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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

March 31, 2010

Kinky Costumes for Cabaret

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 8:24 am

Barbara Young, Charleston Stage Resident Costume Designer

Often designers look for a “hook” for the design of a production . . . something we can “hang” the design on. When working on a show that’s had many classic looks from the Bob Fosse Film to the most recent Broadway revival with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cummings, it’s even more important to find the right “hook”.  Director Marybeth Clark wanted us to find our own look and especially avoid the black and grunge look.  But that black and grunge look was a great one because it captured the decadence of the period so well.  We knew we wanted costumes for the Kit Kat Klub that were just as decadent and risqué but we wanted them to be colorful as well.  Artistic Director Julian Wiles suggested we look at images from Baz Luhmann’s Moulin Rouge.  Though set in Paris and a few decades before Cabaret, it did give us a more colorful palate to work with.  It also suggested that in addition to the costumes themselves we could create great looks with dazzling eye makeup, racy stockings and fantastic footwear.  And as Marybeth requested, we let our imaginations go wild creating some of the most dazzling costumes of the season, each and everyone designed and constructed in Charleston Stage’s costume shop giving this Cabaret a look like no other.


Costumes from Baz Luhmann’s film, Moulin Rouge inspired many of the costume looks in our production of Cabaret.



Kit Kat Klub male dancers in Cabaret.



Kit Kat Klub female dancers and Emcee.


March 29, 2010

Creating the Decadent Look of Cabaret’s Sets

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:58 am

By Julian Wiles and Stefanie Christensen, Set Designers for Cabaret

Director Marybeth Clark wanted us to start from scratch in creating the scenery and costumes for Cabaret and so instead of looking at other productions of this classic musical we went back to original sources.  Descriptions in Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (on which Cabaret is based) were our start and of course we looked at images from 1920’s German and European cafes.  Also, from reading the script it was obvious there were two worlds in Cabaret . . . the real world of the rooming house, Cliff’s Spartan room, and the fruit shop.  The night club in the show, known as the Kit Kat Club was more of a fantastical world and a romanticized memory of how Cliff remembered this haven of hedonism.  And so we created two worlds scenically, the rooming house, Cliff’s room and the fruit shop were made to look as realistic as possible while we decided on a more abstract and dream like world for the Kit Kat Klub.  We speculated that perhaps the Kit Kat Club had once been a warehouse and from that idea came the idea to use reproduction 1920’s light bulbs as a backdrop.  To complete the look we used a variety of industrial materials from wire cages to chains and married these to traditional cabaret elements like a glitzy curtains and red velvet bentwood chairs.  Our hope is that we will be giving audiences a Kit Kat Klub like one they’ve never seen before but one in which Cliff and Sally would feel right at home.


1920’s light bulbs with wire cages. Note multiple tungsten elements.



Kit Kat Klub dancers in Cabaret.


Lighting Cabaret

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:34 am

by Julian Wiles, Lighting Designer for Cabaret

The lighting for Cabaret began at the photoshoot.  Here for the first time I got to see the costumes and makeup and to experiment with different lighting angles on them.   It was quickly clear that by using lighting from below (the kind of lighting that old fashioned footlights created) we could create an old fashioned and somewhat ghostly eerie look.  Most of the scenes in the Kit Kat Klub rely on this type of harsh lighting.  For the more realistic scenes of the play more naturalistic lighting was used.  By using two completely different lighting styles I hoped it helps make it clear that Sally and Cliff live in two different worlds—the everyday world outside which is being overtaken by the Nazi’s and the exotic and fantasy underground cabaret world to which they and many others escape.

Click here to view trailer from the photo shoot!


From left to right: Brian J. Porter as Emcee, Sarah Claire Smith as Sally Bowles, Nicholas Piccola as Fritz, and Sarah Brown as Texas.

March 12, 2010

Acting in Children’s Theatre, by Resident Actor Christopher M. Diaz

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:30 pm

In my various roles as a performer, director and instructor, I have been lucky enough to work with many bright young people. Teaching and performing with them has been an incredibly valuable experience, and I’ve found that I often learn just as much from them as from my elders. One revelation I have had in my experiences with young actors and young audience members is a simple one, but one that is often forgotten: Children are little people. They have thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences just like adults, and in many cases, in more vivid tones than those of our older brains. Because of this revelation, I’ve learned that in my acting I must never condescend to young people.

There are, of course, some adjustments to be made when working on a children’s theatre piece. Major themes in the piece are often portrayed in the script in big, broad strokes that I must then interpret with big, broad physical and vocal choices. I must adjust the pace so that younger ears can follow the plot and development of the piece, and I must pay special attention to the clarity of my diction and intent. Those things aside, I can’t say that I make any specific, outstanding choices when playing to children. Instead, I try and focus on being as clear in my intention and as passionate in my delivery as possible in the hope that my love for the art of theatre will be apparent, and that that passion may affect even one young mind and heart. 


From left to right: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Justin Tyler Lewis as Duquito Danilo, Charleston Stage Resident Actor Christopher M. Diaz as Ferdinand the Bull, former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Lindsey Lamb as Cochina the Pig, and Charleston Stage Resident Actor James Lombardino as Duque Dodo.

“Playwright among named”, Post and Courier Article by Bill Thompson

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:52 am

Friday, March 12, 2010


Artistic Director Julian Wiles

Charleston playwright Julian Wiles, founding director of Charleston Stage, has been named recipient of the 2010 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for individual artists, the South Carolina Arts Commission announced Thursday.

Established in 1972, the state’s highest honor in the arts is named for the renowned Charleston artist, author and lecturer (1883-1979) whose etchings, drypoints and pastels earned wide acclaim.

To be recognized with Verner Awards for Lifetime Achievement are artist Jonathan Green of Daniel Island and Fripp Island novelist/non-fiction writer Pat Conroy. Receiving a Verner in the category of Arts in Education is Larry Barnfield of Summerville, fine arts coordinator for Dorchester District 2.

The awards will be presented May 6 at the S.C. Statehouse, followed by the S.C. Arts Gala that evening at the Columbia Museum of Art. Tickets are available online.

“South Carolina is filled with awe-inspiring artists, astounding arts professionals and arts supporters,” said S.C. Arts Commission Board Chairman Bud Ferillo. “This year’s recipients are an excellent representation of this reality, and we are honored to recognize these top arts achievers for their outstanding commitment to the arts and dedication to our state.”

Wiles, who grew up in Ft. Motte, inaugurated Charleston Stage in 1978. Over the past 31 years he has directed and designed more than 200 productions and written 27 original plays and musicals for the company. Wiles continues to serve as the company’s producing artistic director.

Wiles attended Clemson University, received a history degree from the College of Charleston in 1974 and an MFA in dramatic art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976.

Conroy, one of America’s most celebrated writers, is the author of such best-selling novels as “The Great Santini,” “The Prince of Tides” and, most recently, “South of Broad.” Born in Atlanta, his family moved to Beaufort when he was 15. His novel “The Lords of Discipline” and the memoir “My Losing Season” were inspired by his years as a cadet at The Citadel.

Green was born in 1955 in Gardens Corner, and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982. Though widely traveled, Green has looked to the familiar images of his ancestral home for the subjects of his paintings, which have been coveted by collectors, museums and critics around the world. He is president/CEO of Jonathan Green Studios, Inc., and the Jonathan Green Art Collection Gallery, LLC in Naples, Fla., as well as chairman of Jonathan Green Living Designs, LLP in Charleston.

Barnfield has worked to increase the number of arts opportunities and arts faculty in South Carolina schools. During the past eight years, he has expanded the school district’s arts program, earning it national recognition by the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education.

CLICK HERE for a direct link to the Post and Courier article

March 10, 2010

Acting in Ferdinand the Bull, by Charleston Stage Resident Actor Justin Tyler Lewis

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 3:02 pm

One of the most exciting and challenging parts of being a Resident Actor here at Charleston Stage is the number of different styles of theatre in which we rehearse and perform throughout the year.  One month we are performing a high-paced musical narrative, the next month we are performing a dry, tongue-in-cheek, British comedy, and then we move on to Shakespeare.  Ferdinand the Bull constitutes yet another style of theatre.  The real challenge in performing children’s theatre – or theatre-for-children as it were – is in the willingness, on the part of the performers, to allow the young audience to participate in the creation of the theatrical moment as much as a not-young audience.  Sometimes it is easy, as a performer and teacher, to turn my nose up and condescend to young actors and audiences.  However, moments can come to life with equal potency and charm in Ferdinand as they do in Twelfth Night or Cabaret; and the young audience member who helped create that moment may value the magic of that moment with more enthusiasm than the best adult audience member. 

With that said, performing in theatre-for-children, and Ferdinand specifically, has been largely about building moments that young audience members are willing to support and follow – building a ship that this particular audience is willing to climb aboard.  This effort has manifested in our focus as a cast on moment-to-moment action and throughline.  Ferdinand doesn’t have the glitz and size of Christmas Carol, but it certainly has another built-in advantage: the audience gets to know four entirely unique and distinct characters.  No audience will be able to walk out of a performance of Ferdinand referring to any of the characters as “background characters” because each of us has an opportunity to interact with the audience in a distinct and memorable fashion.  In preparation for this type of interaction we have, as a company of four actors and one director, placed special emphasis on foiling each other.  My character, Duquito Danilo, is unique in his contrast to his father Duke Dodo – fellow Resident Actor James Lombardino.  And so, we have essentially created our characters to fit like puzzle pieces into the great Ferdinand the Bull puzzle.


Justin Tyler Lewis as Duquito Danilo in Ferdinand and the Bull.


March 9, 2010

Playing the Role of Cochina the Pig in Ferdinand the Bull, by Lindsey Lamb

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 1:20 pm

Working on both Twelfth Night and Ferdinand the Bull at the same time has proved to be an interesting, tiring, and enjoyable task. Some people might think that acting in a Children’s play is easy work but it is just as hard and tiring as Shakespeare…if not harder.  My approach to playing Cochina the Pig was to add a playfulness to her.  Drew Archer, the Director, also wanted me to make her speech patterns quick, loud and intense. I think Cochina is always thinking about the next great thing she can do or be involved in.  She is a very self involved pig who is very determined to get her big pig break. Because of this she is always on the go, in movement and mind.  A lot of Cochina’s movement is quick and bouncy.  It was a lot of fun to experiment with her physicality.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience.  Conchina is a very fun and silly role to play.  I can’t wait for you to meet her and the rest of the cast!



Lindsey Lamb as Cochina the Pig in Ferdinand the Bull.


March 5, 2010

Sir Andrew: A Fellow of the Strangest Mind, by Eric Brown

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:11 am

Attacking Andrew Aguecheek was an interesting process. This character, for me, was not as much about having a solid back story or specific actions or motivations as it is about listening to the other actors intently. Andrew is simple. He wants Olivia. But even more so, he needs the approval of others. He wants to be “cool”. He is simple minded and easily distracted. I’ve found the best approach is not to over indulge in self, but to follow along with, almost in blind faith, whatever the other characters throw at me. I am just grateful that I have such a wonderful cast to play off of. I would not have found Andrew without them. 


Featured center: Eric Brown as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.



From left to right: Kyle W. Barnette as Malvolio, Resident Actor James Lombardino as Feste, Eric Brown as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Nat Jones as Sir Toby Belch, and Jan Gilbert as Maria.


March 3, 2010

Playing the Role of Olivia, by Amber Mann

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:18 am

When approaching the role of Olivia, my first concern was making sure that she was not a “one note” character. She can be rather terse, but I wanted to make sure that she was not always so harsh, and even charming at times. I was also concerned that she has so little time to go from “mourning” to “crazy in love”. I just decided to let the words do the work. If William Shakespeare thought that was enough time for someone to transition between the two….who am I to argue with him. I guess when it really comes down to performing Shakespeare I rely heavily on the text. They are masterpieces. If I truly do my homework and really figure out exactly what is being said….the rest takes care of itself.

As for returning to Charleston Stage, (I was a Resident Actor in 2002-2003) it has been a wonderful experience! It has truly felt like a homecoming. I have had the most amazing time working with other former Resident Actor’s, current RA’s and local actors who have been so welcoming!  It had actually been a couple of years since I had even performed in a show. I was a little nervous about getting my sea legs back, but I could not have asked for a better experience with which to do so. Now, I am just looking forward to the next show I have the opportunity to work on with this wonderfully talented company.


From left to right: Heath Beam as the Priest, former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Amber Mann as Olivia, and Charleston Stage Resident Actor Justin Tyler Lewis as Sebastian.


Featured center: Amber Mann as Olivia.


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