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Costumes, period language, set design, oh my!

les-liaisons

 
Cody Johnson and Kelsey Francis

November 2012


 Also: Read the wrap-up on Almost, Maine

 

The hard work of the students and faculty involved in SAU's recent mainstage performance of Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses certainly paid off. The show's performances in early October challenged the viewing audience with its complex and lengthy love story.

The story presented in Les Liaisons Dangereuses has many twists and turns. Its dense text uses period language from the late 18th century. This required that modern audience members attune their ears to unusual, elevated language in order to keep up with the story. Professor Corinne Johnson, Chair of the Theatre Department, recognizes it can be a difficult piece to follow.

"Words were very important in this play," Johnson said. "I think if you missed lines, you missed a lot of the story line."

Nevertheless, the show presented the story with beautifully comprehensive visuals. Kris Eitrheim's set design provided period paintings projected onto a large picture frame in the middle of the set that changed from place to place, helping audience members keep track of where scenes took place. The warmth and creativity brought in by the lighting design of Eric Behnke also set the tone for some very captivating moments in the show. Johnson thought that the lights, the set and the costumes painted a cohesive visual for the audience.

"It was beautiful to look at," Johnson said. "And many of the scenes were terribly moving."

Johnson was responsible for the show's costume design. While happy with the end result, she wishes she could have had time to build all of the costumes rather than renting most of them. She also wishes she could have provided the actors with shoes truer to the period as well as personally crafted corsets.

"I think that would have helped the actors earlier on to adopt the stylistic elements of the show," Johnson said.

The show received adjudication on the October 6 performance from Kennedy Center respondent Matt Foss, who is also a theatre professor at Iowa State University. Foss offered the cast and crew a commendable assessment of the show in his talkback following the performance. Johnson, previously acquainted with Foss and his work, said he enjoyed the production. She felt he was very kind and honest with his feedback, but she also wished he would have given more constructive criticism.

"While everything he said he believed fully, I would have loved to have had a more comprehensive discussion so we could have learned through our mistakes and not just bask in compliments," Johnson said.

The show was not submitted for consideration at the regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Actors from the show, however, were considered for the Irene Ryan Scholarship competition. Chosen to represent SAU in this year's competition were freshman theatre major Shannon Rourke and senior journalism major Kelsey Francis. Johnson said she is thrilled at the opportunity for her students to participate in such a prestigious learning experience.

"It's all about sharing the work you do and celebrating one another's work with each other," Johnson said.

The Irene Ryan nominees from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, along with other theatre students that have been nominated throughout the past year (Grace Allen, Tony Stratton, Stephanie Seward and Molly Conrad), will compete during the 2013 ACTF in Lincoln, Neb., Jan. 20-26, 2013.

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