Enter the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre in the week before opening and you can feel the electricity in the air. The entire cast and crew of Theatre @ York’s production of Wounds to the Face, written by Howard Barker and directed by Geoffrey Hyland, is working every hour to bring the world of the play alive.
Downstage, an actor and her vocal coach rehearse a moment, focusing on performing through her back to the audience behind her as well as to the audience she faces. Upstage, the technical director and her team test a special effect considering safety, sustainability and thematic value.
Every department is hard at work, but tonight is about the costumes. The space clears and the director, designers, costume department and actors gather. The set is ready, the geometric landscape emerging from the studio floor. The lights come down and the world changes. We are not at York University anymore. We are somewhere else entirely.
This is costume parade.
Costume parade is a meeting where the actors don full costume and make up and appear onstage under the lights. Then the director and costume designer, in this case Geoffrey Hyland and Amelia Taverner respectively, discuss each costume and take note of any necessary changes. Can the actor perform all the movement that is required? Does a fabric look different underneath the lights? Is the make up readable from a distance? Everything the actor wears from the skin out has been specifically chosen and has a reason behind it. Costumes are considered in connection to other characters that appear in the same scene. The goal is for all the design elements to harmonize and present a seamless world.
Backstage, the dressers have the opportunity to practice assisting the actors in and out of their costumes. The dressers ensure that every actor has each piece of their costume and is ready for their call. The hair, wig and makeup department prepares looks and takes note of adjustments in the design. In this production of Wounds to the Face, actors play multiple characters, so both of these teams must be able to execute efficient, quick changes.
Fourth-year Production and Design student Amelia Taverner has created a collection of costumes with a black, white, grey and metallic colour scheme. This restrictive palette heightens any appearance of colour in the show. Without colour, the personalities of each character are depicted by shape, texture and the fabric’s reaction to light.
Since the play takes place across time periods, Taverner has had the challenge of presenting a cohesive cast of characters from different worlds. The detailed and intricate costumes are built by York theatre students, many in first year. As always, the production teams offer a high level of professionalism in their work on Theatre @ York’s first show this season.
As the night goes on, the play’s characters appear briefly onstage. Royalty in elegant gowns converse with masked men and winged beings. Howard Barker’s dreamlike world begins to be visible, but for the whole story. we must wait until opening night.
Wounds to the Face previewed on October 22 and 23, and ran October 23 – 28, 2012.
— EmmaRose MacDonald