of monstrous face that Mabruk will put on as well- a second mask on top of the first one. I'm still mulling over what I want it to look like, but I'll post a sketch when I've decided. Cool, huh?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cut Scene Comic 5: A Hero is Born

At long last, here is the (probably final) cut scene comic: A Hero is Born. It's about Hagsgate, and Lir. It made me a bit melancholy to work on this one, because it signifies something some of you may have already been suspecting: we had to cut Hagsgate from the script. I felt bad about it, but there is precedent- Peter also cut that sequence from the animated version too. Anyway, we'll all know what was really going on with Lir's backstory. This comic will be in the lobby of the show too, to give the audience more detail during intermission if they want. Here goes:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Good news! I got my actual grant check from the city of Chicago today. That means I can go out and buy the materials I need to keep working on the puppets and masks for "The Last Unicorn." Preparations continue apace. In the meantime, here's a deeper look at the current project my company's working on- a scene clip (video by Jill Vanc) of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure."

In this scene, Angelo (Brian Pastor) puts the moves on Isabella (Beth Wolf). Enjoy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Measure for Measure"

Last night we just had a lovely opening for Promethean's current show, "Measure for Measure." I'm not in this one, but have been working on it extensively behind the scenes and am really pleased with it. Thought I'd share some additional photos from the show (taken by Radim Rotek) here:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A few fun photos

Hey everybody,
So I continue to study mask and puppet making, and I wanted to share with you some of the results my training is yielding- first, the butterfly puppet- the photo quality isn't great, but it should give you an idea of what it looks like. This is probably the actual puppet we'll use in the show:

It's pretty looking and also very sturdy (believe me, I've tried to shake it apart) but it also has a simple enough design that you can figure out its component parts, which is important to me in this case since simplicity of design is part of my theatre company's mission.

Here are two masks- a Butterfly and a Satyr- that I've also been building in mask class.

They probably won't be used in "The Last Unicorn," - or at least, not in this production of it- but I'm really pleased with how they came out. I've started initial clay sculpting to build the shape of the Mommy Fortuna mask next- I look forward to showing you those results as well!

Friday, May 8, 2009

"The Last Unicorn" Salute

As Promethean Theatre Ensemble has continued to prepare for "The Last Unicorn," a certain gesture has begun to be used more and more often. I'll do by best to describe it here. We used it more before we announced the season, especially if we needed to refer to the show among people to whom the show had to remain confidential. Even after we announced the season, this gesture has continued to be in use. Without further ado, the Last Unicorn Salute:

1) Put your fist up to the center of your forehead

2) Keeping your fist there, point your pointer finger out away from your head like a unicorn horn.

3) Gesture with the 'horn' out away from your face, in sort of a "To the moon, Alice!" gesture.

Yeah, I know, it's a little dorky, but it entertains me.

If you really want to crack me up when you see me at the show, do that gesture.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Robin Hood and his Merry Men

Things are proceeding nicely with preparations of the masks and puppets for "The Last Unicorn." The Butterfly is completed- I wound up making some alterations to the design- and now that I have a digital camera at my disposal I'll be posting a photo here shortly (look for it later this week). In the mean time, I want to examine another design that I've been wrestling with for a while now- how best to represent the scene where Schmendrick accidentally conjures up Robin Hood and his Merry Men at Captain Cully's camp. Their procession has to have something special about it- more than just actors in costumes. There has to be an element of arresting spectacle to it. So for each of the Robin Hood characters we need to represent (Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Alan a Dale, Little John, and Will Scarlet are the ones we chose. Sorry Friar Tuck!), I decided to create a sort of puppet that's a lot more like a processional banner that the puppeteer carries than anything else. Here's the initial design (which has since changed):

This was before I knew for sure that we'd be in City Lit- it's a lovely, intimate space, with the downside that the hallways backstage are pretty narrow and the ceiling is pretty low. So instead of these medieval banners, I decided to convert them to icons that are carried/brandished by the actors holding them. The body, instead of free canvas, will be stretched canvas on a wood frame. In the original design, I was going to use styrofoam wig heads painted over for the faces on top, but it was pointed out to me by my mask and puppetry instructor that that's a little bit shoddy, especially since he's just finished teaching me how to build several different kinds of masks. So instead we may go with some sort of simply, unadorned cardboard/papier machet or Venitian style mask above each image. Regardless, the faces should be relatively featureless and blank- the real detail and specificity comes from what's shown on the icon/banner below:

The idea is that each icon should be an illuminated page of text, from a medieval tale of Robin Hood. Each page deals with the character that the puppet/icon represents. What I actually put is going to be dictated by room, but since it's a little hard to read I'll put here what's written in the sketches:

Robin Hood:
"Robin Hood knew then that the Sheriff has penetrated his disguise. Removing his false beard, he once again bravely took aim at the target. Once again, he easily pierced the bullseye, and immediately drew his sword and called for his merry men."

Maid Marian:
"Maid Marian moved silently through the forest towards the glen inhabited by Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Her heart beat fiercely as she stealthily stole through the shadows. Would she reach her love in time to warn him of the Sheriff's plan?"

Little John:
"Little John stood astride the bridge. 'None may pass,' he said. Robin approached and said, 'If I best you in single combat, will you allow us to pass safely?' 'Aye,' the Giant rumbled."

"Alan-a-Dale began to play his lute. At once, the Sheriff and his men dropped their weapons and began to yawn. Soon they were all fast asleep. Being merciful, Robin ordered his Merry Men to leave them unharmed where they lay."

Will Scarlet:
"Will Scarlet merrily juggled his daggers as the Sheriff's men approached. With a flick of his wrist, one of the men fell down with a dagger in his heart. 'Fine sport today, eh Robin,' Will called joyfully.

I bought the stretched canvas yesterday, and I'm excited to see how these work out!