'The Merry Widow' photography by Mark Lyons.

Discussing ‘The Merry Widow’ Costumes with Student Designer Greta Stokes

The Merry Widow Costume Designer Greta Stokes recently sat down with CCM Public Information Assistant and DMA student Charlotte Kies to discuss the work that went into this delightful new production of Franz Lehár’s most popular operetta.

Charlotte Kies: Hi Greta! What can you tell me about your inspiration for these costumes?

Juliana Rucker draped and built this charming blue dress for Valencienne. Photography by Steve Shin.

Juliana Rucker draped and built this charming blue dress for Valencienne. Photo by Steve Shin.

Greta Stokes: Although the opera was written right around the turn of the 20th century, we knew we wanted to create a more modern silhouette for the women’s garments, like the same kind of idea behind Dior’s new look of the 1950s.

But when we began working with the text and thinking about how the actors are interacting we kind of let go of the design being so strict. It became more 50s, 60s, 90s, now. It became looser and less of a period piece, because it’s not a stiff opera. It doesn’t need to be historical.

When I first got assigned this show I watched an old production of it, I looked at old stills and I got a feel for what the opera used to be. At this point we had already decided on the 50’s. If you look at my Pinterest board it starts with these beautiful black and white photos. And then you can see how after every conversation I had with [Merry Widow director] Professor Emma Griffin the board gets crazier and crazier, and brighter, and begins to include things that aren’t from the 50’s at all, like these modern fashion collections and this weird art. It started out very demure, with lots of little black dresses. And then it just got wild, and the cast is really into it. It has been a great kind of build up to that and I think that the result is really interesting and different and fun.

Greta Stokes' design concept for Hanna's dress.

Greta Stokes’ design concept for Hanna’s dress.

CK: So the costumes are not specific to one decade?

GS: They’re mid-century flavored. There are a lot of brighter colors, and we took a lot of inspiration from more modern fashion houses. There’s a lot of Prada and Dolce & Gabbana resort lines right now that are very colorful. Our costumes are those two ideas [vintage and modern] married together.

When people come in for a fitting for a period piece and they’re putting high-fitted pleated pants on you, they look great if you’re doing a strictly 50’s show. Even though they look great on stage, you can tell the actors are uncomfortable in them. So to have a modern cut with a vintage feel, I know my performers will go on stage feeling comfortable and good about how they look, and you can really see that in their movements.

CK: Can you tell me about your design process?

GS: We started looking at research in the middle of last semester before it was cast. All of the designers got together to discuss concepts, colors schemes and how we would interact with each other. We built research collages and talked about what inspired us. From there I decided what pieces needed to be built for the performers. Our lead character’s costume is getting built from scratch. We discussed how the characters are in this made-up country at an embassy in Paris and what that might look like. We got to decide what and where that country was. We decided on something eastern European, but I incorporated little bits of different European cultures into a made-up folk costume so you’ll see elements of that. There are two characters that are wearing kilts and one in lederhosen. There are little flavors of recognizable folk traditions scattered among the Petrovenians. It’s off the wall but still a little controlled. When I’m in the costume shop and all around me are flower crowns and lederhosen and kilts and a bunch of tuxedoes, I feel I should be telling people “I swear I’m not crazy, I promise this will make sense!” Fingers crossed!

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photography by Steve Shin.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

CK: Does Hanna have a costume change in the middle of the show?

GS: She kind of does, she has this outer shell made with beautiful pink dupioni. The shell comes off later in the opera as the acts and the parties go on. And there are so many crystals on that black skirt, it’s gonna be on fire.

CK: How are these costumes different from costumes you might see in another version?

GS: In the original versions there are HUGE choruses and they’re all wearing these crazy costumes that are all very expensive and lavish. Older productions were all about the costumes, and the performers just kind of walk around the stage going “lalala, look at my giant hat, lalalalala.”

Ours is a condensed, smaller cast. It’s still a lot of people, but because we have created more modern clothing, it has become really more about their movement. The idea is that they’re drinking, moving from one party to the next. They’re having a really good time.

CK: How much liberty do you have? Do you get to design whatever you want? Do you have any restrictions or guidelines?

In Act II, the party guests reconvene at Hanna Glawari’s house for a garden party. Brian Horton built these hats for the characters, who decide that Hanna’s garden is better suited for their outfits. Photography by Steve Shin.

In Act II, the party guests reconvene at Hanna Glawari’s house for a garden party. Brian Horton built these hats for the characters, who decide that Hanna’s garden is better suited for their outfits. Photo by Steve Shin.

GS: We operate under the guidance of Professor Dean Mogle, head of the Costume Design and Technology program at CCM. I would say we are restricted by what we are able to get. Obviously there are time restrictions, as well. I couldn’t ask them to build every single tuxedo, so we purchased tuxedos. I designed Hanna’s costume to look like a mix between Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith.

As for the dancers, I actually found these vintage dresses that we had in stock that were specifically dance dresses. Because we are not doing a traditional can-can we can use these really full, floofy skirts with all these sparkles and stuff. In Act II they’re all at Hanna’s house for a garden party and the women take these flowers off of the set and put them on their hats. They are completely ruining her garden, and she totally does not care.

Professor Griffin is incredible to work with. She is so great at letting designers have liberties, while still reining us in or pushing us forward. It is really nice to have all those liberties, to be able to create this world out of nothing and figure out what exists in it.

CK: Is it the same dress design for the two Hanna’s?

GS: Yes, but they are built to fit each performer. The design will be the same, but the fit will be different just because the bodies are.

CK: How much work are you doing outside of CCM while you’re also a student?

GS: Oh, not a lot, because I’m a little busy! I am working on The Little Prince right now for Cincinnati Chamber Opera as the costume designer/coordinator.

I also work for New Edgecliff Theatre. We just closed Frankie & Johnny in the Clare de Lune and we’ll be back in the spring with The Shape of Things.

CK: Have you enjoyed your time as a student at CCM?

GS: Of course yes! I am from Columbus, so I’m not too far from my family. This school is incredible. I love how hands-on it is and how we’re really working as a professional theatre would. We are learning to interact with each other and not just in our own little worlds.

CK: How did you get into costume design?

GS: I am a non-traditional student, so I ‘m quite a bit older. I did theatre in high school. I worked in the costume shop. I did a little acting, but I wasn’t very good! I stitched. I was friends with all of the theatre kids and I really liked it. My grandmother was a dress designer so I would always go play with her dressmaking tools and pocket a few of them. I continued to work in vintage stores for a long time doing alterations for vintage clothing.

I have always been working with clothing, and this made more sense than fashion. I have always really loved the theatre community and I feel like it has a really good turnover. It’s not like “oh, polka-dots are so in right now.” It’s a constant challenge.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

_________

Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow runs Nov. 19 – 22 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Tickets are $31-35 for adults, $20-24 for non-UC students and $18-22 UC students with a valid ID. $12-$15 student rush tickets will become available one hour prior to each performance; limit two student rush tickets per valid ID.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/merry-widow.

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

CCM News CCM Slideshows Student Salutes

CCM’s Mainstage Series Presents Franz Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow,’ Nov. 19-22

CCM’s Fall 2015 Mainstage Series comes to a witty and whimsical conclusion with Franz Lehár’s comic operetta The Merry Widow, playing Nov. 19 – 22 in Patricia Corbett Theater.

Conducted by Aik Khai Pung with stage direction by Emma Griffin, this production of The Merry Widow will be sung in English with a translation by renowned American lyricist Sheldon Harnick.

'The Merry Widow' photography by Mark Lyons.

From left to right: Andrew G. Manea as Danilo and Nicolette Book as Hanna in CCM’s production of ‘The Merry Widow.’ Photography by Mark Lyons.

A glorious early-20th century operetta and forerunner to the modern musical, The Merry Widow tells the fizzy tale of star-crossed lovers and political shenanigans in a glitzy and idealized version of Paris. Madame Hanna Glawari, the widow of the wealthiest man in Petrovenia, is in Paris for the first time following her elderly husband’s demise. Concerned by the widow’s many suitors, Petrovenian Ambassador Baron Zeta assumes the role of matchmaker to ensure that Hanna’s wealth remains within the country, rather than fall into foreign hands. To set his plan in motion, the baron sends his secretary to fetch Hanna’s old flame, Danilo, from another party. Unfortunately, the baron becomes so obsessed with his own schemes that he fails to notice the affair between his wife and rival party member Camille.

What begins as a pleasant, professional party at the Petrovenian Embassy rapidly devolves into a drunken debacle by the time Hanna and her entourage arrive at the famous nightclub, “Maxim’s,” in the early hours of the morning.

“In some ways, it’s a very simple idea,” explains Griffin, an assistant professor of opera at CCM. “The Merry Widow is about the sort of things that happen when you’re 25 years old and you go to three parties over the course of a single night. The opera is about these beautiful people, which doesn’t diminish the love stories at the heart of The Merry Widow. Instead, it instills the show with a feverish and heightened romantic atmosphere.”

Griffin read 18 different translations of The Merry Widow before settling on Harnick’s adaptation, which is written in a decidedly American vernacular.

“Our voice and opera majors don’t always get much experience performing in American English, so this is an opportunity for our students to exercise some different muscles,” she explains. Bursts of spoken dialogue also give The Merry Widow the charming feel of musical theatre.

The hybrid sensibilities of this operetta are even reflected in the production’s sizable cast, which features students from CCM’s departments of opera, musical theatre and drama. With choreography by Patti James, who promises a can’t-miss can-can number, CCM’s Mainstage Series production of The Merry Widow is sure to be magical, colorful and – of course – delightfully merry.

Featuring a score that Stage and Cinema describes as “a rich musical mix of Viennese waltzes, Hungarian folk dances and French insouciance,” The Merry Widow is a sparkling romp in which farce, romance and jealousy abound. Join us for a fantastical Parisian bar crawl, as the fate of an entire nation hangs in the balance!

Performance Times

  • 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov.19
  • 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20
  • 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21
  • 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23

Location
Patricia Corbett Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati

Purchasing Tickets
Tickets to Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow are $31-35 for adults, $20-24 for non-UC students and $18-22 UC students with a valid ID. $12-$15 student rush tickets will become available one hour prior to each performance; limit two student rush tickets per valid ID.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/merry-widow.

Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the new U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.

____

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

CCM News
CCM students Devan Pruitt and Annie Grove in 'Pentecost.' Photo by Mark Lyons.

Politically Charged Drama PENTECOST Opens CCM’s 2015-16 Mainstage Series

CCM opens its 2015-16 Mainstage Series with David Edgar’s captivating drama Pentecost, playing Oct. 1 – 4 with a special preview performance on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The worlds of art and politics violently collide in this award-winning thriller, which the New York Times calls “a smashing ideological epic.”

Directed by CCM Drama Chair Richard Hess, Pentecost brings art, language, conflict and current events to life in Patricia Corbett Theater.

PENTECOSTwebflyerPentecost details the discovery of a painting stunningly similar to Giotto di Bondone’s The Lamentation of Christ in an abandoned church in Eastern Europe. If proven to pre-date the master’s work, the fresco will revolutionize Western Art and the Renaissance as we know it. A dramatic power struggle ensues, as representatives from the worlds of art history, religion and politics stake their claims for the ultimate prize. The unexpected arrival of 12 asylum seekers speaking eight different languages sets events spiraling toward an explosive climax.

Edgar’s 1994 play remains remarkably relevant in the current political and cultural climate. “I never would have guessed that the daily headlines during every day of the rehearsal process would be filled with stories of the greatest wave of asylum seekers that the world has witnessed since World War II,” says Hess. “To be confronted each day with harrowing images of individuals so desperate for a new life was  a sobering reminder that not only does life imitate art, but our art must also imitate life.”

A bureaucratic and humanitarian debate is written into the very fabric of the play, one that raises challenging questions about moral and legal obligations presently confronting the world’s leaders today. On the one hand Pentecost is a fascinating tale of art, intellect and history, but on the other hand it is also a stimulating commentary on sociopolitical realities that transcend historical context.

Learn more about CCM’s Mainstage Series production of David Edgar’s Pentecost, courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, by visiting www.cincinnati.com/story/entertainment/2015/09/25/pentacost-addresses-difficulties-immigrants/72817356.

Learn more about the cast and production team by visiting ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/pentecost.

This production contains mature subject matter.

About Richard Hess
Richard E. Hess has been Chair of CCM Drama for the past 20 years. Recent directing credits at CCM include The Crucible, The Laramie Project, Coram Boy, RENT, You Can’t Take It With You (ACCLAIM Award winner Outstanding University Play), Anon(ymous) (ACCLAIM Award winner Outstanding Play), Brigadoon (Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Outstanding Musical) and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches (Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Ensemble Acting).

He made his New York directing debut at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street directing AN EVENING OF (Mostly) TRUE SONGS (with Andrea Burns), a new incarnation of Don’t Look Down, the music and lyrics of Adam Wagner, first seen in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Favorite directing credits at the Human Race Theatre Co., where he has been a resident artist since 1996, include Race, Red, Doubt, Proof, I Am My Own Wife, A Delicate Balance and Miracle on South Division Street. Other credits include the Los Angeles staging of the one-woman show Besame Mucho, O.K. That’s Enough (with Diana Maria Riva), and the smash hits The Pages of My Diary I’d Rather Not Read and The Catholic Girl’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity, both of which enjoyed sold out runs at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles. For five years Hess was the artistic director of Hot Summer Nights in Cincinnati, where he directed Violet (with Ashley Brown), Hello, Dolly! (with Pamela Myers), Godspell (with Shoshana Bean and Leslie Kritzer) and the premiere of We Tell The Story: The Songs of Ahrens and Flaherty, in collaboration with Stephen Flaherty.

He studied with the internationally acclaimed director Anne Bogart and members of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI Co.) in New York and Los Angeles for the past decade. He has worked with Know Theatre of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Chautauqua Institution, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Opera Education. He is proud of fostering the new work of playwrights, and has directed first productions of Richard Oberacker and Rob Taylor’s Don’t Make Me Pull This Show Over: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Parenting, Mark Halpin’s The Kid in the Dark, Ben Magnuson’s Four Minutes and Tom Korbee’s Will It Ever Stop Raining?

He made his debut as a playwright/creator in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival with (UN)Natural Disaster, created with 13 actors, performed in an abandoned building in Over-the-Rhine, and named the Producer’s Pick of the Fringe. (UN)Natural Disaster was subsequently re-mounted on the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.

In June of 2011 Hess directed The Collapsible Space Between Us with the Dadaab Theater Project, comprised of five CCM Drama students, which was presented with eight refugees from the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya for World Refugee Day sponsored by the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya. He returned to Kenya as a Fulbright Scholar in 2014 and taught acting and directing and Kenyatta University in Nairobi and researched the creation of original works by creating KUMI NA MBILI (12), a stage show and a short film.

Hess was named Ernest Glover Outstanding Teacher at UC in 1999 and again in 2012 and was named the ACCLAIM Award Theatre Trailblazer in 2009. He is an associate member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers (SDC).

Performance Times

  • 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sep. 30 (preview)
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1
  • 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2
  • 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3
  • 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4

Location
Patricia Corbett Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati

Purchasing Tickets
Tickets to Pentecost are $27-31 for adults, $17-20 for non-UC students and $15-18 UC students with a valid ID. Tickets to the Sept. 30 preview performance are just $15.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/pentecost.

Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the new U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
____

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

CCM News
Professor Scott Belck and the CCM Jazz Ensemble. Photography by Dottie Stover.

CCM’s Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Lab Band Celebrate the Legendary Artists of the Blue Note Record Label in Concert on Sunday, Sept. 20

This fall, CCM’s Department of Jazz Studies presents an expansive series of concerts, highlighting music from the hard bop classics of Miles Davis to the timeless songs of Cole Porter to the cutting edge writing of Maria Schneider and Toshiko Akiyoshi! Under the direction of Scott Belck and Craig Bailey, the series opens on Sunday, Sept. 20, and closes with a swinging production of Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015.

CCM's Fall 2015 Jazz Series.Jazz lovers can experience a patchwork of genres in the CCM Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Lab Band’s season-opening concert on Sunday, Sept. 20. Dubbed “A Night at the Blue Note,” the concert’s program features such celebrated artists as Miles Davis, Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley, amongst others. These iconic artists, among the most venerated performers on the Blue Note record label, set the standard for generations of jazz lovers.

Later on this autumn, the Jazz Series hosts an evening of classic American songs, led by jazz pianist and new faculty artist Steve Allee. This Oct. 11 concert presents a fresh approach to cherished songs in both traditional and contemporary arrangements.

Back by popular demand, the fall Jazz Series concludes with a stimulating performance of Duke Ellington’s extraordinary adaptation of the cherished holiday classic, The Nutcracker, in collaboration with CCM’s Department of Musical Theatre, on November 22.

See below for detailed program information.

____________________

CCM’S FALL 2015 JAZZ SERIES

7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20
A NIGHT AT THE BLUE NOTE
CCM Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Lab Band
Scott Belck and Craig Bailey, conductors
From the hard bop classics of Miles Davis, Joe Henderson, Horace Silver and Art Blakey to the groovy soul jazz sounds of Cannonball Adderley and Stanley Turrentine, the Blue Note record label set the standard for generations of jazz lovers.
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

____

7 pm. Sunday, October 11
“WITH A SONG IN MY HEART:” THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK
CCM Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Lab Band
Scott Belck and Craig Bailey, conductors
Featuring faculty artist Steve Allee, guest conductor
Timeless songwriters like Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Hoagy Carmichael come to life in through these classic and contemporary arrangements for big band.
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

____

7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13
CCM Faculty Jazztet
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
Admission: FREE

____

7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1
STUDIO J MEETS EVANESCENCE: THE MUSIC OF MARIA SCHNEIDER AND TOSHIKO AKIYOSHI
CCM Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Lab Band
Scott Belck and Craig Bailey, conductors
Toshiko Akiyoshi and Maria Schneider have been two of the strongest voices at the vanguard of modern jazz writing. Join us as we celebrate the music of two of the most fascinating and important composer/band leaders of the past forty years.
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

____

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22
DUKE ELLINGTON’S NUTCRACKER SUITE AND HOLIDAY CONCERT
CCM Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Lab Band
Featuring Musical Theatre Dancers
Scott Belck and Craig Bailey, conductors
Diane Lala, choreographer
Enjoy our re-telling of Ellington’s remarkable adaptation of this holiday classic, brought to life with stunning new choreography by CCM Musical Theatre’s own Diane Lala and featuring the stars of Musical Theatre Dance.
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

____________________

Purchasing Tickets
Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online now through our e-Box Office!

Visit ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice for CCM Box Office hours and location.

Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.

____________________

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor & Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Community Partner: ArtsWave

____________________

A preeminent institution for the performing and media arts, CCM is the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the state of Ohio.

All event dates and programs are subject to change. For a complete calendar of events, please visit us online at ccm.uc.edu.
CCM News