Masks, Masks and More Masks
Rhinoceros initial design ideas:
Set: I'm thinking three periaktois (large, three-sided pillars that have different scenes painted on each side), a few simple furniture pieces for each scene and a floor treatment that will ground the periaktois and pull everything together. This suggestive approach will lend itself to the absurdist nature of the play. It Will be the designer's job to bring feeling and meaning to the set through the painted surfaces.
Costumes: Period is not emphasized in this play, so neutral, work-a-day costumes that emphasize characters is what I'm seeing. Colours will be greys and earthen tones and characters will be identified by accessories that are unique to them (e.g. glasses, scarves, hand-props, etc). Hair and makeup will also play a role--particularly as there is lots of doubling.
Masks: The most challenging design element in this show will be the masks. People gradually turn into rhinos, so both full and partial rhino masks are needed. Questions that need to be answered: should the masks be realistic? Suggestive? Subtle? Outlandish? Many of these questions are answered by practical considerations such as the amount of time the actors have to put the masks on to how much money we have to make the masks to who will be building the masks. In addition to the masks that the actors wear, e will also need a kind of two-dimensional shadow-puppet version of the rhino heads which will be used to cast large, ominous shadows against the cyc (the large white sheet). Even though I only have seven actors to work with, I have to create the sense that the entire town--indeed, perhaps the entire world--is turning into rhinos; I hope to achieve this largely through sound effects and through the shadow-play on the cyc.
In addition to masks for Rhinoceros, I also met recently with Daniel Vanheyst, a designer and professor at Kings' College in Edmonton, Alberta, who will be designing and building masks for The Good Woman of Setzuan, my spring 09 show at Trinity. Daniel is a first-rate artist and mask-maker and I am excited to see the design evolution for these Brechtian half-masks.