Inside Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg

This Week: A discussion with David Girard

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens tonight! Among the excitement, it is only fitting to receive the insight of director David Girard. The insight into the production process he shared with me did not come from one sit down meeting. Rather, it is an accumulation of discoveries through conversations we have had since the beginning of the process to create such a rewarding piece.

David spoke with me about his issue with the term director, asserting it is not an active enough term to describe the necessary mindset he feels is essential in the creation of a successful piece. He discovered a better term for what he does, half as a joke with a friend, remarking that he was a “facilitator of drama.” But upon further contemplation, he found it to be true. The term director often evokes an image of a stern face and a pointed finger, telling this actor to stand there. It lacks imagination.

Once you let go of that term, you realize that you are not the most important person on the room, and you are able to understand that, as David put it, “theatre is about creating an ensemble with all members.” It is about coming together and solidifying a vision. This process does not only include the director and the actor for David, but extends to all of those involved in the production, including designers and other staff and crew members.

David attempted to ensure that “everyone has a voice in the room.” This is what is most important.  He shared that this collaborative style can make it difficult for a director to “call the shots and get everyone on same page with your vision.” Collaboration is enforced by choosing artists who could lend themselves to it and according to David, it is “easier when actors have been educators.” He cited Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which has an ensemble with a blend of experiences. Actors in the piece are professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students.

David offered that the need for diverse experience within a cast in crucial, particularly in an academic setting, because the actors are always learning from each other, and thus collectively raising the level of professionalism and investment. Having professional actors in a cast with younger actors guides everyone to rise to the level of their peers daily. According to David, simple things like actor Charlie DelMarcelle’s arriving early to the Adrienne Theater to warm-up shows the actors that it is okay to get comfortable on the stage before pre-show calls. Such a simple act unlocks a boundary younger actors may not notice by themselves. In the long run, an actor’s basic stretching onstage fostered cast unity and overall comfort in the space.

The concept of the director as a facilitator revolutionizes the rehearsal process. It does not take away power from the director, but rather shares the responsibility with the rest of the cast, and thus raises the integrity of the ensemble.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens this evening at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater and runs through September 27th.

At a Glance: Costume Designs for BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO

Marie Anne Chiment’s beautiful renderings for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

This “At a Glance” Gallery features the stunning rendering by costume designer Professor Marie Anne Chiment for our production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Described by the Los Angeles Times as “the most original play about the Iraq war,” Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is an imaginative exploration of the power and perils of human nature. The lives of two American soldiers, Tom (Tim Dugan) and Kev (Darryl Gene Daughtry) and an Iraqi translator (Ibrahim Miari) are forever changed by an encounter with a clever, sardonic tiger (Alice Gatling) haunting the streets of war-torn Baghdad. Tragic and disturbing, darkly comic and highly theatrical, the play is a meditation on life, death, and the afterlife. The cast is completed with Charlie DelMarcelle (Uday/Iraqi Man), Kayla Tarpley (Iraqi Teenager/Hadia), and Stephanie Iozzia (Iraqi Woman/Leper).  The production is directed by David Girard with scenic design by John Michael Eddy, lighting design by Liz Phillips, sound design by Mark Valenzela, and projection design by Michael Long.

 

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Performances run Wednesday, September 17 through Saturday, September 27 at the MainStage @ the Adrienne. For more information and tickets visit our ticketing site.

Inside Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg

This Week: Tim Dugan’s Military Mindset

As fall begins, the folks involved with Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo are gearing up for tech rehearsals! The process is moving quickly, and the ensemble is working to develop their characters efficiently and accurately. Last week I spoke to actress Stephanie Iozzia about her work with the Arabic language and culture in the piece. This week, actor Timothy Dugan shared his insight into the training he went through to learn about the life and habits of a Marine.

Tim explained that he plays “Tom, a Marine, who starts the play standing lookout at the Baghdad Zoo.” Tim admitted an expected unfamiliarity with the experience of a soldier, but shared that “working with David Glover, our assistant director who has first-hand military training and experience, has been enormously helpful.” David’s guidance is present at every moment of rehearsal. In the beginning of the process when Tim and Darryl Daughtry, who plays Tom’s fellow marine Kev, were not rehearsing a scene with director David Girard, they were in another room with Glover going through their own version of boot camp.

Dugan shared that this training has changed the way he viewed his character Tom. It helped him “gather and ingest as many specifics about the world of the play: honing in on what is it like to go through Marine training and then to see active duty.” Not only does this training affect his perspective, but it also it specifies his physical choices as an actor, as he worked out “the logistics of hand signals with my fellow soldier, how to hold the gun, and the physicality needed to move with the weight of the gear.” Overall, this process has given him a glimpse of a life he does not know.  Tim shared, “This work is inspiring, and I truly appreciate the specificity and rigor of the training that a Marine goes through.”

The atmosphere of the rehearsals lends itself to discovery; the actors are able to explore and examine a way of life quite different from their own. David Glover, as well as the cast and production staff, are constantly observing in the audience, and are encouraged to “call bull” when combat does not look realistic. The ensemble is used as a combined facilitator to ensure that the actors onstage are delving into their characters honestly, both physically and mentally.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo premieres at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater with a preview on September 17th, and runs through September 27th.

Next week: A discussion with director David Girard!

Inside Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg

This Week: The Importance of Translation

Classes are now in full swing, but Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo has been in rehearsals since August 18, and the actors have been preparing all summer. The cast is working exceptionally quickly, immersing themselves into the world of the play. Bengal Tiger captures post-invasion Baghdad, the piece features Iraqi citizens, American soldiers, and a dead tiger, and so each actor has been practicing different exercises to fully become characters with lifestyles they are unfamiliar with. Every character has something extra to consider, and director David Girard’s collaborative environment creates a constant flow of specified exercises and scene work that allows the actors to fully delve into the lives of their characters.

An actor’s immersion into their character’s lifestyle and culture is particularly imperative in Bengal Tiger, as a few of the characters are speaking another language. Stephanie Iozzia plays an Iraqi woman, and has been working all summer with the Arabic text in the show. Luna Alghamdi, the Arabic dialect coach has joined the show to work with the translation and pronunciation of the Arabic lines. Steph, with Luna’s help, has been creating literal translations of her Arabic lines.

“There’s an English translation printed in the script that I had been using,” said Steph, “but through Luna, I learned that there were subtle but significant alterations made in the printed translation that put those translated phrases into more colloquially-understandable American phrasing.” Steph, Luna, and other cast members have been collaborating throughout the process not only to find the literal translation but also to identify the cultural significance of each phrase used. This is crucial, as language shapes how we see and conceptualize the world around us.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo premieres at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater with a preview on September 17th, and runs through September 27th.

Next week: An inside look into the military training done for Bengal Tiger, with insight from actor Tim Dugan.

Mauckingbird Mix: Staged Readings of Queer Classics

 Mauckingbird Theatre Company in residence at Temple Theaters

By Deneia Washington

As an avid fan of new gay plays and classic dramas, Professor Peter Reynolds, head of the Musical Theater program at Temple University, feels that there can and should be a way to merge these two traditionally separate worlds. “My partner and I read all the new gay plays, see all the new gay plays, see gay films, and we really had a desire to look at classic stories that have survived for generations. And we want to look at those stories through a queer or gay lens.”

Peter Reynolds Headshot

Peter Reynolds

From this, Mauckingbird Theatre Company emerged. Founded in 2008, Mauckingbird serves to produce theater through a queer lens with classic texts, while also telling new queer stories.

The company, which presented a gender-bending A Midsummer’s Night Dream on campus in 2010, returns with Mauckingbird Mix August 29 through September 7 in the Randall Theater.

“It was a chance to come back to Temple and do some exciting things with young people again,” Reynolds says.

Mauckingbird Mix kicks off on Friday, August 29 with Miss Cast 5: College Edition, hosted by Barrymore Award-winner Jennie Eisenhower. This fun-filled cabaret features a talented group of Temple alums, Temple students, and local talent singing gender-flipped songs.

Events continue on over the weekend with a reading of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour; the classic drama celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. The staged readings on August 30 & 31 feature Philadelphia actresses Jessica Bedford and Kim Carson, with readings directed by Temple MFA graduate student Liz Carlson.

The residency concludes on September 6-7 with Mart Crowley’s 1968 gay classic The Boys in the Band. The reading stars Barrymore Award-winner Jeff Coon and Tony Award-nominee & Barrymore Award-winner Forrest McClendon; it is directed by alumnus and adjunct professor Brandon McShaffrey.

“These are two classic plays and they are very significant in queer theater history,” says Reynolds. “They’re large and [have] large casts, which is very hard to produce. But these readings are a wonderful way to hear these plays with terrific actors. We get to share these highly important works with young people and with our Mauckingbird audience.”

Although rehearsals are limited due to union restrictions, Reynolds doesn’t see this as a limitation, but a testament to how actors with great storytelling abilities can thrive and excel regardless of restrictions. “With great actors, it’s a joy and it can be even more exciting,” says Reynolds. “You’re really living in that moment, because you haven’t had all that time to rehearse.”

A Midsummer Night's Dream by Mauckingbird Theatre Company

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Reynolds receives great joy when audience members tell him that while watching the plays they forget about who would conventionally be cast for particular roles. “When an audience member says to me, ‘a couple minutes in and I forgot that that’s usually played by a woman,’ or ‘I forgot that’s usually a heterosexual couple,’ that’s success to me,” says Reynolds.

“There’s room for you tell your story,” says Reynolds and that’s what he and Mauckingbird Theatre Company are doing.

For more information about the Mauckingbird Theatre Company residency, including how to purchase tickets, visit www.mauckingbird.org. Peter Reynolds directs the upcoming production of Brigadoon, running October 15 -26.

Meet the Designer: Jeff Sturdivant

Brigadoon costume designer explores the magical world of Scotland

By Deneia Washington

Jeff Sturdivant Headshot

Jeff Sturdivant

Months away from the opening of musical Brigadoon in Tomlinson Theater, meetings regarding final set, costume design, and other miscellaneous items are in full swing.

Using director Peter Reynolds’ twist of magical realism on this classic,  costume designer and MFA student Jeff Sturdivant has customized modern designs to fall into place within the Scottish context of the storyline.

“We’re not going for period accuracy, we’re going for magical fairy tale,” states Sturdivant. “So we don’t have to concern ourselves with being period accurate as much as we have to deal with being aesthetically beautiful and still Scottish.”

The usage of particular colors to convey emotions and personalities of major characters displays how costume design can be a valuable storytelling asset. “Everyone has their own tartan, their own identity in the world, really, so that’s where the detail comes in. It’s like separating different people based on details,” Sturdivant states. “That’s really what separates costume design from fashion design and it’s an interesting thing to talk about because the storytelling component is the number one focus of a costume design, versus an aesthetic look.”

For major characters Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, Sturdivant utilizes “urban-metropolitan” attire to depict these young New Yorkers and describe their escape from their perceived “privileged” lifestyle, to Brigadoon. Using the buildings of New York City as inspiration for Tommy and Jeff’s palette decisions, Sturdivant felt these choices helped easily transition the two into Brigadoon.

“It also explains a lot about their characters and what they’re trying to escape from. It sets up a great concept to explore about leaving what a lot of people see as having everything and kind of giving it up for nothing,” Sturdivant says.

Through research, Sturdivant also found ways to incorporate Scotland’s scenic and natural colors into his palette. “I did a lot of research as far as dyes and natural dye because at the time, Scotland was a very large producer of this tartan fabric that they have become infamous for around the world. So they were producing a lot of plaid and creating kind of a culture that followed along with these plaids that they were creating.”

This natural element directly affected his design choices for Fiona, the female lead and love interest of Tommy. “Fiona, she is known for her duet with Tommy and ‘Heather of the Hill’ and that’s really where her color palette has become inspired by because she talked about literally picking heather for the wedding.”

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With an abundance of choreographed numbers, Sturdivant has had to consider both personalities and movement. Sturdivant, who worked for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in New York City, has the ability to make costumes glide and twirl to the beat of choreographer Maggie Anderson’s dance routines. “It capitalizes on my asset, which is knowing about movement and dance… But it was also an interesting challenge for me because normally I’m not accustomed to doing pieces so light and positive,” Sturdivant says.

Though designs are finalized this far along in the process, minor adjustments are made for functionality of actors wearing the garments. “Based on whose cast you might want to make something a little higher cut or a little lower cut or shorter sleeves or longer sleeves.” He adds, “But also I try to make mine as flexible as possible because whoever is the right person is the right person and the costume will just fit them.”

Listing time, money, and manpower as major obstacles of costume design, Sturdivant sees these tools as a balancing formula, where there is lack in one area the other two have to be the driving force of the design.

Much of Sturdivant’s fulfillment results from his designs leaving the sketchbook and entering into the flesh. “One of my absolute favorite things is seeing other people’s reaction to the work that I’ve done or been a part of creating.”

Since this production isn’t about period accuracy but fantasy, the fairy tale twist on these modern pieces explains the shift through time. “That’s the main juxtaposition of the play. Looking back at the past for something that was longed, an in a way something that was more perfect than today.”

Brigadoon runs October 15 – 26 in the Tomlinson Theater.

 

 

2014-2015 Season Artwork

We are excited to present the 2014-2015 season posters designed once again by Bridget Currie (TYL ’13). It’s a colorful collection for a diverse season.

Look for these posters through Temple University’s campus and around Philadelphia.