The mobile staircase was an idea that came from set designer Susan Zeeman Rogers in an earlier workshop phase in 2009. I think she sketched it out while sitting in on a rehearsal in December 2009. Susan introduced the idea to me as a way for us to suggest Clarissa’s home – Peter Walsh says he always knew she’d marry a prime minister and be seen at the top of the stairs (meaning about to descend below to greet many guests at a party she’d throw for well-heeled people in London.) He means this in a somewhat critical way, but of course its true – when her party does begin she in fact does walk down a long stair case to join the party and I loved the idea that the set would be focused on the thing that takes her there – in the same way that the book is all about the events leading up to the party itself on that one June day. The stairs also would allow for a space on stage (the landing) where she could be alone, where she could retreat from that highly public life and offer a window for her to look out upon to see the June day, to see the glory of the world that exists outside the more fragile reality of her internal life.
The doubling of Bradshaw and that old man was certainly intended. Ellen and I thought through a lot of the doubling as we were casting the show with the specific actors in mind. Guy Paul who brilliantly played both those roles, was the right voice and presence for those roles. When an actor doubles you certainly do see edges of the characters they have played before as they take on new characters. I don’t think we thought of the old man as a stand in for Bradshaw at all, but certainly characters have a way of accumulating in your mind as this story unfolds and I like that those two characters overlapped for you. Most important to this moment is to create a parallel between Clarissa seeing the old woman out her woman at her party and this moment for Septimus. I could say a lot more on the resonance of these moments but each person watching in the audience should find his or her own meaning!
Happy Publication Birthday, Mrs Dalloway
Readers of this blog know that after Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf is my favorite writer; close readers may even remember that we played around with staging at a Flux Sunday.
AP Lit. and Comp. – English with Mrs. Lamp
Anyway, about the staircase: Even though the staircase we had to use for the workshop was that unlovely, hellishly raked thing that was a remnant of the production, The Forest, which had preceded ours in the theater, we could still get a sense of what a staircase might eventually do for us. As it pivots, like the hand of a clock sweeping through the space, there is the sense of time passing as the day goes by–something the frequent sound cue of the tolling bells does for us as well. There is also the necessary sense of interior and exterior–I always liked the feeling of standing on the landing as the staircase was moved slightly onstage and then walking down off of it to indicate my entrance into the cool silence of my own house after the heat and activity of the world outside. And my retreat upstairs into the “attic room which is at the heart of a life” always made great sense to me.
The Extended Essay Step-By-Step Guide: The Research
And of course we needed height, if only for the suicide, that leap from a high window. It was important that Septimus flee up and away from Dr. Holmes and it was visually arresting to see him standing up there before the jump. Adding wheels to the staircase easily doubled its effectiveness for us theatrically since, like any huge sculptural piece, the character of the thing changes profoundly as you view it from different angles. The narrow garret under the stairs could be tremendously useful for Septimus’s Bloomsbury apartment, and climbing along the side of it as if up and out of trenches proved wonderfully evocative for Septimus’s memories of battle. These provide a nice contrast to the way Clarissa uses the stairs. Clarissa’s memory of Peter Walsh telling her when she was a young woman that she “would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of the stairs” is central to the way she thinks of herself and determines the way she uses the height and the majesty of the descent. (Although the combination of heels and raked steps–what on earth were they thinking?–made for a real challenge, I must say.)
The Easter Break is nearly upon us
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