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PUBLIC WORKS Musical Adaptation of William Shakespeare's
TWELFTH NIGHT

Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub 
Music and Lyrics by Shaina Taub
Choreography by Lorin Latarro
Directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah

Featuring Kim Blanck (Femal

Photo: Joan Marcus
From left, Daniel Hall, Lori Brown-Niang, Shaina Taub, and Shuler Hensley in “Twelfth Night” at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. Brown-Niang’s peignoir is usually “the first to go” on exceptionally hot nights when the feathers start shedding.

On this second day of fall in Massachusetts, the temperature was only 45 degrees at 6 a.m., when I wrote this. I felt very glad that 2018’s overpowering heat and humidity were past.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for outdoor actors under fierce stage lighting in summer 2018. At American Theatre, there’s a fun article about designing costumes for actors performing in all kinds of weather.

Billy McEntee wrote, “Across the country, as actors and audiences endure rain, heat, and bugs to present and partake of free professional performances of the Bard’s classics, one group of designers has a special challenge: costume designers. …

“ ‘Designing for outdoor environments is challenging yet fascinating,’ said Ying-Jung Chen, the costume designer for Independent Shakespeare Company’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ in Los Angeles. … ‘I’ve learned a lot through each outdoor experience about fabric technology and construction techniques.’ …

“It’s the dry heat that can prove most threatening. Evenings in the summer can stay above 80 degrees in Southern California; couple that with acrobatic performances, bushy wigs, and blaring stage lights, and actors are sure to sweat through even the thinnest of fabrics. …

“But heat invites more than just exhaustion and sweat; it’s also a magnet for bugs, something that Chen had to account for when creating stage blood for her costumes.

” ‘Blood is integral to Titus,’ Chen says. ‘My recipe was successful in past indoor productions. With a corn syrup base, it’s easy to wash out, edible, and realistic. But when doing outdoor performances, the sugar-based corn syrup attracts bugs. Fortunately, the theatre company has years of outdoor performance experience and provided a great recipe that’s washable, edible, and doesn’t allure insects.’ …

“Rain is no stranger to American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisc., though the threat of precipitation doesn’t change the creative process. As costume designer Robert Morgan succinctly puts it: ‘Design first, problem-solve later.’ He’s the costume designer for APT’s ‘As You Like It’ (running through Oct. 7). …

“ ‘Shoes are covered with non-slip dance rubber,’ he says. ‘But evening dew can make our outdoor stage slippery, so at APT we add sand to paint’ to give the stage’s surface extra traction.

“As in L.A., Morgan must also consider sweltering temperatures. This includes having freezer packs on hand for actors to wear beneath their costumes and crafting a ‘heat plan.’ which is ‘meant to accommodate the actors’ well-being on exceptionally hot, muggy nights and matinees under an unforgiving midsummer sun,’ Morgan said. …

“Oppressive heat and humidity are staples of New York summers as well. After a successful first run in 2016, Andrea Hood returned to design costumes for the Public Theater’s current Shakespeare in the Park production, ‘Twelfth Night,’ a Public Works musical adaptation with songs by Shaina Taub. …

“Hood plans not only the intricacies of [the] fabrics but also how costume pieces may adjust with unexpected precipitation. ‘Fuchsia feathers often come loose on [the character] Maria’s peignoir in “Twelfth Night,” ‘ she notes. ‘It isn’t the most practical costume for an outdoor space, so if it’s raining she would likely skip that change altogether. It’s the one piece that would probably not go onstage in the rain.’

“But a light drizzle doesn’t always signal a costume adjustment, or even a cancelled performance. In fact, its effect—combined with stellar acting, of course—can be as spellbinding as any theatrical flourish, more dazzling than any stage magic.

“ ‘Last year it was pouring for the first night of tech for “As You Like It,” ‘ Hood recalled. ‘The actors didn’t get into costume at all.’ Instead they wore street clothes, covered with plastic ponchos. ‘It was wonderful,’ she enthuses. ‘By midnight there were only five actors left running a number over and over again, still managing to smile. I loved being in the audience watching them—the rain didn’t even matter.’ ”

More at American Theatre, here.

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We join John’s family or Suzanne’s family for Halloween on alternate years. This year, we were scheduled to hang out in John’s neighborhood, where a park at the end of the street bubbles over with festivity and John serves as the master of ceremonies for the costume fashion show.

Leading up to that event, I took pictures of the fun ways Halloween lovers decorated this year — noting, for example, the proliferation of giant spiders on houses and some upside-down zombies in an otherwise innocent-looking yard.

Suzanne’s family cut Jack O’Lantern designs using templates from the Internet. I’m posting the cute owl, but they also carved a crocodile, an octopus, and a cat.

the costume parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More pictures of the season, including a Pumpkin Fest in Concord and a Halloween party in the neighborhood where my older grandson and his sister live.

Today there must have been 40 costumed kids, from infants to 10-year-olds, rolling down the hill, posing for pictures, and eating hotdogs in the playground. After the parade, everyone went down the street to knock on doors looking for treats. (Meran’s treat for my husband and me was homemade potato and leek soup and some very yummy bread.)

John wore his scary fangs and asked a little Yoda if he was tasty to eat.

“This is what I look like,” he explained to friends, “after a week of being up all night with two kids who have fevers.”

light-on-leavesAh, yes. All part of the season!

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Nicholas Kristof ‏of the NY Times just tweeted: “Sandy has left our neighborhood perfect for Halloween: darkened houses, spooky streets, fallen trees. Just no kids out.”

My sister, a doctor, lives in New York City. She writes: “It’s like there are two cities, one north of 34th St, the other south of 34th St. The ‘south’ city has no traffic lights, no electricity, every block is patrolled by police cars day and night, stores and schools are closed, people are climbing up 10 to 25 floors to get to their apartments because the elevators don’t work, cars that were parked on the street have floated away, etc.

“The ‘north’ city, where we are, is pretty much normal but with traffic jams because everyone is using cars to get around due to the lack of subways. … Many patients cancelled. One walked here today, from 49th to 102 St.”

Meanwhile, Halloween. Suzanne and Erik are taking their dragon-costumed baby around their old Harlem neighborhood.

Erik’s mother and sister and kids had to give up the idea of taking Amtrak to visit their old haunts in New Jersey, as Amtrak Northeast Corridor service  is cancelled post-hurricane. Still, they came all the way from Sweden to trick or treat with old friends in Princeton, so they rented a car and are knocking on doors right now.

My husband and I went to our two-year-old grandson’s neighborhood park, where all the little kids dress up and there are hot dogs and delightful festivities of all sorts. One event is a “fashion parade.” Each costumed kid emerges from a little tent, is announced to the adoring, camera-clicking adults, and walks down a runway.

My grandson had a fireman costume to go with his spiffy fireman rain boots.

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