'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
A photo from CCM's Mainstage Series production of 'Peter Pan' from March of 2015. Photography by Mark Lyons.

CCM Announces 2015-16 Mainstage Series of Opera, Musical Theatre, Drama and Dance

CCM is pleased to announce details for its 2015-16 Mainstage Series of opera, musical theatre, drama and dance productions. Between Sept. 30, 2015, and April 24, 2016, CCM’s stars-of-tomorrow will present seven masterworks for the stage under the guidance of its internationally acclaimed faculty artists.

These works include David Edgar’s epic drama Pentecost, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical Carousel, Franz Lehár’s comedic operetta The Merry Widow, Eugene O’Neill’s acclaimed coming-of-age story Ah, Wilderness!, Green Day’s iconic punk rock musical American Idiot, Janácek’s farcical opera The Cunning Little Vixen and Tchaikovsky’s beloved romantic ballet Swan Lake.

Production details are listed below. Details on subscription packages and single ticket sales will be announced this summer.

Visit ccm.uc.edu/about/villagenews/subscribe to register for CCM’s mailing list, and the Box Office will provide you with additional information on this year’s subscription options.

Additional Information
Titles and dates are subject to change—rights pending. For a complete calendar of events, please visit us online at ccm.uc.edu.
____________________

CCM 2015-16 MAINSTAGE SERIES
Opera, Musical Theatre, Drama, Dance

Pentecost
Written by David Edgar
Richard E. Hess, director

A play of politics and ideas, Pentecost details the discovery of a painting stunningly similar to Giotto di Bondone’s The Lamentation in an abandoned church in Eastern Europe. If proven to pre-date the master’s work, the fresco will revolutionize Western Art. 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 refugees sets events spiraling toward an explosive climax. Described by the Daily Telegraph as “funny, frightening and deeply moving,” this powerful play by the Tony Award-winning adapter of Nicholas Nickleby and author of numerous plays won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play of 1995.

Performance Dates: Sept. 30 (preview), Oct. 1–4, 2015
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
_____

Carousel
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the play Liliom by Ferenc Molnar
As Adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer
Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
Diane Lala, director

Set in a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century, Carousel is the story of carefree carnival barker Billy Bigelow and his reckless adventures with women, gambling and the wrong side of the law. Billy loses his job just as he learns that his wife is pregnant and, desperate to provide a decent life for his family, is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent “up there.” 15 years later, Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day and encounters the daughter he never knew. How Billy instills in both the child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity is a dramatic testimony to the power of love. Declared “Best Musical of the Century” by Time Magazine in 1999, it’s easy to understand why Carousel became Rodgers and Hammerstein’s personal favorite.

Performance Dates: Oct. 29–Nov. 1, 2015
Location: Corbett Auditorium
_____

The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe)
Music by Franz Lehár
Libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein
Emma Griffin, director

A 20th century opera molded in the tradition of the great opera seria of the 1700s, The Merry Widow tells a dizzying tale of star-crossed lovers and political intrigue in Paris. Baron Zeta of Pontevedro must prevent the wealthy widow Hanna Glawari from marrying a foreigner; if she does, all of her wealth will leave Pontevedro, thus bankrupting the country. Zeta urges Hanna’s former fiancée Count Danilovich (who pretends to not care for her anymore) to marry her, but Zeta’s wife pushes the flirtatious Camille de Rosillon to go after Hanna instead. Farcical confusion, romance and jealousy abound in this light-hearted romp. Sung in English.

Performance Dates: Nov. 19–22, 2015
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
_____

Ah, Wilderness!
Written by Eugene O’Neill
R. Terrell Finney, director

Set in an idyllic Connecticut town during the Fourth of July weekend of 1906, Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! offers a tender portrait of small town family values, teenage growing pains and young love. Described as “a breath of fresh air” and “vividly alive” by the New York Post and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Revival in both 1989 and 1998, this charming comedy is directed by CCM Professor Emeritus R. Terrell Finney.

Performance Dates: Feb. 10 (preview), Feb. 11–14, 2016
Location:
 Patricia Corbett Theater
_____

American Idiot
Book and lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong
Book by Michael Mayer
Music and lyrics by Green Day
Aubrey Berg, director

The two-time Tony Award-winning hit musical American Idiot, based on Green Day’s Grammy Award-winning multi-platinum album of the same name, boldly takes the American musical where it’s never gone before. Johnny, Tunny and Will struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world. When the three disgruntled men flee the constraints of their hometown for the thrills of city life, their paths diverge when Tunny enters the armed forces, Michael is called back home to attend familial responsibilities, and Johnny’s attention becomes divided by a seductive love interest and a hazardous new friendship. An energy-fueled rock opera, American Idiot features minimal dialogue and instead relies on the lyrics from Green Day’s groundbreaking album to execute the story line.

Performance Dates: March 3–13, 2016
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
_____

The Cunning Little Vixen (Príhody lišky Bystroušky)
Composed by Leoš Janácek
Libretto by Leoš Janácek (after Rudolf Tesnohlídek)
Vince DeGeorge, director

Based on a famous 1920s Czech comic strip, Janácek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen humorously explores the universal longing for youth. The three main characters – all older men – attempt to connect to their younger days through various means: one longs for a village girl, one obsesses over a childhood indiscretion and one chases a young vixen through the countryside. Will they continue to cling to their delusions? Or will their experiences help them come to terms with the inevitability of time? Sung in English.

Performance Dates: April 8–10, 2016
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
_____

Swan Lake
Composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Jiang Qi, director

Tchaikovsky’s timeless ballet about love and magic returns to CCM in a fully-staged spectacle! The young Prince Siegfried, disinterested in the potential wives that his mother has picked for him, heads into the woods to hunt one night and comes across a beautiful swan…who then turns into the maiden Odette! She tells him of the curse she and others have been placed under by the evil knight Rothbart, forcing them to become swans by day and human by night. Siegfried instantly falls in love, but will he and Odette be able to overcome the curse, or will Rothbart succeed in keeping his enchantment intact?

Performance Dates: April 22–24, 2016
Location: Corbett Auditorium
____________________

Mainstage Series Subscriptions
The 2015-16 CCM Mainstage Series of opera, musical theatre and drama productions includes subscription packages for six-show, four-show and three-show combinations. Subscribers also have the ability to add the Mainstage Series production of Swan Lake to any subscription package “a la carte.”

Full details on subscription packages and single ticket sales will be announced this summer. CCM’s customizable subscription packages range in price from $84 – $180. Current subscribers will get priority access to next season’s subscription packages.

Visit ccm.uc.edu/about/villagenews/subscribe to register for CCM’s mailing list, and the Box Office will provide you with additional information on this year’s subscription options.
____________________

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

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave
____________________

A preeminent institution for the performing and media arts, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the state of Ohio.

Titles and dates are subject to change—rights pending. For a complete calendar of events, please visit us online at ccm.uc.edu.

CCM News
CCM Drama major Bartley Booz in the E-Media short film 'Solitude.'

CCM’s Department of Drama and Division of Electronic Media Present 48-Hour Film Festival This February

This semester, CCM’s Department of Drama and Division of Electronic Media are providing a unique opportunity for aspiring filmmakers, performers and storytellers in the form of a 48-Hour Film Festival, which will run from Feb. 20 – 22.

Based on the innovative 48 Hour Film Project festival and competition, which launched in 2001, CCM’s 48-Hour Film Festival will challenge teams comprised of students from throughout the university to bring their short films from conception to completion within a brisk 48-hour window.

Within a single weekend, student teams will create and then screen their own short films.

As described by the original 48 Hour Film Project, this promises to be, “a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and your team have a blast making a movie. All writing, shooting, editing and scoring must be completed in just 48 hours. On Friday night you are assigned a prop, a line of dialogue and a theme that must be included in your movie. 48 hours later, you must submit your film. Next? Your masterpiece will be shared with the participants of the festival.”

All University of Cincinnati students are invited to apply to be assigned to a team for the inaugural CCM 48-Film Festival. Applicants will need to be available for the entire 48 hours from 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, through 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22. Visit ccm.uc.edu/theatre/drama/48HourFilmFestival for application information. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

Applicants will be randomly assigned to teams and these assignments will be announced at a 7 p.m. meeting on Friday, Feb. 20. Teams will then be assigned a common prop, a common line of dialogue and a common theme, all of which must be included in each film. Film genres will not be assigned.

Teams will then have 48 hours to brainstorm, research, write, story-board, cast, film, score and edit a roughly five minute-long film, which will be screened in the MainStreet Cinema of UC’s Tangeman University Center on the night of Sunday, Feb. 22.

Teams will create job assignments, find costumes, scout locations, find props, create underscoring, rehearse, film and edit a final piece.

Learn more by visiting ccm.uc.edu/theatre/drama/48HourFilmFestival.

The inaugural CCM 48-Hour Film Festival is made possible thanks to the generous support from the Friends of CCM.

CCM News
MFA candidate Karestin Harrison presents her "Fake Food Feast" project.

CCM Props Artisan Earns Industry Interest With A “Fake Food Feast”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The April 29th issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer spotlighted the work of CCM MFA candidate  Karestin Harrison, who was invited to present her “Fake Food Feast and Cook Book” showcase at this year’s United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) National Conference in Long Beach in late March.

CCM News CCM Slideshows Student Salutes