moonlight curtains and interior design limited
(applause) a warm welcome to the americantheatre wing seminars on "working in the theatre." these are coming to you from the graduatecenter of the city university of new york. and as we are about to celebrate the 50thanniversary of the american theatre wingâ€™s tony award, i am reminded that this is the22nd year that we have brought you these â€œworking in the theatreâ€ seminars. we are indeed pleased to bring you this uniqueopportunity to look behind the scenes from the perspective of performers, producers,playwrights, directors, designers, choreographers, agents, and set and costume designers, plusthe unions and guilds that work with and for these people.
they provide invaluable insight and expertisefor theatre students, theatre professionals, and theatregoers. the american theatre wing, as many of youknow, is the founder of the theatreâ€™s highest award. and we are justly proud of it, named in honorof a woman named antoinette perry. but the american theatre wing works year round. itâ€™s more than just the tony awards. it gives a great deal of background to thetony award. and the programs that we do are all gearedto service, entertainment and education, designed
to nurture and enhance excellence in the theatreand to bring audiences to the future of the theatre. i might add, weâ€™ve been doing this for overfifty years, and doing it fairly well, i think. in addition to these seminars, our very successfulâ€œintroduction to broadwayâ€ program has brought over 50,000 high school students tothe new york city broadway shows. and these come from the five boroughs of newyork, and they are brought to the theatres as a cooperative venture, with the board ofeducation and the generosity of the broadway producers, who make tickets available to usat a very, very small sum. and we in turn turn these over to the boardof ed, who make them available to the students.
and the students pay individually for theirticket, which is a very important part of this program, that they learn to pay for andbuy a ticket. theyâ€™re not brought en masse to the theatre,they made the decision, they made the commitment. and itâ€™s a very exciting thing to see thesestudents come and see the excitement as they see their very first broadway show and whatmagic the broadway theatre-- all theatre, as a matter of fact-- but what magic the livetheatre has to give to them. weâ€™re also very excited and pleased abouta new program, called â€œtheatre in school,â€ which is, again, just that. and we bring professionals from every areaof the theatre to talk to the students at
schools and discuss with them what it is towork in the theatre. designers, playwrights, directors and producerscome as well, under the banner of the wing. and itâ€™s a very important program, becauseit gives the students a language about the theatre and also an anticipation of what theyare about to see. these seminars are one of the most importantarchives of theatrical history that i can think of. and as iâ€™ve told you, weâ€™ve been doingthem for 22 years, and in those 22 years weâ€™ve had almost everybody in the theatre takingpart in it. and itâ€™s a wonderful roster of knowledgethat we have.
todayâ€™s seminar is on that very importantpart of the theatre. they bring the magic alive to you, and italso carries with it an award as well. it is the set designers, the costume, thelighting and the directors that bring the whole thing alive to you. and unlike the tony awards, this americantheatre wing award on design is given to both broadway, off broadway and off off broadway. and so, without further ado, i welcome you,and i ask that george white, who is president of the oâ€™neill theater center and a directorand a very, very fine member of the wingâ€™s friends, and is also a very, very fine personin his own right, is just man about the world,
as george directs in both china and russia. and professor tish dace, who has organizedthis for us, and is a theatre critic and has overseen the awards on design. i thank you very much for being here, andi am going to turn this over to our co-chairs, who will then, in turn, introduce our panel,who have earlier received an award and a check for their contribution in the theatre. thank you all for being here. (applause) thank you, and welcome.
itâ€™s a great pleasure to be co-moderatingwith george white today. iâ€™d like to introduce you to our panelists. on my right is gerald gutierrez, who won atony award as best director for the heiress, and he also directed, of course, the showwhich won the tony for the best production of a play on broadway last season. and he is accompanied by his friend-- my attorney. (laughter) your attorney, sorry!
your attorney, phyllis [his small dog]. next to gerry is the scenic designer johnlee beatty, who has just won the 1995 american theatre wing design award for the set of theheiress. john lee has had a lengthy career, designingon broadway, off broadway. among the many things he has done, heâ€™sput in twenty seasons as a designer at the manhattan theatre club and the circle repertorycompany. his designs have been honored before by theamerican theatre wing, and of course, heâ€™s also won just about everything else that ascene designer could win: a tony, an obie, a drama desk award, the outer critics circleaward.
you get the idea. and next to john lee is beverly emmons. beverly works all over europe and the unitedstates, designing opera, theatre, dance for famous choreographers like martha graham andmerce cunningham. her work on broadway has been honored by atony and five tony nominations on top of that, an obie and two bessie awards for her workoff broadway. and she won just last season an american theatrewing design award for passion. sheâ€™s back with us this year, having onefor doing the lighting design for the heiress. on my far left is ralph lee, the artisticdirector and designer for the meadowee (ph)
river company. ralph designs absolutely amazing masks andcostumes for puppets, which people wear. he has designed all over the country. he has designed for â€œsaturday night live,â€but mostly for theatre. and he started the village halloween parade,i think 21 years ago, but heâ€™ll correct me later if iâ€™ve got that a little bit off. he also has worked for about six years nowwith a mayan writersâ€™ collaborative in san cristobal de la casas (ph), and he will explainto us later the relevance of that. but he has won the award this year for noteworthyunusual effects for his design of heart of
the earth: a popul vuh story. next to ralph is the person who, in my opinion,is the great actress of her generation, cherry jones. iâ€™ve been following cherryâ€™s career sinceshe appeared as the daughter in he and she at bam, more years ago than i think eitherone of us wants to count. (cherry laughs) she then went up and appearedin many, many wonderful performances at the american repertory theatre in cambridge, massachusetts,and has done some of the best performances i have ever seen since then in new york, inplays by paula vogel and a light shining in buckinghamshire and our countryâ€™s good.
and she has won a number of awards for herappearance as the heiress. i mean, cherry is â€œthe heiressâ€ in thatplay on broadway. she won the tony, the drama league award,the drama desk award, the outer critics circle award, and she was good enough to join ustoday to talk about the design of the show, along with gerry and the designers. and finally, next to cherry is jane greenwood,the costume designer for many years on and off broadway. sheâ€™s also designed for the metropolitanopera, the alvin ailey dance company. she has received thirteen tony nominations,and in addition to winning the american theatre
wing costume design award for her costumesfor the heiress, she also has won once before. when these awards were known as the maharem(ph) awards, she won for designing the costumes for tartuffe. welcome all. great. ralph, a popul vuh story, which is what itwas called when i first saw it at the public theatre, before it moved to intar and gotthe name heart of the earth, is about a mayan creation myth. could you tell us a little bit about this?
for instance, what do the words â€œpopul vuhâ€mean? what does that refer to? well, â€œpopul vuh,â€ from what i understand,means something like â€œthe book of counsel.â€ and it was, in a sense, the bible for themayan civilization, or part of it, at any rate. and itâ€™s a creation story insofar as ittalks about how the world was formed and why such and such animal has a stripe down hisback and why the sun and the moon are in the sky. it explains the universe for people, and italso tells about the creation of the first
humans, how they came about. and itâ€™s also kind of like a book of thedead for people. it describes how you get through hell andup to heaven. it sort of lays out a map, a way of succeeding,to become in a sense resurrected. and the most interesting part of the storyfor me, and the part that i felt was a really compelling story in itself and one that wasworth dramatizing, is the story of a pair of twins, who are young boys and theyâ€™regreat ballplayers. and they disturb the lords of death, who livein the underworld, because they play ball so well and so noisily.
and so, the lords invite them down there toplay a ball game with them. and immediately they trick them, they decapitatethem, and you think thatâ€™s going to be the end, but it ainâ€™t. (he laughs) the twins are reborn, and they go back tohell a second time. and because they have this pre-knowledge ofwhat the underworld is like, through wonderful ways of trickery and outsmarting and puredeviltry, they are able to outsmart the lords of death. and itâ€™s a very compelling story, and youfeel that the mayans must have had some really
formidable lords of death in their society(laughs), just as maybe we do in ours. and by using their wits, theyâ€™re able tocircumvent them. and so, thatâ€™s the basic story there. and i felt that it was a story that reallyhad to get out there and that more people should be acquainted with it. and so, thatâ€™s why i set about dramatizingit. you seem to have brought some friends withyou. could we invite them up here without fearingfor our lives? well, i talked to them beforehand, and i thinkthat theyâ€™ll be relatively good.
i should give a little word of explanationbefore they come up here. in my haste to come here today, i forgot oneessential element, which is an inner crown that one of these large puppets wears, wherebyhis head attaches to his person. and so, when they are appearing on stage,i am going to have to hold his head in place, so that you can get the complete illusionof what they look like. thatâ€™s not usually part of the show, itâ€™sa bonus. thatâ€™s not usually part of the show. before we get to that, george, are you goingto pick up with? well, yeah, i would.
because we are talking so much about design,iâ€™d like to start, i suppose since i am a director, but iâ€™d like to start with thedirector a little bit, because so much stems from your basic concept, in terms of how youâ€™regoing to do the show and how itâ€™s going to look. i assume it comes from your head to thesepeople, or would you refute that? i mean, how did you choose the people, yourteam? well, i donâ€™t know. (laughter) i donâ€™t know how. iâ€™ve done something like fifteen plays withjohn and ten or something with-- weâ€™ve all
worked together a lot. i donâ€™t know or pretend to know how we worktogether. i know that we share a certain esthetic. i know that it takes a lot of planning. we know each otherâ€™s taste. if we were to concentrate on the set for themoment-- i donâ€™t know. help me. well, yeah, you know, itâ€™s interesting,because that set for the heiress is marvelous. we had an earlier seminar and heidi landesmanwas here and she was talking about her set
for moon over buffalo, which i loved as well. but she said, you know, the minute, from herpoint of view, generally speaking, when the curtain goes up and there you are, you seea basic unit set, her normal instinct is to just despair. and of course, i thought, particularly john,your set, brendan gill earlier said, and i agreed, thatâ€™s a wonderful set. you want to get up and be in it. you would hope that youâ€™d be invited totea there. i mean, it just is a comfortable one.
and thatâ€™s very tricky to do. i mean, what is the process of all of youworking together on this? who comes first, i think is what george issaying. exactly. where is the chicken, where is the egg? i donâ€™t know. i really donâ€™t, because weâ€™ve done somany plays together. but i know that with the heiress, there weremodern, contemporary reasons for doing it. i thought it was viable and stageworthy.
what were those? itâ€™s a little play, you know. well, damn good parts for actors, and i donâ€™tthink thereâ€™s enough good acting on broadway. itâ€™s an american play. i donâ€™t think there are enough americanplays on broadway. and i thought that the lincoln center theatreis particularly supportive in seeing through the artistic visions of its directors anddesigners. the thing about that set, though, it lookslike you want to live in it, but itâ€™s a house of scrim.
so it isnâ€™t what it appears to be. i mean, itâ€™s all cloth. and itâ€™s a lace curtain, ghosty room. it gives the illusion of warmth at times. it does, yeah. especially when lit by beverly. but itâ€™s a very courageous design, i think. [off mike comment] when you see it?
yeah. why? well, two reasons. one, actually, the other designers helpedme. jane greenwood and i had a little heart toheart in seattle. i had done too many shows with sofas, andi was feeling, â€œall i ever do are these rooms, and the reviewers always say, â€˜oh,you want to live in them, and you could just move in.â€™â€ and i was so sick of that, and i wanted todo things like loy arcenas gets to do.
(laughter) you always want to be someone else. you donâ€™t want to be yourself. but a few key things. jane said, â€œfirst of all, itâ€™s a goodplay,â€ which was very helpful. (laughter) that itâ€™s going to work, thatthereâ€™s something there worth pursuing. and also what gerry said, that thereâ€™s areason for doing it now. and i started looking at the world we livein and thinking about how much money catherine sloper has, and try to think of what we thinknow looks â€œrich,â€ rather than going back and looking at pictures of-- was the playdone in the forties?
1840â€™s. originally? the wendy hiller was the forties. 1947. forties, or looking at the original period,even, at first, but to actually look at what we think of as looking â€œrichâ€ now. and i took that, and then, of course, i wanderedlike a crazy person through washington square, looking in peopleâ€™s windows. (laughter) all that, of course, and then reading.
jane had also just read the novella, i think,and recommended that, so i went into the bookstore and bought that. well, you know me, research. always going to books. but i was going to get into that, becauseyou said that, and i want to get onto research, and i also am going to reveal a secret thati was told just before we went on camera about the costumes. itâ€™s okay, weâ€™ll ask him. (laughter) no, but the thing that intriguesme is when you said how things would look
rich to a 1990â€™s audience. iâ€™m trying to sort of get into your headand the thought process of what kind of research went through your mind to make that happen? rather than going, letâ€™s say, to the equivalentof â€œbetter homes and gardens,â€ you know, of that period. what went through your mind? how did you do that? what was your thought process in that? backwards, of course, like any designer.
well, of course. well, first of all, i was conscious of the1940â€™s, the play being written then and what they admired in that period. you know, thereâ€™s a whole style, i callit â€œhollywood regency,â€ but itâ€™s a whole style of interior decoration that weâ€™revery familiar with. mostly our parents had it. itâ€™s a lot of mahogany and sort of duncanfyfe (ph) imitations. and i realized i had to discount all of that,because we donâ€™t have that today, except for the bombay company, sort of.
how do you keep doing what youâ€™re doing? saying what youâ€™re saying, how do you keepthe set from getting in the way of the play? oh, thatâ€™s where he helps (points to gerry). and how does he help that? how does he help that? because he keeps talking about the play anddoesnâ€™t talk enough about the design, and youâ€™re desperate to talk about the design,and heâ€™s talking about the play and the casting. well, iâ€™ll tell you, this is where--
and of course, that keeps you thinking aboutthe play, rather than about the draperies, which really are the least important thing,in the long run. but you eventually see that all the choicesrelate to the script. and so, finding out that cherry was goingto be the heiress tells me a lot about what the room can look like. so finding out who else is going to work onit, whatever. also, i think, though, wouldnâ€™t you agree,that as a kid i was trained, in working on a play and developing a set, to imagine theset from the top down, not from the audience forward, not the elevation.
where is the room to act? and where is the furniture? it doesnâ€™t really matter, i could care lessabout the color. the ground plan, in other words. the ground plan. itâ€™s critical, in my opinion. because iâ€™ve seen lots of beautiful setswhere thereâ€™s no room for actors. and i think we begin that way. and where the entrances are and where thelogic is.
and then, trying to find-- i didnâ€™t wanta drawing room, either. and it was re-inventing a drawing room, whichwas the hard part. and what scared me so much was when we cameup with the scrim walls, and everything that appealed to gerry about the movie were impossiblethings to put on stage. seeing things in reflection, seeing throughthings, and going around corners. and then i realized, â€œwell, there has tobe a way of doing this on stage,â€ which was mirrors where you can actually sometimessee two of the mirrors through the back side of the scenery in this version. that came to me, and then i thought, â€œbutthis is like re-inventing those horrible scrim
sets from the fifties, that we had to imitatewhen i was in college. and we donâ€™t want to do this again.â€ i kept envisioning these reviews where theysaid, â€œjohn lee beatty re-invents the fifties,â€ or something. (laughter) thatâ€™s what scared me so much. i actually went to andre bishop and told himhow scared i was, which was kind of a mistake. because we all know and love him, and heâ€™sso supportive that he was scared for me, and we had a scared producer then, next. hold that thought.
iâ€™ve got to detour us back just for a minutes,because we promised these actors who are lurking offstage that they could go home right afterthe beginning of this show, and weâ€™ve forgotten about them. and even though, you know, i try hard to makethese costumes comfortable (laughter), they are big and heavy. yes, and theyâ€™re standing there. welcome, creatures from the underworld. this is a first on these shows, i tell you. wow!
arenâ€™t they marvelous? oh, they are. fabulous! ralph, can you talk to us a little bit aboutwhat the design challenges were for these costumes, keeping them wearable and so on? right. well, iâ€™m going to have to remove his headin order to talk. yes, all right. but in developing these costumes, you know,iâ€™ve made a lot of large puppets in my life.
and iâ€™ve found that when actors have tospeak with these things on, it can be a problem. if theyâ€™re totally covered up, the voicesare muffled and all of that. and so, i sort of developed a kind of feelingwhereby you know that the actor is in there. you may be able to see part of him. and so, itâ€™s sort of like heâ€™s the corein there, but then thereâ€™s this extension which is the puppet. and so, this actorâ€™s face, for instance,is totally visible inside there. of course, with the appropriate lighting,it doesnâ€™t take the focus. but itâ€™s there, and the audience can seethat his arms are manipulating the other arms,
the arms of the puppet. but somehow or other, if the visual imageis strong enough, then your focus as an onlooker will go to that image and youâ€™ll just kindof forget the other person is there. and you can go back to him if you want to,but heâ€™s always there. and iâ€™m not trying to pretend heâ€™s not. and with these particular figures, thatâ€™swhat i wanted to do, because they have a lot to say in the piece. theyâ€™re real wise-ass kind of characters. and so, i wanted them, you know, their personalitiesand the sense of them as actors to be clearly
there. and with this guy, you can see his face throughhis mouth very clearly when it opens. and of course, heâ€™s just back to the lace. (laughter) he has just lace on his chin there,which makes it very easy for his voice to come through. itâ€™s just wonderful. could you introduce the actors, too? and the characters. well, by way of introduction, theyâ€™re justgoing to do like two or three little lines.
will howewe are still blood and broken bones! we are cancer and hemorrhage of the marrow! we drink pus and blood and like it! okay. (laughter, applause) bravo. so underneath this costume is will howe (ph)(applause), who has played this part since we started working on this show. and in this one is bruce barton (ph), whohas put this costume on for the first time
in his life today (laughter, applause), becausethe other actors werenâ€™t available. and i must say, when i first made this toadcostume here, we were having auditions and i would bring in some of the masks as i wasmaking them for the auditions. and you know, when youâ€™re making something,you donâ€™t necessarily know whether itâ€™s going to work or not. and will came to the audition and he put thisthing on, and it was like they came together immediately. and i said, â€œoh, yeah, this can work.â€ so it was a tremendous relief.
thank you very much. well, thank you so much. that was wonderful. does that mean that as youâ€™re directingthem, your designs are already fairly well along and the performers can rehearse in themfrom the outset? well, usually when i start the rehearsals,some of the design elements are cooking. and there are usually some elements that idonâ€™t really know how iâ€™m going to do yet. and i sort of save that until the rehearsalshave been progressing for a while, and then
i say, â€œoh!â€ you know, some actor will say, â€œwell, couldnâ€™twe do it this way?â€ or somebody will give you a little clue somewherealong the line, and you begin to get a hunch as to how you should do it. and so then, you know, you can go home andbuild it. and so, since i function in two capacities,iâ€™m usually working kind of double time. youâ€™re very lucky. thatâ€™s right. ralph lee the director is conferring withralph lee the designer.
that is tricky. well, you know, we were speaking, and ralph,you had mentioned-- parenthetically, by the way, youâ€™re a real hero of mine, becausei never knew who started that greenwich village parade, but anyway, whoever did was marvelous,so congratulations. but we were talking about costumes, and iwanted to bring this up with jane and also have you reveal, or cherry did earlier, inthe heiress, those costumes are absolutely wonderful, particularly the heiressâ€™ costumes,your costumes. and they look like these marvelous velour,heavy, wonderful designs. and yet, you solved that problem, becauserunning around, as you tend to do, moving
very quickly, you know, unless you are inincredible physical shape to run around that, but you revealed how you were able to do that,how those costumes-- you know, people always think that these clothesare so heavy, and actually, theyâ€™re very light. and it was the underpinnings of the clothes,the petticoats and the corsets, that created the shape. therefore, the dress could be a very lightsilk or a very light cotton or whatever. and really, i donâ€™t think itâ€™s too heavy. no!
no, exactly, but i mean, thatâ€™s what isso surprising, because youâ€™d think they must. they have that wonderful power to them. also, color is terribly important. well, red helps. yes, exactly. but of course then you, obviously, have towork with john as to making sure how all those colors interact. and also, the menâ€™s clothes would seem,which are not just black, you know, of that
period. well, that is important. and i think john and i, over the years, haveworked together a great deal and have really found most times to be very harmonious interms of the way we get together with the scenery and the clothes, for whatever reason. right, we donâ€™t talk very much. but very often, we donâ€™t talk. and thatâ€™s whatâ€™s so amazing. itâ€™s odd.
itâ€™s esp, is it? yes. no, itâ€™s spooky. iâ€™m not kidding. tell them about the new one. our new play, northeast local, jane and idid not speak at all. about colors. and the scenery and the costumes came up onstage together in the first scene, they went together fine, no problem.
and the second scene, oddly enough, they weresort of in the same color range, but different enough that the actors stood out, and i thought,â€œoh, thatâ€™s great. itâ€™s such a wonderful accident.â€ that was a maroon scene and then the nextscene came up, and that was pale blue and green, and the actor came out in dark greengingham. and then the next scene came up and that was the red scene. and on and on it went. red and rust, and then the next one was orange-- we said, â€œwell, it really almost looks stylized.â€
and the orange and avocado, and orange andavocado came out. it was bizarre, it was really bizarre. well, thatâ€™s not to say we donâ€™t talkabout things. how did you first get together? but weâ€™re so busy gossiping that the designsare hardly discussed. it comes out of the gossip, i see. sure. but also, before we go any further, you haveto know that cherry jones is in extremely good physical shape.
she bicycled here today. (laughter) she could have lifted a hoopskirtof velour. she could have carried heavy dresses. in fact, i got a most amusing letter the otherday from someone in new jersey, asking me that they had had an argument with some friendsand they couldnâ€™t solve it until i answered them. they were under the impression that i hadcreated some machine that carried cherry jones up the staircase. yeah, one of those little things that theyput on.
because she looked like she floated up thestairs, and they were convinced to solve the argument i had to tell them about the machine. and i had to write back and say that missjones not only was in very good shape-- what a wonderful idea. -- but she actually practiced, you know, thatcherry practiced. you get that automated look. well, we did. we did rehearse that. you practiced that a lot.
itâ€™s very hard. the speed of her first entrance we rehearsedfor a long time. yeah, she hurtles down the stairs, yeah. slow, then it was fast, then it was slow. well, the amount of fabric, cherry and i,the first time we were on the set, rehearsed that. of course, i secretly wanted to wear the reddress, so that i could wear that, because itâ€™s such a beautiful dress. and youâ€™d look fabulous.
but i live through my actors, and so i lether do it. (laughter) and if she starts slow, buildsup speed and then comes to a halt so that the skirts gather wind and so she appearsto float. and that was all rehearsed. well, was it rehearsed in a rehearsal skirt? or did you talk with jane about that? you know, in the rehearsal room, the stairsare just taped out. yeah, sure. and we sort of forgot that there were evenstairs on the set.
i mean, frannie and i would sometimes kindof pretend walking up and down those steps on the tape, you know. but it wasnâ€™t until we got onto the set. in fact, i remember the first day. so many of my favorite memories from thisentire experience, not just because weâ€™re here at a design panel, had to do with thosemoments when everything was made clear to me through the design. iâ€™m going to just take a tangent to saythat the first most exciting day was the day i went to sit for the portrait for the poster,for that (she points), for mr. mcmullan at
his studio. and i had already had a couple of fittingswith jane, and i had never had the privilege of working with jane before, and i had heardjaneâ€™s name a thousand times and beverlyâ€™s and mr. john lee beattyâ€™s. and i was so thrilled to be getting to workwith them. and we had had a fitting to get the silhouetteof the corset. i will never have a corset as magnificentlymade as that one ever again, unless i get to work with jane again. i mean, you know, right down to the hundredthof an inch she got exactly what she wanted
in the silhouette. got me to lose just enough weight (laughter)that she could get that waist to where she wanted it. she said, â€œwell, we will be down to 25.â€ (laughter) as i sat looking pretty at 29. oh, i didnâ€™t. yes, you did, and i took note, i took note! (laughter) but i remember walking in to thatstudio and i thought, â€œwell, perhaps janeâ€™s assistant, alona (ph), would be there, andmr. mcmullan and his assistant.
and to my amazement, i walked in the door,and there was gerry gutierrez and john lee beatty and jane and her assistant and ericwinterling (ph), who built the clothes, and paul huntley, who designed the wigs. and obviously, mr. mcmullan. and beverly, you werenâ€™t there, but iâ€™msure there was a very good reason why you werenâ€™t. (laughter) and i thought, â€œthis is goingto be extraordinary, that all of these masters have shown up for a sitting for a poster!â€ it never occurred to me that you all wouldall be there, making sure that everything
was just perfect. oh, but you see, it was a tremendous helpfor us, because we were getting a head start on really the shape of her clothes and herhair and everything else. and so, it was a great advantage, becauseit is complicated when you look back at another and everybody has to work very hard to sortof really get it right. so we were all delighted to be there. (laughs) well, you know, there is something, too, becauseyou were talking about the shape of the corset and all of that.
but that has to start, i assume, and iâ€™vealways felt this, from character, â€œwhy would she wear a red dress?â€ is that between you and jane, gerry? it seems clearly jane. henry james, henry james. and it is a perfect example of this womanâ€™sneed to please her father, that she goes on her own and has a dress made the same colorthat the dead mother used to wear ribbons in her hair, from the same color. and so, itâ€™s slightly too gaudy for her,and the dress overwhelms her.
and that was the hardest part, i remember,we had. umm-hmm. because itâ€™s easy to make her look ridiculous. you know, we wanted it to look sort of unsuitablebut not a joke. because sheâ€™s not. well, thatâ€™s true, because i think a lotof people, a lot of audience, donâ€™t realize how incredibly important-- it has to be very subtle. these clothes grow out of character.
i remember, i thought i had done a terriblething. one of those very first fittings, jane wasshowing me, you know, book after book of these incredibly gaudy, horrible 1850 dresses witheverything but the kitchen sink, you know, on them. and i remember looking at them and thinking,â€œwell, it has to be unsuitable, but not irritating.â€ and i remember alona, janeâ€™s assistant,looked at me and said, â€œjane greenwood could never design anything that was irritating!â€ unless the corset was too tight.
for the actor, yeah. but you know, i wanted to get onto lighting,because we havenâ€™t talked about lighting. and lighting, i think people, again, civiliansdonâ€™t understand how extremely important and how different kinds of lighting [are]. now, youâ€™ve designed lighting for operaand for dance. and again, for the heiress, i thought it wasabsolutely marvelous, because you couldnâ€™t tell it was lit, in the sense you donâ€™tsay, â€œmy gosh, thatâ€™s lit,â€ unless youâ€™re into it. but it all worked and itâ€™s very, very subtlelighting.
and itâ€™s absolutely marvelous. i mean, people donâ€™t go in and out of shadowsand all kinds of things like that. talk about how you approach lighting anything,and also a little bit about the differences with dance. this was an interesting challenge, actually,for me, because coming from dance and some of the avant-garde pieces iâ€™ve done, wherebasically the space is open and one can put lights anywhere one wants, this was much moreof a classic piece with a ceiling and with walls and itâ€™s a closed box, with a verylimited place for lights, only in the front of the auditorium and directly on the firstand second electric.
and so, i had to find a way into this world,this set, when there was physically not much of a way in, and to be able to give some dimensions. and actually, lightingâ€™s always an interestingcombination between what one imagines one might do and then whatâ€™s physically possibleand sometimes those are very divergent. but in this particular case, i found thati could put a boom out of sight of the audience, off of those windows, where i could get, youknow, looking at the set, i felt, â€œthereâ€™s something very real here. yes, the lace and the other ideas are goingon, but this play is grounded in a kind of reality.
we have to believe this. this isnâ€™t surreal, this isnâ€™t weird. this is real, in a way.â€ and so, i happen to know washington square. i know that house sits on the north side ofthe square, and so, those windows are facing south. and therefore, the script says in the secondscene, when the boyfriend arrives to overwhelm her and propose to her, he can be hit by sunlightat three oâ€™clock in the afternoon, coming from that boom right to the center doorwayof the arch.
and so i said, â€œfine. october, three oâ€™clock? yeah, okay. (laughter) the sun would be just there.â€ and so that sort of gave me my way in. and then thinking about that as an idea, thisman is an intruder from outside in her life. and so, in the two times when he comes, verypowerfully, you can get him from that same location with, the first time, golden sunlight,heâ€™s the golden boy, heâ€™s coming. and then, at the end, in sunset, when he comesto beg forgiveness, and he can be caught in
that sun. so that gave me an angle and that gave mea romantic color idea. it also gave me a way of connecting it tonature. and so, then i said, â€œoh, oh, okay. then another scene, itâ€™s eleven oâ€™clockin the morning, so the sun would be there. and oh, yes, i can put lights that will dothat in those windows.â€ the day he has jilted her is desolate andgrey. and so, the set will do that. and then looking at johnâ€™s selection ofcolors.
and then taking what daylight really is andhow it works. the trick, of course, is that the daylightcan only come through the windows. it canâ€™t come through the lace walls, oryou lose that conceit of that you canâ€™t see out there, except you can. and thatâ€™s where i built it from, basically,was to go from nature. which must have been fun for you to do, becauseyou have also a spectrum of times of day, which is a great challenge, and also characterand plot. but of course, when youâ€™re lighting in avant-gardesituations, people do want to see that there is a light, like itâ€™s a spot or somethingvery, very specific.
no, this had to match. when did lighting design come into its ownin the theatre? gene rosenthal (ph). he invented the leko. well, there was usually just the pink spotand you lit from behind or below. when did it become as much of a science asit is now? well, itâ€™s been growing. itâ€™s been growing as electronics have grownand computer control has grown. i mean, it used to be, i worked with juleson a show in 1973 where 300 lights was massive
for a musical. and now, musicals have 1,000 lights. some. they do? yeah, yeah. and theyâ€™re all controlled individually. sheâ€™s also able, because of light, for example,what do you call, birdies? small instruments that we didnâ€™t use tohave. sheâ€™s able to put lights in places on theheiress set where you would never dream that
a light could be hidden. but we should also tell everybody, i thinkif youâ€™ve seen the heiress especially youâ€™d be interested to know, there are some tricksbuilt into the set for the lighting. i donâ€™t think most people, unless you gobackstage, realize that thereâ€™s one staircase for catherine to go up, but thereâ€™s anotherstaircase behind the wall for a stagehand to go up, with a light in his hand. and he follows catherine up the stairs. so her halo of light is actually going upa second staircase. thereâ€™s a rear projection screen betweenthe two, so the back wall of the set is actually
a luminous wall. it isnâ€™t a solid wall at all, itâ€™s a rearprojection screen. right, right. so, thereâ€™s that effect. thatâ€™s the machine that gets her upstairs. in answering your question, i did jump bothof these gentlemenâ€™s intentions, in the sense that i was talking just light, completely,what i brought to the party. obviously, the necessity of the set, in itstranslucency, to reflect and change its color subtly.
also, you canâ€™t do that with an ordinaryset. the rear wall is translucent and changes. and soâ€™s the ceiling, actually. the ceiling is translucent, and subtly changescolor to reflect whatâ€™s going on. we see through into the other room. and then gerry had some very specific requests,one of which is the light behind her as it goes up the stairs. what gave you that idea? itâ€™s a wonderful idea.
well, because-- he always works from a moment though. because when you work with gerry, he tellsyou about a cool moment, and then you have to work backwards (laughter) and do the wholerest of the play. the heiress, by ruth and augustus goetz, representsthe kind of play that made me want to be in the theatre. it was the kind of play i saw as a child,going to plays. and i believe, with all due respect, thatthe art of the theatre is the art of the actor. and i thought that the moment, the climaxof that play, is that incredibly complicated
moment where you donâ€™t know whether youâ€™rehappy for her or youâ€™re sad for her, you know? and itâ€™s a moment of sexuality and complexity,and i had to go back from that. i knew that eventually, i didnâ€™t know howwe would do it, but eventually i wanted her holding the damn lamp, and i needed that thinggoing up as she went. and at the end, as the curtain comes down,that is all the light thatâ€™s left. yeah, i remember. i loved that. so itâ€™s a collapsing of light down to theprofile of miss cherry jones, in a dress by
jane greenwood. did you envision it like this at the verybeginning, that light would be that extra dimension for you? the light? i think the light, more so than other plays,to a director, the lighting designer i have the most fun with, because they come on last. and by this point, weâ€™re sick of each other. (gestures to john lee beatty) at this pointweâ€™re sick of each other. (gestures to jane greenwood) and sheâ€™s dealingwith the actors who think, â€œoh, youâ€™re
ruining my performance by making me wear thiscolor.â€ (laughter) so i get to have fun with the newdesigner. she comes at the end. because what i love in tech rehearsals issitting with a lighting designer, especially one as gifted as beverly, and seeing whatyou can do. and i remember that day, we were pulling allthe light, pulling all the light, pulling all the light, till the big jilting scene,cherry jones plays it in complete darkness. and frannie sternhagenâ€™s the one sittingin the light. yeah, that was an important moment, becausepeople have spoken about it, â€œsheâ€™s sitting
in the dark.â€ and thatâ€™s not something a lighting designercan ever do by oneself. and in a way, without even talking about it,we were following a similar line, because of my idea of the lit scenes being natural. well, if sheâ€™s sitting in the dark, waitingfor her boyfriend at one oâ€™clock in the morning, it is black in that room. now, how do we play this? yes, a little tiny candle comes downstairs,but the audience has to see sufficiently to understand what theyâ€™re saying to each other.
itâ€™s just a technical problem, we have tosee them. and the laughs. the laughs. on the other hand, we have to understand thatsheâ€™s sitting in the dark. so that what was wonderful was my intentionwas to see how low we can play it and therefore, iâ€™m sneaking things up and listening forthe director to say, â€œmore, more, more!â€ and in this particular case, she walked overto the sofa where previously i hadnâ€™t needed any light, and i went to make the next cue,which was, â€œoh, now we need a little light to fill.â€ and gerry said, â€œno, no.
no, we know what she looks like. leave her there.â€ and i mean, that could only be done [witha director]. yeah, i noticed that darkness. and there were many times in the play when,you know, there were dark shadows. i mean, there was no light in the alcove. and then that one light at the end. i mean, it was interesting how darkness becamea real element in the play. of course, it also comes from the period,too.
i mean, thatâ€™s the last thing, you movethe light with you. but it was very effective in the way it read. also, i think, itâ€™s theatrical. yes, very theatrical. and itâ€™s a moment, and why i sort of amuneasy on panels like this, because it sounds like thereâ€™s more theory at work than therewas-- no, because there wasnâ€™t. i donâ€™t know how we did it. but the jilting scene is, for me, about resurrection,and itâ€™s about her coming from the dark into the light, and the reality that brings.
and that the next scene is at dawn, thereâ€™sa religious thing there for me. and i donâ€™t know why. i donâ€™t. and so, iâ€™ll be quiet now. no, but thatâ€™s just terrific. the thing about the light, in 1850 those areargon lamps, which are patent lamps of the itâ€™s really, because of doing abe lincolnin illinois, which we did together, we know a lot about lamps. and the period, too.
same period. a little bit earlier, actually. well, a continuum of period, because the 1850â€™sis the last moment when you did have to live in the dark still. right after that, we get into the sixties,and you start getting oil lamps coming in, and everything changes. and then you get multiple light [ph]. and it was fascinating doing the research,finding about how excited people were about birth of light, and reflections in the mirrors.
the reason a lot of mirrors were there wereto reflect the light, and you see that in the play. and that becomes a very important elementwhen the light passes the mirrors. it was part of these peopleâ€™s lives. but it is of this period. i always get sad in the last scene when hecomes in in the sunset. i think, you know, itâ€™s really very sad,whatâ€™s happening in the play, but also, this is a period in time thatâ€™s frozen here,you know, these people. and james was writing about something thatwas told to him.
heâ€™s remembering that time. and the atmosphere. as an actress, do you have any thoughts aboutlighting? does the lighting have to be important foryou, for your face, for your body, for any one thing? or will you take the whole of the play? as an actress, the kind of lighting i likemost is just atmospheric, that puts you where youâ€™re supposed to be. and thatâ€™s exactly what beverly and gerry,collaborating together, did.
i remember lillian gish saying that she stoppedworking on the stage when they did away with footlights, because that was the only waythat you could be well-lit was from the bottom up, for an actress. and if you didnâ€™t have footlights, thenyou had, you know, not the proper kind of lighting. and listening to all of you here, on the changein lighting, how important it is to the play itself, is just so revealing. it is. cherry, i wonder if you could comment forus specifically on the ways that the set and
the lighting and the costumes helped you tocreate your character. and i also hope that jane will jump in andtell us how she managed to make someone as good-looking as you are look so plain. (laughter) obviously, the costume helped youto do that. ooh, ooh! stop, stop. the hair, the hair. yes, the hair. well, you know, the hairstyle of the periodis a bit of a killer.
i mean, they do have those strands there. and thatâ€™s your responsibility to do well, originally i look at the period, andyou embrace everything about it. and paul huntley, who of course is the greatwigmaker of all time, managed to come up with some very interesting styles. donâ€™t you think he was instrumental-- --in talking us into the fact that that wasreally the way to go with the bare ears. i was really excited when i saw that style,because i knew. and every night, when elise (ph) does it forme-- here, iâ€™ll give the television audience
[a demonstration]. (demonstrates; laughter) itâ€™s this patheticthing that wraps around the ears. and i fortunately have sort of elfin earsthat slightly stick out. and every night, i say to elise, â€œi wantas much ear as we can get.â€ (laughter) because i know. and then later, as the style changes, andwhen she goes to paris and she comes back and sheâ€™s much more aware, she has a stylewhich covers them and actually is more becoming in some way. it also makes her look a little more mature.
and all of these things help. did you two do a lot of research on this? oh, well, i always do. i mean, they always say iâ€™m hopeless. i have far too much research and far too manybooks, but i donâ€™t think you can ever have enough. thatâ€™s why i went back, when we first readthe play and went and read mr. james that john was talking about in seattle, becausei felt that reading the book that the play had come from would give us a lot.
right, and you found out where jamesâ€™ auntlives. if you find out that, you realize which directionthe staircase goes up, because in her house, we know exactly where. and he talked a lot about the clothes, too,which you donâ€™t get in the play. i have to stop this for just one minute, whileeverybody stands and stretches and does whatever they have to do and then come right down andcontinue with this very important part of what goes into the making of a play, so thatthe audience is not aware of any of this that goes in but is just aware of some kind ofmagic thatâ€™s happening on the stage for them, which, as you said, is a play, is thetheatre.
so please get up, stretch, do whatever youhave to do, and come right back again. thank you, and weâ€™ll continue with it. (applause)(music) male voicethis is cuny-tv, channel 75. (applause) weâ€™re continuing the americantheatre wing seminars on â€œworking in the theatre.â€ and this seminar is on design, and it is avery, very important and exciting and revealing seminar as well. we left off with the importance of lighting,for example, which the audience does not see.
but the more that they do not see, the moreimportant it is, i guess you would say that. and beverly, would you continue, and tish,perhaps youâ€™ll reintroduce your panel as we go on. certainly. gerry gutierrez, john lee beatty, beverlyemmons, george white, jane greenwood, cherry jones, and ralph lee. and cherry, i think, had just been beginningto comment on what she was able to use to create the character of catherine sloper fromthe work of each of the designers. she made some wonderful observations aboutthe use to which she put the hairstyle in
creating this shy, wealthy heiress. and i wonder if you could continue with theother designs. well, i said to jane, â€œwhat will i say aboutall of these different designs?â€ and jane said, â€œwell, just say it startswith the silhouette of the corset and goes from there.â€ (laughter) and itâ€™s true, for an actor,it does. it sort of begins with, first, we have todeal with what it is weâ€™re wearing and how that will affect our movement, and what weneed to know that we donâ€™t know about how that should and will affect our movement.
i know that jane was a wonderful instructor. itâ€™s very easy to come down a flight ofstairs in a 1850â€™s petticoat, and this predates hoopskirts by a couple of years, so this reallyis still the languid petticoat and lots of but getting back up is the problem, when youhave that much bulk. itâ€™s light bulk, but itâ€™s bulky. and jane, you know, â€œalways the upstagehand, just one hand.â€ because most american modern actresses donâ€™thave enough experience with large period skirts, because we donâ€™t do as much restorationor whatever, and we tend to always want to (demonstrates) grab with both hands and pullup, and of course, the elegant way is just
to find that. what i do is i know that i have to grab tilli feel my skin, so that i know that i have each and every petticoat, because you missa petticoat, youâ€™re doomed, youâ€™re on your face. (laughter) you get right till you feel theskin and very elegantly pull. frannie fell down the stairs at a preview,remember? she kept walking on. and it was in that cul-de-sac. (laughter) she said she was stepping on herown skirt and she couldnâ€™t get off it.
well, i think partly that was because we wereerring on a little longer than shorter. and also, her drinking. careful. not true, not true. joke, joke! everyone who knows frannie sternhagen willreally know itâ€™s true! weâ€™re going to hear about that one! youâ€™ve never tripped on your skirts then? oh, last night, it was pathetic!
what happened is, the petticoats, becausethere are so many ruffles and layers, that if they ever fall flat, which they do unlesstheyâ€™re starched and pressed twice a week, the hems, because miss greenwood is a taskmasterand she makes sure that even on a raked stage, the hems are absolutely touching, just skimmingthe carpet. (john lee beatty laughs) so you have no roomfor error. and last night, the petticoats had just gottenflat enough and the hems had gotten long enough that when i went down to shakes mrs. montgomeryâ€™shand, i literally did one of these. (demonstrates; laughter) twice! probably every spectator thought it was partof your character choice.
yes, clever of her. so they thought, â€œhow wonderful! how does she do that?â€ and i literally, i landed on liz mckayâ€™shand, to stop me before i went into the pit. but jane taught each of us so much about theseperiod costumes, because i think actors depend a lot on the research of our designers. so there was that. and then, i remember the very first day, imean, iâ€™m pretty good at reading models and set sketches, but thereâ€™s nothing likeseeing the real thing.
the first time you walk on a set, itâ€™s likechristmas morning. and you finally really get the world thatyouâ€™ve been trying to approach in rehearsal all those weeks. and i remember walking, i came down the alleywayof the cort theatre, having never been there before, the very first day we moved into thetheatre, and i was too dumb to read the sign that said, â€œstage door this way.â€ and i walked into the basement door, and allthe stagehand guys were going, â€œoh, sheâ€™s a smart one!â€, you know? (laughter) because i came wandering in thewrong door and i just said, â€œwhereâ€™s the
stage?â€ and they just sort of pointed me up the staircase. and thereâ€™s many staircases on this setthat the audience doesnâ€™t see. the front stoop staircase to 16 washingtonsquare is actually through a trap, down into the basement. so we enter 16 washington square from thebasement steps. and then, of course, there was fortunatelyanother trap that suited the kitchen stairs. so there are kitchen stairs, front stoop stairs,and then an access staircase to the stage right area.
and i remember, i somehow wandered up thatstaircase. and i didnâ€™t really want to see the setuntil i could really fully walk onto it, but i just glanced. and i saw the newel post of that staircase,and the carpeting, and that front door, and there was even a plate on the front door thatsaid â€œsloper,â€ that no one ever sees. really? and then suddenly, i got so excited i thoughti was going to die. it suddenly dawned on me the world that wewere about to enter together, as collaborators on this extraordinary piece that none of ushad an idea anybody was going to-- i was just
talking to a nice lady in the rest room aboutthe fact that none of us had a clue the way this production was going to capture peopleâ€™simaginations. really, itâ€™s sort of like the curtain goingup even for you. yes, it really was. and itâ€™s because every part of the collaborationwas, in a way by accident, this wonderful perfection. and it all just sort of came together. and itâ€™s because everyone is so-- i see janeâ€™s face.
it isnâ€™t quite by accident. well, no. i didnâ€™t really mean that. i know. you were talking about the research and goingto paris even for the change in the time that sheâ€™s an american going over to paris andlooking at the change in hair, for example. do you want to continue with that? well, and also, you might talk about whenshe comes back from paris. not only the hair, but the clothes.
well, of course, sheâ€™s had such a change,and sheâ€™s had a chance to see something of the world. and it makes a big difference. and the european clothes were definitely moresophisticated than the american clothes which she had seen. in fact, everything that was stylish was insome way brought back from europe at that time. it was way before we had our own americandesigners. when you say research, where do you go tolook for a period like that?
i mean, i know that if itâ€™s 1950â€™s orsomething thatâ€™s easy, you just go to the saturday evening post or ladies home journalor whatever. well, paintings of the period, and magazines,periodicals. i remember alona, janeâ€™s assistant again--sheâ€™s getting a lot of coverage. yes, a lot of mileage. i remember when we were in the muslin, becausein the fittings youâ€™re, more often than not, in-- we do a muslin first, yes. -- a muslin first.
and i was just in the muslin of the parisdress that i return in to washington square. and i remember alona just looking dreamy-eyedand said, â€œoh, thereâ€™s nothing like a paris cut!â€ (laughter) it was almost as though sheâ€™dforgotten that jane had designed it. it was almost like she was getting caughtup in it. but thatâ€™s how authentic it was and shejust, â€œoh! ah, a paris cut!â€ i understand that youâ€™re such a sticklerfor detail that even the underwear of a modern dress has to be exactly right.
i was telling a story about a musical we didand how you designed the underwear for the chorus, because she felt that if they didnâ€™thave the proper underwear, they couldnâ€™t behave properly. they couldnâ€™t feel. well, i think for any actor, they need tohave it all right and then they feel as though they are the character. yeah, but thatâ€™s, you know, why youâ€™reso good. (laughter) no, it is. it makes the actor good.
i mean, the awareness, sensitivity to theactor. because after all is said and done, itâ€™sabout that. no matter what we do, they come to see her. i mean, itâ€™s the same as the set design,and john lee putting dr. sloperâ€™s name on the door, that the people in the audiencedonâ€™t see but the actors know. itâ€™s the same thing with whatâ€™s underneaththe clothes. you know, itâ€™s all part of making the actorsfeel, as well as we can, that they are those characters, and then they are able to givethose glowing performances. but you know, all of us together, i think,in some way, make it [work].
itâ€™s not just one aspect or individual,itâ€™s that wonderful kind of group that makes the wheel turn round. where did you study? at the central school of arts and crafts inlondon. and then i went to oxford repertory, wherewe designed a new play every three weeks. thatâ€™s a hard job, and once youâ€™ve donethat, itâ€™s sort of experience for life, really. a year of that! where would future costume designers go todayto study?
well, there are many good schools today. like yale. do you teach? i teach at yale. (laughter) i think itâ€™s a good design school. thank you, george. i think nyu is a very good design school. there are many. but i must say, i am partial to yale.
what about lighting? where would one study lighting today, forthe theatre? i didnâ€™t study lighting. i studied dance at sarah lawrence collegewith betsy schomberg (ph) for three years, and worked. assisting tom skelton (ph), assisting julesfisher, and worked as many little shows as i could for myself. itâ€™s interesting to sit beside the master,just one seat away from the hot seat, and watch how they deal with the problems.
itâ€™s an old-fashioned apprentice kind ofsystem that works very well. well, you know, we were mentioning, and youalluded to something that i wanted you to do a little bit technically. you said, â€œwell, it all began to changewith the invention of the leko light.â€ and for our audience and for our edification,would you explain that a little bit? a leko is a specific unit that was inventedin the forties. but mostly, itâ€™s the control of light. weâ€™re getting better and better at it. the equipment is more and more sophisticated.
so prior to that, there were the footlightswe talked about and some lighting of the scenery with a few general sources and soft-edgedthings. and now, one can be extremely precise. and thereâ€™s equipment now that will changethe color, so that if you have a small space and only enough room for one light there,as on the heiress, you can change it and have three or four colors there, or twenty or forty,in a machine that changes the color. thereâ€™s moving lights now that you alsocan control with computers, and we use that. itâ€™s very realistic. you might talk about that opening thing withthe coach going by.
yeah, in this very realistic play, we do usea couple of intellabeams that give us the impression that thereâ€™s a carriage movingout on the street, because you can see the light go across the ceiling. but in a play like this, you donâ€™t wantanyone to know that youâ€™ve done anything as complex. beverly, in the heiress, we were talking earlierabout the fact that you create the illusion of sunlight and a little bit of moonlightcoming on from stage left. you also use the fireplace, firelight, andlamp light to appear to illuminate the stage, but you do have quite a few instruments outfront, supplementing what looks like natural
how many are out front? i donâ€™t know how many are out front. i think overall, there are about 400 unitson the show. i also wondered, you have the stage fairlybrightly lit at the end of the first act and then of course for the curtain call. are there instruments that you use only atthose two points and not anyplace else in the show? i had the feeling. what about those lamps?
how do you make them go on and off on cue? and then of course, cherry carries one upstairs,so itâ€™s obviously not tied down to wiring. there are some duramell (ph) batteries intiny little sources that look very good, as if they were candles. but john lee provides the lamps. i mean, heâ€™s done the research on what thefixture should look like, where the source should be, and my job is to find a bulb thatfits in there and then can be controlled with the board. well, thatâ€™s what drives me crazy in theheiress, and gerry had to punish me during
rehearsals, because it really would take thema lot longer to light all those lamps. you know, that would be a big project. and thatâ€™s why we would have a maid go aroundlighting the lamps. but it turned out to be rather tedious tosee someone-- (demonstrates, painstakingly) turning the wick down. yes, it would have added ten minutesâ€™ runningtime to the show. you know, with seven lamps on stage, thatwasnâ€™t a good idea and gerry just had to stop complaining. itâ€™s a play.
itâ€™s not a light show. you always have to find the balance betweenthe reality and whatâ€™s going to make the magic. i mean, i think none of us can be too dogmaticabout whatâ€™s right and whatâ€™s wrong. itâ€™s got to be what makes [it work]. on the other hand, iâ€™m always fascinatedwith people who say they donâ€™t know anything about anything, but weâ€™ve been exposed toso many movies that actually are fairly well researched. the movie version of the heiress is quitewell researched, actually.
and people who say they donâ€™t know anythingabout it, it doesnâ€™t matter-- it does matter a lot of times, because people feel whatâ€™sright and wrong, because weâ€™ve been exposed to a lot of things and we know a lot. as a designer, i have to believe that we knowa lot more things visually than we are aware of ourselves knowing. thatâ€™s why people can look at somethingand say, â€œi donâ€™t know whatâ€™s wrong, but somethingâ€™s wrong.â€ and there are a lot of things that we collectivelyrecognize. one thing on the heiress was cherry mentionedthe stairs going up to the front of the house.
i think whether you remember it or not, thateverybody in new york really knows that those houses on the north side of washington squareall have a flight of steps going up to the front of them. and even if you didnâ€™t remember it, whenyou saw it, you might think there was something a little strange if the people didnâ€™t godown when they went out the stairs or up to enter. and itâ€™s an instinctive lack people feel,when you get things a little too wrong. you can get them a little wrong, like gettingthe maid with the lamps, but you canâ€™t get them way wrong or people get uncomfortable.
well, it affects the actor, too. i mean, if an actor is going to enter froma long stoop in the period, you donâ€™t just step over a threshold and say, â€œhi.â€ they swear. i think they do swear when they start up thestairs. itâ€™s a long climb. (laughter) with the skirts. the skirts, yes. upstage hand.
i didnâ€™t know that, iâ€™m fascinated. i was teaching her one day how the lady ofthe period would carry her little bag. how to what? cherry, how a lady would carry her bag. youâ€™d carry your little bag like this. (holds his hands in front of his chest) because i have my little traveling case andi think morris has arrived, and i go and i pick up my little traveling case. and of course, i was carrying it like i was,you know, going out to long island for the
weekend. (laughter) and of course, john lee beattytold me that i had to carry it this way because, in the first place, the skirts are so bigthat she would really have to be a weightlifter to carry it, you know. so that of course they would carry it here. and when you see them carry it there, allthe clothes make sense, because theyâ€™re made to fall properly for her. yeah, right. and in those clothes, you canâ€™t do this.
itâ€™s all just in this small range. that is the other thing, the practicalityof that controls a lot. (to gerry) would that not be your role, toteach her how to hold the bag? well, i think itâ€™s a shared thing. i trained as an actor and i know a lot aboutperiod. and the way people behave in different periods,jane was my teacher. she wasnâ€™t teaching at yale then. where was she teaching? she was teaching at juilliard.
(laughter) and she was our costume teacher. and it all makes sense. people behave in a way that the clothes allowthem to behave. and thereâ€™s all reasons for it, all of themorganic. i used to have the actors sort of put clotheson and behave as they would in different periods. and they loved to do that. and i would say, â€œnow, look in the mirrorand look at your silhouette. and donâ€™t be frightened to look at yourself. this is the time to really concentrate.â€
not that actors are ever frightened to lookat themselves, i donâ€™t think. (laughter) but i really wanted them to lookat their silhouettes and see how they behaved. i must tell this little story, that christopherreeve was at juilliard at the time when i was teaching. and a couple of years later, i was out atbam with my daughter seeing a twyla tharp ballet, and christopher was in the audience. and he came up and said hello and sheâ€™djust been to see â€œsuperman,â€ and i could see her eyes were out on stalks (laughter),that he had come up and said hello to me. and i introduced her to christopher and heleant over and he said, â€œyou know, it was
your mother that taught me to use a cape.â€ (laughter) i thought she was going to dieand go to heaven. and she looked at me in a totally differentway. itâ€™s called â€œrespectâ€! thatâ€™s wonderful. john lee, weâ€™ve talked about the fact thatthe scrim-- uh-oh. brown university, english literature. yale school of drama for design.
and do you teach? i taught for nine or ten years at north carolinaschool of the arts, and i am taking a break right now from teaching. i got taught out. did you do anything before? were you an actor? i acted and directed and wrote in college,but i have absolutely no retention of anything ever said to me, and i canâ€™t speak any lines,i canâ€™t remember what to say. so it was very useful to have done it, buti always wanted to be a set designer, since
i was seven years old. but didnâ€™t you do puppets? oh, iâ€™m sorry. for many years, i had my own puppet-- iâ€™ve heard this story a thousand times. letâ€™s hear it. tell it once. no, he has his own little puppet theatre. i was very shy and at a certain period ofmy life, i didnâ€™t talk to people a whole
lot. (laughter) so i made puppets and i had littlehand puppets and string puppets and rod puppets. and this is so embarrassing, but i took overthe garage of my house, and i had my own little theatre with a fly system. actually, it was a complex, it was like lincolncenter. i had the big stage (laughter) and i had alittle one for the miniature sets and then a medium sized one for the marionettes. so it was an arts complex. i think turn about is fair play.
i want ralph to comment on the sets that hedesigned at the monomoy theatre in chatham years ago for the heiress. various voicesoh! he designed the heiress, you designed puppets. good for you! well, it wasnâ€™t for puppets. (laughter) i remember the staircase, but thatâ€™sabout all i can remember. it seems like it was a drawing room! but no, i did some set designing in days goneby, in a previous life.
well, i never studied much theatre. i always just did it. and for instance, all this stuff is self-taught. i mean, maybe now there are places to studyit, but there werenâ€™t years ago. i studied with harry burnett (ph), you know? he was with the yale puppeteers? oh, sure. not at yale, in california. but he was a famous puppeteer.
it was very weird, though, to have a puppetschool. it was very odd. well, i grew up in vermont and there was nobodythere to study with. and i had a puppet show when i was a kid,too. i was one of those strange kids. (laughter) but i would take my show, i guessi still tour, but i would take my show to birthday parties and to schools and do littleproductions there. i must say that the first year that i, asa so-called adult, started doing these shows that incorporated masks and giant puppetsand so forth, i was sitting there watching
the play one day and i thought, â€œgee, thisis just what i was doing when i was twelve! only the scale is a little bit changed now.â€ and i think thereâ€™s a definite link therestill. i want to know, though, whether cherry waslike doing little plays in her garage. well, i was. jane was dressing up paper dolls and beverlyhad flashlights going. i mean, thatâ€™s the thing about the arts. we just make our childhoods last. i did marionettes.
you did? i did, too. yeah, we had puppets. and the rubber balls with the thing. i remember, yeah. it is true. itâ€™s actually that, what cherry is saying. you make your childhood last forever. because i started designing scenery when iwas seven.
i have to say, we did a play, it was reallya horrible experience, i wonâ€™t mention it. but in the middle of hell, we were in themiddle of hell, there were puppets in this play. and we were in the middle of hell-- did imention that we were in the middle of hell? (laughter) and it was a filthy, awful, terribleplace to be. and there was john lee beatty in the corner,happy as a clam, putting red hair on the puppet. (john lee beatty laughs; demonstrates) fittingand combing the hair on the puppets, and he looked like a five year old. in the middle of hell!
john lee, i have to know how, with a set thathas walls with big chunks just scrim, so that we donâ€™t have flats and we donâ€™t haveall the wood-- whatâ€™s holding it up? what holds up the ceiling? do you have it suspended? and the candelabra, do you have it suspendedfrom the flies or something? you know, itâ€™s really scary. if you analyze the heiress and you build scenery,thereâ€™s very little holding it together. philip bosco noted that one day.
iâ€™ll bet. the ceiling is hung, and the ceiling is totallytranslucent, so thereâ€™s no framing over the center part. and that chandelier, they tried to be veryaccurate and drop a line and cut a little hole and go right through it and hold thechandelier up to it. and one day, they had a little accident andit ripped. but it was very scary, and the lace had tobe installed in the theatre, because there really is no frame holding anything together. so it was stretched from place to place toplace.
and of course, if you think about it, thosemirrors which are actual real glass are very heavy. and theyâ€™re self-supporting, but-- and thepaintings are actually made of scrim, because we have to see through the paintings as well. and theyâ€™re computer printed on scrim, witha layer of brown clear plexiglas behind them to look like what an oil painting would looklike if it were transparent. and those, of course, have to be suspended,too. i have to interrupt at this point, unlessyouâ€™re willing to spend the weekend with us-- (laughter)
sure! -- which i would like very much. i think even then we wouldnâ€™t have timeto continue and explore this. but this has been the american theatre wingâ€™sseminar on design. and earlier, we presented to these wonderfulartists the american theatre wingâ€™s award and check for design in the theatre. and unlike the tony awards, itâ€™s going tooff broadway as well as broadway. and the american theatre wing has long believedthat talent has no boundaries and this panel is a very, very good example of that.
itâ€™s coming to you from the graduate centerof the city university of new york, and it is just one of the all-year-round programsof the american theatre wing. i thank you all for being here, and i thankthis wonderful panel for their generous time, examples, and the wonderful puppets that weâ€™vehad here, and also, your knowledge. thank you so much for being here.