Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nikos and Mabruk

I managed to figure out what I was doing wrong (or, at least, what I was doing most wrong) with my digital camera, so I have more visual treats for you. This photo series features two more masks for "The Last Unicorn" (and, in a supporting role, the radiator in my kitchen).

First, I've finished the mask for Mabruk (at least, before he turns into a monster):

I decided to go with really bold color schemes for each of the masks- Mabruk's obviously, is green. I tried to infuse it (especially the brow and the shape of the eyes) with some of the cruelty of the character, to contrast with the other older wizard we see in the story, Nikos:

Nikos is Schmendrick's mentor, and is seen primarily in flashbacks. In my interpretation, he's supposed to be kinder and more melancholy than Mabruk, though the fact that they both will be masked helps heighten their similarities as entities of mystery and power- they have what Schmendrick wants.

Last but not least, I have much better photos of the Mommy Fortuna mask- I decided to give you all another look at the old girl, though it's becoming increasingly likely she won't be used. But the variations in the purple show a lot better under this new camera setting. Enjoy! More info soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blogging here there and everywhere

One reason I've been blogging here less lately is that I'm actually also working on a blog elsewhere- at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs website. Promethean Theatre Ensemble was chosen to participate in the DCA's Incubator program in August- basically, we have the use of the DCA's Studio Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center downtown to workshop new material. I'm splitting the time with some of my other Promethean compatriots, but I'm workshopping two new-ish scripts of mine. One, "The Peculiar Case of Dorothy Gale" is a sort of creepy-campy take on the Wizard of Oz that reimagines it as an HP Lovecraft story. For more info, check out my blog post about it at the DCA website, here. The other piece is a stage adaptation of several different stories by the author John Collier. For more info on that, please check out my blog post on THAT one at the DCA website here. Most importantly, if you want to see a presentation of what we're working one, we're doing a performance absolutely FREE at the Chicago Cultural Center on Monday 8/31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Studio Theater. Please come check it out! Like I said it's free, but space is a bit limited so I encourage you to make a reservation by clicking here. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What this story means to me.

Why am I adapting and directing this new stage version of "The Last Unicorn?"

Time to get a little personal, and consequently maybe slightly weird.

Like so many of you, the first time I encountered the story of "The Last Unicorn" was via the animated version as a kid. I grew up in Raleigh, NC, and we'd often visit my grandparents in nearby Pinehurst. A frequent activity while visiting was heading down the street to the mom-n-pop video rental place and picking up a movie or two to watch. For a while, I would always insist on the animated version of "The Last Unicorn" being one of them- I'd watch it over and over again. When I was in my early teens, I had a life-changing moment when I found out that there was a NOVEL on which the movie was based (I was a voracious reader of fantasy novels back then; I was kind of stupefied that I had never found the novel before). So I devoured that, and it's been one of my favorite books ever since; I've owned several copies of it (including one that I loaned to a famous director...who never gave it back. She knows who she is. It's ok, I bought another copy. Eventually.) I remember being tremendously excited when, as a freshman in high school, I found a VHS copy of the movie version for sale while I was in Toronto. So the story and its characters have been with me most of my life- certainly as far back as I can remember. I really connected with a lot of the themes even as a kid- I knew a lot about what it was like to want to be spectacular but to sometimes fall short (like Schmendrick, and even poor Mommy Fortuna). I understood what it was like to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, like Amalthea. That theme of transformation has always been an important part of stories that compel me- whether The Last Unicorn, the ORIGINAL version of The Little Mermaid, Swan Lake, or even werewolf movies (which I also find awesome.) I later went on to appreciate many other works by Peter S. Beagle- but "The Last Unicorn" is special to me. It's a story that won't leave me alone- as a director I feel like it's something I almost have to get out of my system before I move on to other projects. Not that this won't be a pleasure to direct- I am obsessed with this story and can't wait to share it with everyone on stage, (i.e., on my turf as a theatre artist). Also, it's a great chance to connect with other people who love this story as much as I do- I will probably be at most of the performances, and I would love to speak with any and all of you to whom this great story means as much as it does to me.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's a fella's prerogative to change his mind...

....ah, rewrites. As we've been working to make this new adaptation of "The Last Unicorn" as strong as possible in the past few months, we've found that many of the choices I made in previous drafts have had to fall by the wayside. I thought I'd mention one of the biggies here so you aren't too shocked when you see it:

We've decided we want the same actress to play both Amalthea and the Unicorn.

I know, I know- I had planned on them being played by different actresses. In fact, you may recall I did an entire post explaining in detail why that was a good idea. Well, several rewrites and table reads later I've come to a different point of view. I think that it helps the audience (especially audience members who aren't as familiar with the story) to be following one actress as the protagonist across the entire performance. It gives the Unicorn a stronger emotional arc and makes the audience more invested in their journey if they don't have to overcome that mental hurdle of having a completely different body playing the role for most of Act 2. Having one actress play both has its own challenges -we now have a pretty fast quick change to pull off near the end of the show, for one- but one of the benefits is we get to further utilize the talents of ensemble member Kyla Embrey- who I already knew was going to be a fabulous Amalthea, but am now pleased to announce will be playing both roles. Yay Kyla!

Another change- we have completed casting for "Unicorn," and I'm very pleased with the team we've assembled. One post on this blog discussed mask design for Mommy Fortuna. Originally I had thought that we weren't going to find an age-appropriate actress for the role- in fact, we may have wound up with one of the talented but decidedly twentysomething ladies of our ensemble in the role- thus the mask. I was delighted to have some fantastic age-appropriate ladies audition, and now that one of them has joined the cast as Mommy Fortuna, I'm thinking the mask is less necessary. Haven't made the decision for sure, yet, but I think we'll figure it out pretty quickly in rehearsals.

What can I say? It's a fella's prerogative to change his mind. : - )