The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)

Gavin
CENTERSTAGE
Baltimore
Maryland
USA

thaumaturg
Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2014-2015 Season:
Amadeus
Next to Normal
It's A Wonderful Life
One Night in Miami
Herzog Rep
After the Revolution
4000 Miles
Marley
Play Labs

The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.

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This is from a little while ago, but here’s a wonderful little video snippet of CENTERSTAGE Artistic Director Irene Lewis talking about stage violence—apropos most directly of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, but applicable more generally to her 20-season tenure.



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The last scene of 'Tis Pity is a bloodbath, and almost no one gets away unspattered. Check out this video for a backstage peek at the techniques of stage blood: squirting, frothing, and staining—and how we clean up for the next show!

Spoilers, guys, spoilers. There will be blood.



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Stand to!

Fight director J. Allen Suddeth and the 'Tis Pity cast demonstrate the cut-and-thrust cloak-and-dagger world of fight call.



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Gavin Witt. The man behind the tumblr. And behind a gorgeous costume created right here in our shop. The costume shop is on the third floor, just down the hall from the thaumaturgy department.
—KVW
[Editor’s note: It should be added that this costume, lovely as it may be, is not the customary daily attire in Thaumaturgy; we’re far more casual around here. And while it was constructed here on-site, it was created for a production of Wilder’s The Matchmaker and not in fact for 'Tis Pity. Which fact, if you’ve perused the interview with costume designer Candy Donnelly, should help keep you from getting mightily confused. Not to worry. Totally different shows, let alone designers. If you want a better…picture…of the look of 'Tis Pity, try this on for size.]

Gavin Witt. The man behind the tumblr. And behind a gorgeous costume created right here in our shop. The costume shop is on the third floor, just down the hall from the thaumaturgy department.

—KVW

[Editor’s note: It should be added that this costume, lovely as it may be, is not the customary daily attire in Thaumaturgy; we’re far more casual around here. And while it was constructed here on-site, it was created for a production of Wilder’s The Matchmaker and not in fact for 'Tis Pity. Which fact, if you’ve perused the interview with costume designer Candy Donnelly, should help keep you from getting mightily confused. Not to worry. Totally different shows, let alone designers. If you want a better…picture…of the look of 'Tis Pity, try this on for size.]



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Once you make all that blood, someone has to wash it out every night… (remember the Costume Designer saying she chose to work in cottons instead of silk for this very reason? no? well, look at our interview with her in the Online Dramaturgy for the show; maybe it’ll refresh your memory. C’mon, pay attention, keep up, we have a LOT to cover here!)

Once you make all that blood, someone has to wash it out every night… (remember the Costume Designer saying she chose to work in cottons instead of silk for this very reason? no? well, look at our interview with her in the Online Dramaturgy for the show; maybe it’ll refresh your memory. C’mon, pay attention, keep up, we have a LOT to cover here!)



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They sure liked their blood in John Ford’s day. It’s hardly news that they enjoyed a good public execution (which usually involved some pretty gruesome torture and dismemberment before the actual coup-de-grace), and in the enormous popularity of Revenge Tragedy they seem to have delighted in stage pictures as violent and bloody. With the gallons of “Harry Potter blood” being used to drench the climax of our production, here’s a little reminder of how authentically period that is. From a first-hand account:
The Sentence on Prynne, Burton and Bastwicke, 30 June 1637
From witnesses comes this account of the punishment of these three for their writing and speaking against the authority of Archbishop Laud, Church authorities, and royal decrees:
"The Archbishop of Canterbury, being informed by his spies what Mr Prynne said, moved the Lords then sitting in the Star Chamber that he might be gagged and have some further censure to be presently executed on him; but that motion did not succeed. Mr Burton spake much while in the pillory to the people. The executioner cut off his ears deep and close, in a cruel manner, with much effusion of blood, an artery being cut, as there was likewise of Dr Bastwick.
Then Mr Prynne’s cheeks were seared with an iron made exceeding hot which done, the executioner cut off one of his ears and a piece of his cheek with it; then hacking the other ear almost off, he left it hanging and went down; but being called up again he cut it quite off.”

They sure liked their blood in John Ford’s day. It’s hardly news that they enjoyed a good public execution (which usually involved some pretty gruesome torture and dismemberment before the actual coup-de-grace), and in the enormous popularity of Revenge Tragedy they seem to have delighted in stage pictures as violent and bloody. With the gallons of “Harry Potter blood” being used to drench the climax of our production, here’s a little reminder of how authentically period that is. From a first-hand account:

The Sentence on Prynne, Burton and Bastwicke, 30 June 1637

From witnesses comes this account of the punishment of these three for their writing and speaking against the authority of Archbishop Laud, Church authorities, and royal decrees:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, being informed by his spies what Mr Prynne said, moved the Lords then sitting in the Star Chamber that he might be gagged and have some further censure to be presently executed on him; but that motion did not succeed. Mr Burton spake much while in the pillory to the people. The executioner cut off his ears deep and close, in a cruel manner, with much effusion of blood, an artery being cut, as there was likewise of Dr Bastwick.

Then Mr Prynne’s cheeks were seared with an iron made exceeding hot which done, the executioner cut off one of his ears and a piece of his cheek with it; then hacking the other ear almost off, he left it hanging and went down; but being called up again he cut it quite off.”



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Twitter, `Tis Pity style…
Meet “Spelvin,” the most recent member of our company of players. He joined the cast just before previews began, appearing in a brief but salient cameo moment in the first act. Keep your eyes peeled. (Some insist that he’s merely a living prop; we hold that he’s so much more.)

Twitter, `Tis Pity style…

Meet “Spelvin,” the most recent member of our company of players. He joined the cast just before previews began, appearing in a brief but salient cameo moment in the first act. Keep your eyes peeled. (Some insist that he’s merely a living prop; we hold that he’s so much more.)



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Hold, or cut bowstrings…

Never really fully understand that Bottom line from Midsummer, though it’s fun. But be that as it may, we’ve reached the critical moment when actual, paying audiences (patrons? customers? collaborators? theater junkies?) get let in to watch the result of a year’s worth of work.

We’ve now had a final dress rehearsal for staff and invited guests, Tuesday night, and that was a riot and a half, a truly vital reception (next time you get an invite from us to attend one of these, say yes!). It also helped fine-tune the production. And now we’ve had a few previews to try some adjustments and work out more kinks.

From our perspective, it’s great to see and hear directly from audiences that the play actually makes sense, that they follow it, that it lands. Great to hear that text revisions we made worked, or that choices the cast and director made to illuminate a relationship or moment, work. We’ve passed on pages and pages of notes for the director to add to her own, everything from large-scale overall narrative observations to minute questions about a piece of jewelry, say. We’ve made a few more line changes to try out tonight (can we really avoid the impression of pregnacy by substituting for “a fullness of the blood” a line from elsewhere in the play—“the overflux of youth?” Amazing how many ways they had in Early Modern England to say Horny!

The added figure of La Morte, the angel of death who glides through the show, came in for some consideration, and it looks as if she’ll be added into a few additional spots and perhaps further conceived just a bit, to help complete the thematic and theatrical notion she conveys. Subtly, we hope.

Subtlety would NOT apply to the gouts and gallons of blood getting used in the play’s gore-loaded finale; audiences have been responding with delicious delight and horror to the macabre, body-strewn climax. Pack a poncho and come check it out.

And if you’re someone who’s been following along and has now seen the show, or comes to see it during its run, you are welcome not only to post a note here but to email us at thaumaturgydept@gmail.com. We’d love to hear your responses or reactions.

-ghw

[ok, a little reward; not to give any/everything away, but here’s one of Richard Anderson’s brilliant production photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/thaumaturgydept/TisPitySheSAWhore#5312800883321613330.

Things, as you can see, get pretty active and violent come the last scene….]



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Curtains for you!
Getting ready for the first preview tonight, the first paying audience the show will have (after a pretty decent final dress last night for some invited guests). Maybe a piece of karmic goodwill to stumble across this marvelous image—it really should be Giovanni’s new bathroom decor, I think, don’t you? If you like it, you can find it and more right…here!
-ghw

Curtains for you!

Getting ready for the first preview tonight, the first paying audience the show will have (after a pretty decent final dress last night for some invited guests). Maybe a piece of karmic goodwill to stumble across this marvelous image—it really should be Giovanni’s new bathroom decor, I think, don’t you? If you like it, you can find it and more right…here!

-ghw



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The Heart of the Matter

In light of 'Tis Pity's metaphorical—and ultimately quite literal—fascination with hearts, there is a compelling tidbit currently circulating on the SHAKSPER listserv. The story goes that Queen Elizabeth (first of that name, whom today we might come to know more familiarly as “E-Rex”), following the death of one of her handmaidens, commissioned an autopsy to determine whether signs of the young lady’s love-lorn state could actually be found imprinted on her heart. In a strange extension of the era’s conviction that inward and outward states ought to match (beautiful people have beautiful souls, naturally, as Giovanni argues in the play, and vice versa), Her E-Rexitude wanted to find out whether the experience of love, or being heartsick perhaps, became physically legible.

Even more deliciously, a version of the story has it that she died heartbroken—over her own brother! (And of course her ghost still hangs about, as it might be expected to; here’s a link where you can even catch shots of her from a GhostCam.)

Here are excerpts from the conversation, including two replies to the initial inquiry that include references to some source material, if you find your curiosity aroused. Watch out, though; that might show up somewhere you don’t expect.

from the SHAKSPER online listserv, Hardy M. Cook ed.:

[1]————————————————————————————————-

“This source is referred to, and indeed quoted from, in Lesel Dawson, Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 16-17.”

"The accompanying footnote is very helpful and gives the details of the original source. A copy of the text is available on Google."

Hope that helps.

Best wishes, C. Bowditch

Editor’s Note: I’m glad to find another subscriber who has learned the useful joys of Google Books:

http://books.google.com/books?id=2R4FVVm2ftEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Lovesickness+and+Gender+in+Early+Modern+English+Literature#PPA17,M1

-Hardy

[2]————————————————————————————————-

"The story you are referring to, I believe, occurs in a letter by Philip Gaudy written in 1600 regarding ‘Mistress Ratcliffe,’ one of the Queen’s handmaidens. You can find a reference to this in Lesel Dawson’s book [same citation]."

"The woman, ‘Mistress Ratcliffe,’ was otherwise known as Margaret Radclyffe, and a fuller version of her story (as contained in Gaudy’s

letter) can be found here:

http://familytree.ratcliffs.net/rad12.htm

Best wishes,

E. Johnson-DeBaufre



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You can hide, but you can’t run. Costume Craftsperson Will Crowther, surrounded by some of the fashion-forward couture being transformed into men’s costumes for 'Tis Pity, thinks he can remain anonymous. But the signature quality of his fine work, along with that of Tailor Ed Dawson and Costumer David Burdick, is impossible to hide. (On the wall behind Will are original costume renderings by designer Candy Donnelly.)

You can hide, but you can’t run. Costume Craftsperson Will Crowther, surrounded by some of the fashion-forward couture being transformed into men’s costumes for 'Tis Pity, thinks he can remain anonymous. But the signature quality of his fine work, along with that of Tailor Ed Dawson and Costumer David Burdick, is impossible to hide. (On the wall behind Will are original costume renderings by designer Candy Donnelly.)



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The Costume Elves. Namely, Sara Mathes and Elisabeth Roskos, hard at work on some of the lavish gowns bedecking the women of 'Tis Pity. Many of the fabrics were brought back from India recently by costume designer Candy Donnelly, and are being used to construct a gorgeous synthesis of styles for the show. In fact, for more on this you’ll soon be able to read Candy’s account of her design concept for the show, accompanied by illustrations of her renderings and research, on the CENTERSTAGE website’s new Online Dramaturgy section. You know, if you’re just dying for more dirty details.

The Costume Elves. Namely, Sara Mathes and Elisabeth Roskos, hard at work on some of the lavish gowns bedecking the women of 'Tis Pity. Many of the fabrics were brought back from India recently by costume designer Candy Donnelly, and are being used to construct a gorgeous synthesis of styles for the show. In fact, for more on this you’ll soon be able to read Candy’s account of her design concept for the show, accompanied by illustrations of her renderings and research, on the CENTERSTAGE website’s new Online Dramaturgy section. You know, if you’re just dying for more dirty details.



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Lighting the Whore. Lighting Designer Rui Rita works his magic during tech, as the production elements start to come together. It was looking rather beautiful: almost every time those doors open, there’s a different “look” upstage. The set’s there, lights are there, costumes are coming in, and Friday the composer arrives to start adding the original music. Putting it together…bit by by bit…. -ghw

Lighting the Whore. Lighting Designer Rui Rita works his magic during tech, as the production elements start to come together. It was looking rather beautiful: almost every time those doors open, there’s a different “look” upstage. The set’s there, lights are there, costumes are coming in, and Friday the composer arrives to start adding the original music. Putting it together…bit by by bit…. -ghw



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Ghost Writers in the Sky…

Cue the music in your head (from the song reference; if you have other music playing, you might want to see someone about that).

Another “confession” to reward any prying eyes trailing our continuing saga: did a little more ghost writing for poor dead John Ford today. Good thing for me that his legal focus seems to have been property law, if anything. Though actually, come to think of it ,that’s not good at all; it’s but a short skip to intellectual property and I have a funny feeling if I were to break out a Ouija board right now (not at the very top of my list, admittedly), he might have a thing or two to say about the fact that, to help audiences be totally clear about who a few characters are (like, say, their names); what their relationships are to one another; and how they relate to basic plot elements, we did a wee bit of creative writing this afternoon. Just the tiniest bit.

The challenge was to try to stay within the meter when the passages were in verse, stay plausible in terms of period language, and also keep it in Ford’s basic theatrical and poetic vocabulary. A delicate bit of cosmetic surgery, trying to keep the seams from showing.

So when you see the show, starting previews March 11th and running until April 5th, you can keep a sharp eye (or maybe ear) out for what you think might be the adjustments. Ideally, you’ll have no idea. And if you do, say a silent thank-you for the help in keeping everyone sorted out.

And if you happen to conduct a seance anytime soon, tell Mr. Ford I’m sorry.

-ghw



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More tidbits of archaism

A few little challenges that arose lately, either because words have shifted their meaning in the centuries since Ford wrote 'Tis Pity or because hearing them out loud just brings up other associations than seeing them on the page. In at least one case, I’m betting that doubleness is intended by the playwright (sneaky fella) but it’s harder to pick up these days. Or so it would seem.

1) Annabella tells her brother/lover (did I just give something away again?) that in his face she sees “Distraction.” Well, she’s not complaining that he’s not paying her enough attention; as Ophelia says about Hamlet, she’s saying he looks wild and crazy, and not in a good way. So, what to do. Take a stab, anyone following along at home (d’oh, did I really just let myself say “Take a stab” about this play? Wow.).

2) Same girl, different moment. She’s talking to herself, as it would seem so many did back in those days (and some things never change; I feel as if my little asides here might be pretty much the virtual equivalent) and says she’s written a letter with lines “charactered in guilt.” Nice little pun on guilt/gilt, but it’s hard to pick up and can seem misleading….

3) Vasques, the lone Spaniard in this playload of Italians, tells the “lusty widow” Hippolita (really, that’s what they call her in the play, I’m not just saying that because of how she acts; the title has nothing to do with her!) that he thinks she might have been a little too “shrewd” with his master. And he’s not aiming compliments there, in honor of her savvy—though he ought to. Instead, he’s using an old word for “shrewish,” which hardly seems a nice thing to say when he’s buttering her up. But how many of us are going to hear “shrewd” and think anything but “clever, wily, savvy, ingenious” these days? Don’t all raise your hands at once (it makes typing hard).

So, more textual tinkering has ensued. The results onstage here in the Pearlstone Theater at 700 N. Calvert starting March 11th.



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