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Q&A With: Caitlin Beresford-Ord

Posted by on 11 July 2016 | | 0 Comments

 

Before you commenced rehearsals in late June, what were you most looking forward to about being involved in The Caucasian Chalk Circle and why?
I was in a production of Caucasian Chalk Circle when I was studying at WAAPA in 1998 and the experience was wonderful. There is so much about the play that demands total commitment as an actor;  physically, musically, intellectually and collaboratively. I was very excited about the prospect of working with a large ensemble again. On a more personal level, I played Grusha at WAAPA and am now playing the Governor’s Wife – I feel as though it’s coming literally full circle…or half circle to be more precise. And there is tremendous reward in that as an actor. I knew also that the opportunity of working with Dr Wang was going to be something unforgettable.
Now that you have commenced rehearsals, how has your focus changed? Is anything challenging you or surprising you?
The biggest challenge and delight has been how much my own process as an actor has had to shift. And it’s great to know that it CAN shift, that how I would usually prepare, rehearse and work to create a character is not fixed, it’s fluid. The physical demands are both challenging and exciting – we’re learning a new physical language and from artists like DR Wang and Chen Tao who are masters of it – it’s an incredible process.
The production demands a lot of physicality from the actors and requires them to take on multiple characters. What steps do you take to prepare for the rigors of rehearsals?
Early to bed, early to rise, early to rehearsal, comprehensive physical and vocal warm up and unwavering focus! We’re being asked to make bold and theatrical choices with very clear delineation between characters and social classes. I have to arrive every day prepared to give Dr Wang as much as possible to choose from – there’s no easing into the day – we have to start with a bang. 
Tell us a bit about the journey of your main character.
My main character is the Governor’s Wife, Natella Abashvili. Her journey is an interesting one as she’s not seen
throughout the main body of the play, although she’s referred to. Her journey is indelibly linked with Grusha’s as
it’s her child that Grusha rescues and takes on as her own. So when she (Natella)  returns to claim the child, it’s
laden with all those huge questions of nature and nurture, of what makes a mother, of rights and entitlement.
Natella is someone who appears to want to be adored and admired, rather than loved; someone for whom the acquisition of power, land, clothes is all important and her child a means of maintaining and consolidating that power. Ultimately, this is what results in her losing him.
Have you learnt anything from this very collaborative rehearsal process so far that is so valuable you will keep it in your bag of tricks forever?
I take something from every production – I’ve never been through a rehearsal process which hasn’t expanded and enriched me as an actor. This process is a wonderful return to a theatrical style and form – every scene change has it’s place, every move on stage is choreographed and meticulously rehearsed. As someone who directs regularly at  high schools and universities, it’s very exciting to watch Dr Wang and see just what is possible on stage, to remind myself that the theatrical boundaries are often so much further away 

To finish our series of Q&As with actors of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, we chatted with actor Caitlin Beresford-Ord. Caitlin has not only performed in Black Swan productions, including As You Like It, The White Divers of Broome and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but she is also a Black Swan Teaching Artist, going to schools and communities to present acting and movement workshops. Caitlin fills us in on Caucasian and the rigorous rehearsal process:   

Q&A With: Adam Booth

Posted by on 11 July 2016 | | 0 Comments

 

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a huge production for Black Swan – a large cast, a huge artistic endeavour, and a collaboration on an international scale. We chatted to actor Adam Booth, who you may remember from Venus in Fur, Blithe Spirit and The Seagull and soon to be seen in Angels in America, to see what it’s like from his point of view and what his is looking forward to. 
Adam, what is it that drew you to this production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle? What are you most looking forward to? 
When do you get an opportunity to work in a production like this? To work on a great play, by one of the great playwrights, with an amazing creative team that includes artists from the National Theatre of China? This is 'once in a lifetime' stuff. There's mystery in this project - I'm most looking forward to learning, adapting and offering what I can. I don't know where we'll end up. 
Most of the actors in this production will be wearing masks. Is this a new challenge for you? Are you expecting to change or increase other facets of your performance to compensate? 
The closest I've come to the technical challenge of performing in mask, in a sense, has been performing in 'lyric' style theatres that hold 2,000+ audience members. A good third of the audience can't actually make out your face - you're just a body with a voice! The little experimentation I've done with mask was at drama school. I remember feeling the influence each particular mask can have on physical and vocal qualities. The mask can trigger an unlikely imaginative response and lead you to the character. So hopefully the masks will unlock more doors than they close.
You met with Director Dr Wang during one of his visits to Perth. What was that like, especially considering the language barrier? 
I remember being invited to meet with Dr Wang. I was told that I didn't need to prepare an audition piece, but come for a discussion - this was a first for me. On my way into the audition room, I bumped into another actor and said I was strangely more nervous than usual because I was "an OK actor, but just a rubbish person." Turns out it was probably the most pleasant audition experience I've had. Through an interpreter we talked about the play and I shared some of my experiences in the theatre, in life. Dr Wang asked questions regarding my interpretation and sense of the play and offered his own views. Communicating through the interpreter distilled the conversation, allowing more room for reflection and a thoughtful, considered response.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle is at the Heath Ledger Theatre from 30 July to 14 August. Tickets on sale now through Ticketek. 

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a huge production for Black Swan – a large cast, a huge artistic endeavour, and a collaboration on an international scale. We chatted to actor Adam Booth, who you may remember from Venus in Fur, Blithe Spirit and most recently, Angels in America, to see what it’s like from his point of view and what he is looking forward to. 

Q&A with: Kylie Farmer [Kaarljilba Kaardn]

Posted by on 11 July 2016 | | 0 Comments

 

1.      Your debut at Black Swan was in the smash hit The Sapphires in 2010, and you also worked with Black Swan on another hit, The White Divers of Broome in 2012. What have you been up to since we last saw you?
I've been working on inspired translations of Shakespearean sonnets into Nyungar language with Yirra Yaakin (which we performed at the Globe Theatre in London). I landed roles in television programs such as Redfern Now & The Gods of Wheat Street. I also worked as a script and acting coach on a production called Beautiful One Day presented by Ilbijerri and Belvoir, and in between all of those those creative endeavours, I've been involved in major project work at both Screen Australia and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. I've also been working on various community devised theatre pieces with local talent.
2.      The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a big production – a big cast, a huge creative endeavour, and an international collaboration. What is it that drew you to this production? What are you most looking forward to?
I'm super excited to be working with all cast and crew involved in this production - there's so much talent from WA! Initially, the original show concept embracing Chinese culture with Nyungar song was what drew me to the project as I have both Nyungar and Chinese ancestry. The artistic vision has since changed but I'm still thrilled to be on board. I'm looking forward to rehearsing this classic work with the wonderful cast - many of whom I've worked with before - and being back on stage for Black Swan at the Heath Ledger.
3.      You recently had a mould taken of your face for a mask for this production. Obviously as an actor your facial movements and expressions can be a huge part of bringing your character to life, and a mask will hinder that in some ways. Is this a new challenge for you? Are you expecting to change or increase other facets of your performance to compensate?
I love a challenge! Certainly looking forward to exploring all areas of expression through the body and voice to compliment the beautiful masks we'll be wearing. At the moment, I'm just hoping it fits my face comfortably (chuckles).
4.      I believe you met Dr Wang during one of his visits to Perth, as a sort of quasi-audition. Is that right? What was that like? How hard or easy is it to cross the language barrier in a situation like that?  
Actually, I am yet to meet Dr Wang. I've been hearing tales of him being quite fierce in the rehearsal room though, so I'm definitely aiming to bring my A-game. I don't find it hard crossing language barriers. I've loved learning and hearing other languages from such a young age and I've always found other ways to communicate without speaking the language. Perhaps I should bring my Chinese grandfather into rehearsals with me so he can be my personal translator. (smiles)

 

The Big Top: Then & Now

Posted by on 14 June 2016 | | 0 Comments

 

The Decline of the Circus and the Big Top Today
OR
Big Top: Then & Now
Once as popular as Hollywood or the NBA today, the circus has undergone a tumultuous journey into modernity. 
By the close of the 19th Century, the equestrian acts that had always been at the heart of the Big Top (including bareback acrobatics and dressage) were soon overtaken by lion tamers, the flying trapeze, jugglers, and clowns. The exhibition of animal and human oddities also became an integral part of the American circus experience. Known as the Sideshow or Freak Show, punters flocked to these living ‘museums’ out of lurid curiosity, gawking and gasping at the people inside.
Mostly suffering from birth defects, the conjoined twins, ‘pinheads’, ‘Living Torsos’ with no arms or legs, and ‘lobster boys’ with split-hands and -feet, were treated as exotic entertainment. One of the medical conditions in Nathaniel Moncrieff’s A Perfect Specimen is hypertrichosis; excessive hair growth over the body. Those with the condition were billed as ‘werewolves’, ‘monkeys’ or ‘bearded ladies.’ 
There was much debate about the morality of ‘parading’ these individuals for profit, but as they were very often ridiculed or cast out by their family and society, the circus was argued to be a place where they could use their misunderstood conditions to make a living, even becoming rich and famous. As the scientific and medical community began to understand these conditions and were able to explain them as genetic mutations or diseases, the popularity of Freak Shows declined and the poor souls that inhabited them were met with sympathy rather than fear.
Eventually, not even landmark figures like P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus fame could will their troupes into profitable ventures. Cost cutting and ever more desperately far-reaching world tours couldn’t keep either the European or American strains of the art afloat, and the arrival of cinema and then television finished them off.  
However, those who proclaim the ‘death of the circus’ have overstated the permanence of its decline, as a selection of contemporary troupes have attracted new audiences and enjoyed rampant success.
The tired, traditional format has been discarded or reinvented into new and exciting incarnations, creating a renaissance of circus as a performing art. With the Canadian behemoth, Cirque du Soleil at the forefront, fresh artistic and commercial attitudes have led to the rise of ‘Cirque’. 
The success of Limbo and La Soirèe, whose polished routines recently wowed Perth audiences during the Fringe World Festival, highlights the ability of the modern circus to enchant audiences. Relegating browbeaten elephants and big cats to be relics of the past, their sleek tents, contemporary music, and cabaret, variety and vaudeville has crafted the circus into a theatrical experience that is sexy, edgy and intense. 
The show must go on…

A Perfect Specimen is the world premiere work by Nathaniel Moncrieff set in the dying days of the travelling circus and freak show. It tells the tragic, true tale of Julia Pastrana, the 'ape-woman', and her husband and manager, Theodore Lent. Once as popular as Hollywood or the NBA today, since Julia Pastrana's time the circus has undergone a tumultuous journey into modernity. 

Media Release: Simon Burke Joins Clinton: The Musical

Posted by on 13 June 2016 | | 0 Comments

 

Black Swan is pleased to announce that leading actor, singer and producer Simon Burke AO will make his debut performance with the company and join the cast of Clinton: The Musical, from Queensland brothers Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge.
Black Swan has gained the Australian rights to stage this musical and has reunited the creative team from last year’s sell out musical Next to Normal, director Adam Mitchell (Death of a Salesman, When the Rain Stops Falling), Musical Director David Young (Wicked), Set & Costume Designer Bruce McKinven, and Choreographer Claudia Alessi. Joining them will be Mark Howett (Lighting Designer) and Ben Collins (Sound Designer).
“Clinton: The Musical is shameless bawdy fun. Not that I am against fun, but this is outrageous,” said Black Swan Artistic Director, Kate Cherry. “It is also fabulous because it was written by two boys from Brisbane who took their production over to the Edinburgh Fringe to great acclaim and sold out houses. Then it was taken to off Broadway in New York, where it sold out to great acclaim and now to Perth where it will make its Australian debut.”
Clinton: The Musical, features two versions of the former President: WJ Clinton the wholesome, intelligent statesman played by Simon Burke; and the other a randy, charming troublemaker, Billy, played by Mix 94.5 Breakfast presenter/comedian/actor Matt Dyktynski (Extinction, Boundary Street).  
Clinton: The Musical will also see the Black Swan debut performances of 2015 music theatre graduate Megan Kozak as Monica Lewinsky, local cabaret performer Clare Moore (Covergirls) as Eleanor Roosevelt and music theatre star Lisa Adam (Jersey Boys, The Rocky Horror Show) as Hilary Clinton, who also trained at WAAPA with fellow cast member and regular Black Swan performer Brendan Hanson (Next to Normal, As You Like It) as Kenneth Starr, and Luke Hewitt (A Perfect Specimen, Glengarry Glen Ross) as Newt Gingrich.
Following Bill Clinton throughout his turbulent presidential career, Clinton: The Musical, presents a no-holds-barred approach to political satire, dragging every scandalous skeleton out of the Clintons’ closet for the world to see!
Things are going well early in the presidency. With WJ firmly in charge, approval ratings are high and the country is running smoothly. All that changes, however, when Billy lays eyes on history’s most infamous intern: Monica Lewinsky. From that moment on, Billy wants to run the White House and that sets the stage for an outrageous power struggle between the two, contradicting and combating each other with a series of cabaret-style songs. While all this is going on, Hillary Clinton quietly plots to turn this to her eventual advantage...
This hilarious musical is just the antidote we need in the lead up to yet another US Presidential election drama.
Clinton: The Musical is presented in association with the Perth Theatre Trust and plays at Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA from 27 August to 11 September 2016.  
Bookings with ticketek.com.au or Ph 1300 795 012 or Ticketek outlets, Groups 8+ 1300 364 001. 
Part of City of Perth Winter Arts Festival
Simon Burke AO Biography:
At age 13, Simon Burke made his acting debut in the 1976 classic feature film The Devil’s Playground, winning the Australian Film Institute Best Actor award. He remains the youngest-ever recipient of this honour. Simon recently starred in Foxtel's six-part mini-series Devil's Playground, in which he reprised the role of ‘Tom Allen’, the character he played 40 years ago in the original film. Simon was also Executive Producer of the project, which in 2015 won both the AACTA and Logie awards for Most Outstanding Telefeature or Mini Series. 
  
Simon has appeared in over 130 stage productions in Australia and the UK. In London's West End he has starred as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Raoul in Phantom of the Opera, Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music opposite Dame Judi Dench, Georges in La Cage Aux Folles opposite John Barrowman, and in the European premieres of the Australian classics Holding the Man and When the Rain Stops Falling. Simon recently starred in La Cage Aux Folles opposite Todd McKenney for the Production Company, in The Wharf Revue and Mrs. Warren’s Profession for Sydney Theatre Company and played Mr Banks in Disney's Mary Poppins. He is currently touring the country starring as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray the Arena Specacular.
Simon has appeared in countless television productions including Deep Water, Rake, Hustle, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, The Alice, Brides of Christ, Scales of Justice, Water Rats, South Pacific and Grass Roots, and he hosted his own variety series for Foxtel, Studio A with Simon Burke. Also on Foxtel, Simon hosted and co-wrote the Helpmann Awards from their inception in 2001 until 2006 and again in 2012, and for 25 years was one of ABC TV''s Play School's best-loved presenters
His feature film credits include Passion, Pitch Black, Travelling Light and the forthcoming Super Awesome, for which he co-wrote and recorded the film’s theme song Man to Man.
Simon was President of Actors Equity from 2004-2014 and has been a proud member of his union for 40 years. He was made an honorary life member of the MEAA in March 2015.  In June 2015 he was awarded an AO (Officer of the Order of Australia) in the Queen's Birthday Honours for distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, singer and producer. 

Black Swan is pleased to announce that leading actor, singer and producer Simon Burke AO will make his debut performance with the company and join the cast of Clinton: The Musical, from Queensland brothers Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge.

Catching up with Playwright Nathaniel Moncrieff

Posted by on 10 June 2016 | | 0 Comments

Nathaniel Moncrieff is an emerging playwright in the West Australian theatre scene. As a member of Black Swan's Emerging Writers Group in 2013, he wrote a fantastic play, A Perfect Specimen, that we are proud to present in our 2016 season as part of the Black Swan Lab in the Studio Underground. Directed by Stuart Halusz and featuring a fantastic team of actors and designers, A Perfect Specimen tells the true and tragic tale of Julia Pastrana, the ape-woman. We caught up with Nathaniel to discuss this world premiere production. 

Media Release: CAST welcomes Labor and Greens arts policy announcements

Posted by on 7 June 2016 | | 0 Comments
MEDIA RELEASE
Tuesday 7 June 2016
CAST welcomes Labor and Greens arts policy announcements
The Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies (CAST) has welcomed the arts policy platform announced by the Greens on Monday 30 May and the Labor arts launch on Saturday 4 June. 
Both platforms commit to the returning of funding to the Australia Council for the Arts and the abolition of the Catalyst program ensuring the principle of arms-length funding is protected. Labor’s plan to return Catalyst funding to the Australia Council and to invest an additional $20 million per year would reverse the damage done in the 2015 budget but would not return to Labor’s 2013 Creative Australia commitment. CAST welcomes the Labor commitment to additional funding for ABC drama and notes the interconnectedness of the performing arts and screen industries in their employment of artists and arts workers. The companies call on Labor to rebuild its arts commitment to 2013 levels. 
CAST calls on the Coalition to make a renewed commitment to return Australia Council funding to 2013 levels and to abolish the Catalyst program unless additional funds can be found for it.
‘The arts contributes over $4.2 billion to GDP in Australia*,’ the CAST Executive Council said. ‘To ensure that this highly productive industry continues to contribute at this rate, government support at a level that sustains the entire industry is essential.' 
This statement is co-signed by the Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies and the executive management of each organisation.
*Figure from the 2015 Arts Nation report published by the Australia Council for the Arts.

MEDIA RELEASE

The Language of Angels in America

Posted by on 20 May 2016 | | 0 Comments

“Your problem, Henry, is that you are hung up on words, on labels… AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian.” 
– Roy Cohn (Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Act One, Scene 9)
The world of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America can seem like a foreign place today. Loaded with now-uncommon references to Reaganites and McCarthyism, culture wars and Valium, anti-communists and Soviet spies, this distinguished play about American life is a world away from what we know.  
As good plays do, Kushner’s language reflects, and is informed by, the society in which he lived – 1980s New York City. Set during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 15 years before the new millennium (now a distant memory), so successfully did Kushner capture and equivocate the zeitgeist of the period, he was awarded, among other accolades, the highly-esteemed Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1993).
His Gay Fantasia on National Themes channels the paranoia about the millennia and reflects the anxieties of the time. Littered with references to Mormonism and Judaism, long-dead Republicans and Democrats, Kushner unashamedly fits political and religious discourse into his work. Characters discuss, debate and contest politics, identity, ethnicity, race, religion and homosexuality, and only Kushner’s poetic voice and wicked sense of humour ties it together. The complexities of his portrayal of a society about to combust can make the literal appearance of an Angel seem the most straightforward element in this epic play!
An important piece of theatre, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches struck a chord that resonates today. Now, as Western Australia’s State Theatre Company brings it to life once again, we must contextualise Tony Kushner’s work and the rich tapestry of his language for a new audience. 
Here are some examples of terms and language in Angels in America, Part One, with definitions: 
AIDS Act 1, Scene 9
A disease of the immune system characterized by increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections.
Ethel Rosenberg Act 3, Scene 5
An American citizen who spied for the Soviet Union. 
Feh Act 1, Scene 4
A Yiddish expression defined as something you say when you are disgusted with something.
Goyische Act 1, Scene 1
A term used by a Jew to refer to someone who is not Jewish.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus Act 1, Scene 9
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense system. 
Jeane Kirkpatrick Act 3, Scene 2
An American ambassador and an ardent anti communist.  
La Cage Act 1, Scene 2
A musical that focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges's son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée's ultra-conservative parents to meet them. La cage aux folles literally means "the cage of mad women". However folles is also a slang term for effeminate homosexuals (queens).
Litvak shtetl Act 1, Scene 1
Litvak are Lithuanian Jews. A shtetl is a small Jewish town or village formerly found in Eastern Europe.
Maudlin Act 2, Scene 8
Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental.
Mohicans Act 1, Scene 1
An Eastern Algonquian Native American Tribe.
Monolith Act 3, Scene 2
An obelisk column, large statue formed from a single block of stone.  
Mormons Act 1, Scene 2
Most often refers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) because of their belief in the Book of Mormon, though members often refer to themselves as Latter-day Saints or sometimes just Saints.
Nancy Drew Act 1, Scene 7
A fictional character in a mystery fiction series created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer.
Ontologically Act 3, Scene 2
Of or relating to essence or the nature of being. 
Pepto-Bismol Act 2, Scene 7
A brand of medicine claimed to be effective against nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea.
Rabbi Act 1, Scene 1
Originates from the Hebrew meaning “teacher.” In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word rabi meaning “My master”.
Reaganite Act 1, Scene 6
A supporter of Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States and/or policies that he endorsed.
Scion Act 3, Scene 7
A descendant or heir, especially of a wealthy or prominent family.
Schtupping Act 1, Scene 2
Have sexual intercourse with (someone).
Seltzer Act 2, Scene 4
A naturally effervescent of water mineral.
Sid the Yid Act 3, Scene 2
Offensive slang a derogatory word for a Jew.
Sodomite Act 3, Scene 6
A person who has anal sex with another person.
Sophistry Act 1, Scene 9
A subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
Star of David Act 1, Scene 1
Known in Hebrews as the Shield of David or Magen David; a generally recognized symbol of modern Jewish identity and Judaism.
The Holy Scriptures Act 1, Scene 5
A collection of books written over multiple centuries by those inspired God to do so.
Tumesce Act 3, Scene 6
Swollen or becoming swollen.
Utah Act 1, Scene 8
A state in the western United States.
Valium Act 1, Scene 7
A brand of diazepam used as a tranquilizer. 
Yahrzeit Act 1, Scene 1
A candle or called a memorial candle neshama, meaning “soul candle”.
Yid nebbish Act 3, Scene 5
A person regarded as weak-willed or timid.
Zeitgeist Act 2, Scene 7
The spirit of the time, general trend of thought or feeling.
Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/aids
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_and_Ethel_Rosenberg
http://www.yourdictionary.com/feh
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/goy
https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/what-is-hiv-aids/ 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeane_Kirkpatrick
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Cage_aux_Folles_(musical)
http://www.chacha.com/question/what-is-a-litvak-shtetl
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/maudlin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahican
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/monolith
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormons
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Drew
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ontologically
http://www.yourdictionary.com/pepto-bismol
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Rabbis.html
http://www.yourdictionary.com/reaganite 
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/scion
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=schtupping
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/seltzer 
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/yid
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sodomite 
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sophistry
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_David
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Holy_Scripture
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/tumescent
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Utah 
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Valium 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahrzeit_candle
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nebbish
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/zeitgeist 

“Your problem, Henry, is that you are hung up on words, on labels… AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian.”

A Note From Set & Costume Designer Christina Smith

Posted by on 18 May 2016 | | 0 Comments

 

A NOTE FROM THE DESIGNER
I first designed Angels in America as a student at WAAPA in 1995. At the time I saw it very much from the perspective of youth – it was a new and contemporary work with so many challenges to solve.
Now 21 years later, I approach it with the eyes of an experienced and somewhat seasoned designer. Whist on the surface it seems now more like tackling a period piece or an established classic (with all the baggage that brings), I have also tried to approach it with the same freshness and excitement I encountered the first time around.  The fact that I have found it just as challenging and relevant now is a testament to the power of the work. 
It is a theatrical piece that calls for an intrinsically theatrical space, an epic that requires the mechanics at times exposed but also concealed. The moments of magic are invested with as much integrity as the moments of realism, and there is an essential need for the piece to flow as seamlessly as possible from one moment to the next. This led to the creation of a formal space captured within the workings of the theatre itself – a clinical white floor and monumental neo-classic ceiling suspended in the black theatre void surrounded by an exposed lighting grid. I wanted to emphasize the journey of the play towards its millennial conclusion - the walls closing in but also the sense of hope approaching from outside the space. 
In a way, revisiting this work at this point in my life very much feels like a bookend of sort: I can see the form this design has taken in a similar symmetry. Back in 2011 I designed one of the earliest shows in the Heath Ledger Theatre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, also directed by Kate Cherry. I was eager to explore the facilities of this brand new venue and push its capabilities. The response from the audience when the first piece of staging ‘magic’ was revealed was a career highlight. The set for Angels is a distant relative of this first set – the germination of a seed planted all those years ago. 
In subsequent designs I’ve explored other aspects of this venue – the recent production of As You Like It was something of a love letter to the beautifully paneled wooden auditorium that I’d been fighting for years. This design for Angels is in turn somewhat of a ‘breakup’... 
 
This will be my last design for Black Swan with Kate Cherry at the helm. Kate gave me my first professional design job at Melbourne Theatre Company, 16 years ago, and I still don’t know why she did – I was incredibly young and very inexperienced. She has since given me countless opportunities to design some of the most wonderful stories ever written. She has also through various programs at Black Swan allowed me to pass on the guidance and mentorship she showed me to another generation of young designers. Kate’s willingness to foster new talent and give them opportunities could easily be overlooked amongst her other achievements here at Black Swan – but without it I certainly wouldn’t be designing works like this. I’d like personally thank Kate for the doors she has opened and the journeys we have taken. 
Christina Smith
Set & Costume Designer 

Set & Costume Designer Christina Smith wrote a wonderful note for the Angels in America, Part One programme. Unfortunately we couldn't include her whole note in the programme due to space, so here is the full version: 

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