Monday, April 28, 2014

Nero/Pseudo: Dress for Success

(One of the terrific things about writing a play that gleefully mashes up the ancient world and the age of glam rock is that it really encourages the designers on team let their imaginations run wild. That's been true for Nero/Pseudo costume designer Elizabeth Ennis, who has provided a special guest post for Balkans via Bohemia on her process in designing the costumes for the play.)

I love anachronism. I really do. When used intentionally, I think it can inspire a lot of creativity. So when I get a chance to do a "mash-up" of time periods when costuming a show, I run with it. This is actually my second "mash-up" show for WSC Avant Bard (back in November I costumed King John as a cross between Medieval England and Cold War America), so I've taken this approach before -- looking at the Ancient world through the lens of the 20th Century.

In the case of Nero/Pseudo, we're imagining how a 1970's glam rocker might have interpreted Roman history. For my research I looked at movies and TV shows that were produced in the late 60's to early 70's and that were set in Ancient Greece or Rome. My favorite material actually comes from Star Trek: The Original Series. I've been a Trekkie since middle school, and I especially love the costume designs by William Ware Theiss. He did some incredibly imaginative work. There were several episodes when the Enterprise crew encountered worlds and characters from ancient history, and that's where I got a lot of my inspiration. Theiss made all these gorgeously draped dressed in psychedelic prints and shimmering lamé fabrics. And of course, over-the-top hair and make-up. That's what I'm aiming for in Nero/Pseudo.

Elizabeth also cheerfully answered the playwright's three questions about the Nero/Pseudo experience:

Who is your favorite person/god from antiquity?

Themistocles. One of my favorite things I learned in 11th grade World Civ was the story of his victory over Xerxes at Salamis during the Greco-Persian War. It involved strategy, subterfuge, and the exploitation of Xerxes' ego. I remember thinking it was the coolest, cleverest, most inspiring piece of history I had ever heard. Somehow I don't think 300: Rise of an Empire did it justice.

What's the strangest fact about the ancient world or glam rock that you've learned from this experience?

For me personally, the strangest fact is that I've made it this far with out becoming totally obsessed with David Bowie. It was overdue, and now I can't stop listening to "Life on Mars." And what a fashion icon he was! I want this suit. Who doesn't?

If you were Empress for a day, what would be your first decree?

More sequins. FOR EVERYONE.

Nero/Pseudo previews open at The Shop at Fort Fringe on Friday May 2. Find out more about the play at WSC Avant Bard. Tickets are now on sale. 

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