While each member of a theatrical design team works independently in their area of expertise, they all serve a common mission: to create one cohesive work of art. WAM Theatre reached out to the designers for The Last Wife – lighting designer Aja Jackson, sound designer/composer Alex Sovronsky, costume designer Stella Schwartz and set designer Juliana von Haubrich, – to gain some insight into what motivated their work on this production.
WAM THEATRE: What word or phrase embodies your concept for the design? (Could be a line from the play, a light bulb moment thought – what made it all come together for you?)
AJA JACKSON: “I gain one ounce of his respect, and then… I take the whole ship down with me”.
Kate speaks this line. In this piece, Kate is able to wield enough power to gain the trust of one of the bloodiest monarchs in history, though briefly. She is right in her hyperbole, however, one false (or apparently false) move and she will not only find the end of her life quickly but also see to the end of King Henry’s two daughter’s paths to familial redemption. For lighting, this means that the strictness and fragility of her world need to come become physical. Kate is exposed and often put on the spot in this severe world. The intention is to have light exposing her reality while keeping the space very contained, limiting where Kate is able to run.
(Inspiration photo found by designers)
ALEX SOVRONSKY: The phrase I keep coming back to is “measured and considered.” It seems that everyone speaks in very carefully chosen words. There’s a real sense of danger in this world and, as a result, people are very specific about what they say and do. It’s a very slow game of physical and verbal chess. I wanted the music to create a similar feel.
JULIANA von HAUBRICH: The characters moving through a dangerous maze.
STELLA SCHWARTZ: Distilled Tudor with a modern twist.
WAM: What is the primary color you worked with and why?
AJA JACKSON: Rather than having a particular color lead this inspiration, a feeling has taken over. The feeling of heat and tension building up amongst a single group of individuals. Particularly for these women caught at the front of Henry’s rage-filled spirit, they are fighting to stay cool in the thickness of the atmosphere that surrounds them.
ALEX SOVRONSKY: (We don’t usually think of sound having a color, but we boldly asked Alex “What ‘color’ is your soundscape?”) Ice Blue.
JULIANA von HAUBRICH: I actually worked with the idea of stone, wood, and metal. I did use the color red as a visual line running through the set – like the line of royal succession, singling out one family to rule, while the others must serve.
STELLA SCHWARTZ: I’m using a fairly tight color pallet for the costumes: black, white, grey, and metallics with a few pops of color here and there. I did this because I wanted to highlight the sculptural features of the costumes and also allow the accessories to pop against a blank canvas.
(a costume mock up in progress)
WAM: What has been your greatest joy working on this show?
AJA JACKSON: The greatest joy in working on this project is having the opportunity to chat with my colleagues about how to work with this tension. Similar motifs show themselves in our lives well after the Tudor family stopped ruling. How to gain respect and trust to do a large job, as a beginner, as a woman. How to navigate two or more important voices and arrive at one decision. How to set aside what you would love to do for what you have to do. Giving these thoughts that we have a voice and negotiate a way to expose them is a great trial for any artist.
ALEX SOVRONSKY: Being a Shakespeare actor/musician/composer/scholar, I love the opportunity to work on a contemporary play that draws on so much of the classical world that I know and love.
JULIANA von HAUBRICH: Collaborating with a whole new creative team: from Kelly’s compelling approach and blocking ideas, to Aja’s suggestion of open squares on the sliding panels, and Stella providing a source for some amazing translucent material that I’m now using. I love being inspired by new young artists!
STELLA SCHWARTZ: Feeling that in my own small way by helping to tell this story about a strong woman, I am helping support WAM’s mission of empowering women and girls.
(Set design rendering draft)
STELLA GIULIETTA SCHWARTZ (Costume Designer) WAM Theatre: Debut. Elsewhere: In 2011, Stella started working at Shakespeare & Company where she has designed numerous productions including The Two Gentleman of Verona (2016), The Unexpected Man (2015), Servant of Two Masters (2014) and Les Faux Pas (2013). Recent design credits include 4000 Miles (Shakespeare & Company), I and You (Chester Theatre), Next to Normal (BCC Players) and 12th Night (Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park). Training: Classics and Costume Design at Smith College. Et cetera: She is delighted to be designing her first show for a WAM Theatre.
JULIANA VON HAUBRICH (Scenic Designer) WAM Theatre: Emilie Remount, Melancholy Play, The Attic, the Pearls, and Three Fine Girls, The Old Mezzo, Emilie, In Darfur, Holy Laughter, The Bakelite Masterpiece. WAM Associate Artist. Elsewhere: Passage (Kickwheel Theatre Ensemble). In N.Y.: Water by the Spoonful (UAlbany Performing Arts); Spring Awakening and Wait Until Dark (Theatre Institute at Sage); The Whale (Adirondack Theatre Festival); Taming of the Shrew and Puddin’head Wilson (The Acting Company); Richard II and La Cenerentola (Juilliard); A Place Like This and A Word to No One (Present Company Theatre). In L.A.: Ghosts in the Cottonwood and Ojai Playwrights Conference (Echo Theatre Company); Babylon-5 (TNT), and Star Trek Voyager (Paramount). Training: Juliana has an MFA in Scenic Design from CalArts, and has received Best Design Adirondacks (2014) and Best of L.A. Scenic Design (1999). Online: www.JvonHdesigns.com www.JvonHDesigns.com
ALEXANDER SOVRONSKY (Composer/Sound Designer) WAM Theatre: Debut. Elsewhere: NYC credits include Cyrano de Bergerac (Broadway starring Kevin Kline); Romeo & Juliet (The Public/NYSF); Bottom of the World (Atlantic Theatre); Othello (TFANA); King Lear, Three Sisters (Classical Theater of Harlem); As You Like It (Happy Few Theatre Co, NYIT award nomination); and numerous productions and readings with Red Bull Theatre Co. Regional credits include numerous productions at Hartford Stage, Walnut Street Theatre, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, American Shakespeare Center, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Wharton Salon, Shakespeare & Company, Barrington Stage. International credits include King Lear (York Theater Royal, UK). Film/TV: Film scores include the short film Limbo and some music for the webseries, Darwin. Et cetera: In addition, Alexander is also an accomplished actor and musician with numerous credits on Broadway, Off-Broadway, regionally, and internationally. Online: For a good time, and more information, check out www.AlexanderSovronsky.com AlexanderSovronsky.com
AJA M. JACKSON (Lighting Designer) WAM Theatre: Debut. Elsewhere: Previously, she worked as a stage manager with the Denver Center Theatre Company. She has worked in production management with The Santa Fe Opera for the last 7 seasons. Aja has also worked with companies such as The Public Theater, The Lighting Design Group, The Huntington Theatre Company, and the Boston Lyric Opera. As a lighting designer, some of Aja’s projects include Wit at the Calderwood Pavilion; original work, What The Wind Taught Me, Midwest tour; and The Biomorphic Dance Festival in NYC. Training: Aja graduated from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film with a BFA in Lighting Design and BA in Dance Performance from the School of Music. She is a 3rd year Masters candidate at Boston University in Lighting Design.Last Wife Info and Tickets