Mother Hicks courtesy of Eric Lange

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We started the next phase of the rehearsal process for Mother Hicks.  The cast has worked for two weeks on learning components of sign language which are integrated into the action of the show.  On Monday, October 18th, we held the Design Presentation for the Cast and Crew.  During this event, the director and the rest of the production team share their approach to shaping the world of the show.  The show’s director, Gretta Berghammer, started the presentation by speaking the first lines from the show as Christian Bainbridge, who plays the character of Tuc, signed the lines, which is what happens in the actual show.  She also talked about three reasons that she was drawn to the show: 

  • the playwright, Suzan Zeder, is an important contemporary playwright of works for youth audiences
  • this production gives us a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.  Gretta is drawn to work that generates opportunities for social interaction and action…this play beautifully draws everyone’s attention to the special gifts the non-hearing and hard of hearing have to share.
  • The story, even though it is set 65 years in the past, is still relevant today as we face economic uncertainty, anxiety and fear.

Mark Parrott, the scenic designer, shared a variety of images from the Depression-era research he has done and discussed how the stage would be used in this production.   

One of Mark’s challenges is creating the “wagon” that Tuc pulls around during the show.  The wagon, which Mark has conceived as a railway luggage cart, is used throughout the show as both a place where actors pull props that are used to define their character or a locale from and also as certain elements of scenery, such as a dining room table or a general store counter.

Carol Colburn, the costume designer, spoke about the reality of how people were forced to use and re-use clothing, often patching it again and again to extend the life of the garment.  She shared a wonderful resource from her research, a book of color photographs of the American Midwest during the Depression.  This is rare since most film from the time was black and white.

I spoke about the work that I hope to do as lighting designer, along with my assistant, Michael Brown, who is a senior in our department.  I was drawn to this script because the story is presented in a beautiful, poetic- almost rhythmic- manner.  It is also a piece that depends heavily on lighting to establish locale.  There are scenes that are expansive and use the whole stage, there are scenes which take place in interior settings where the lighting will be the primary thing defining those spaces, and there are moments where Tuc, the deaf young man in the story, is focused on in a very isolated way as he signs elements of narration that are spoken by chorus members, who are all citizens of the town where the play occurs.

The cast also introduced themselves by signing their names and who they play in the show.  Other presenters were Diana Garles, who is designing hair and makeup for the show, and Nick Chizek, who is preparing educational materials and presentations for the middle-school audiences who will come to a special matinee performance- one of two performances that will be signed for the public.

Michael and I will begin to attend rehearsals this week and watch as Gretta and the cast explore how the stage will be used.   Within the next two weeks we’ll experiment with placement of instruments and the different effects- including a moving river and a large campfire- needed for the show.

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