For Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical, I collaborated with a team of designers including Rachel Weir, EuGean Seo, Hunter Wells, Lee Vargas Perez, Brandon Stirling Baker, and the production company, Ibex Puppetry.
The idea for Bride of Wildenstein began in conversations with writing partner, P.J. Mc Whiskers. I started with an idea the poster design, initially appropriating elements of a title screen from The Bride of Frankenstein and altering it. For the next iteration, I worked in the aesthetics of John Pound’s Garbage Pail Kids trading cards.
WORKSHOP DESIGN CONCEPT
The design conceit of the initial workshop at CalArts and REDCAT was a dress that exists in a liminal space between costume and a set piece in which pop ups unfold as the protagonist transforms from human to cat.
Rachel Weir created the overall look of the dress and performer, while set designer, EuGean Seo, approached the dress as a mechanical set piece.
Rachel worked with a non-literal design, using imagery from the Bride of Frankenstein as a jumping off point, in combination with references to the work of Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, and the transformable fashions of Hussein Chalayan.
Eugene Seo designed the structure of a popup book-dress hybrid.
Rachel came up with the idea of a bandage dress and a monster drape.
Brandon Stirling Baker designed lighting for the workshop and subsequent productions. Scrolls of paper disrupted the space behind the dress and picked up the bold color moods from lights. Brandon also embedded practical lights into the dress structure.
In the initial production, I experimented with kinegrams made from drawings of animals copulating and found photos of Wildenstein.
PREMIERE DESIGN CONCEPT
As the performancde evolved, so did the design. After my time as an emerging artist at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center I abandoned the idea of the pop up book dress and went with more of a cabaret staging that could be more easily tour able. At resident dramaturg, Robert Smythe’s suggestion, I started the performance playing Jocelyn Wildenstein on the front side of the dress, and her husband, Alec Wildenstein on the back as they sang a duet. When Jocelyn gets surgery to become more cat like, Alec is severed from her back side. Each time we see him, he progressively gets smaller as she gains agency, until he fits inside her paw.
Hunter Wells reengineered the costume taking a more literal approach to a socialite who becomes more cat-like. Lee Vargas Perez designed and created the bustier, and a make-up design that changes onstage as part of choreography for Squirt, Puff, Lift Me Up.
When I brought the show to Orlando, I worked with Ibex Puppetry to re-design a set that could tour – that changed as the protagonist did. There were some cubes and other structures with carpeting that came to resemble cat scratch toys As Jocelyn became more feline.