Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Comportment and Corsets and Cards, Oh My!

Les Liaisons Dangereuses presented a particular challenge to us because it's actually our first ever big costume drama. Since we don't have a vault full of clothes from the 1780s, our costume designer, Scarlett Kellum, had to reach out to other companies to beg, borrow, and steal some costumes. Ok, well she didn't actually steal anything but you get the idea. We also had to acquire swords and the like for the big fight scene. because again, it's not something we have on hand for our normal productions. And because Scarlett is a stickler for details, all of the ladies' corsets were handmade and custom fitted for them. No faked up velcro rigs here - these are the real laced up deal.

Director Jeffrey Bracco brought in Kristin Kusanovich in to talk to the cast. Kristin has a background in dance and movement and spoke to the whole cast about how people in the 1780s moved - we're incredibly casual these days in the way we walk, talk, and hold our bodies. We slouch, cross our legs at the knees, and move quickly. So Kristin discussed comportment with the cast - there were rules of etiquette that governed behavior and posture and movement. Some of this movement was, of course, tied to the fact that ladies were corsetted, as corsets really restrict the movement of the upper body. Much of the movement of the time was tied to dance training, so their movements were much more graceful and deliberate than modern day movement. With Kristin the actors learned how to how to correctly walk and sit, the correct body language to use to address one another.

And finally, a few of the ladies got together to learn about piquet, the card game that you see the ladies playing at the beginning of the show. It's a challenging game for two players with fairly complex rules. Card games were incredibly popular among the aristocracy at the time of Liaisons because, let's face it, they didn't have much else to do to kill time. Researching all of these little details makes it easier for the actors to slip into the time period of the show, and creates an authentic world for us, as audience members, to believe in.

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