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

October 5, 2009

Blithe Spirit: The Color of Ectoplasm

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:59 pm

by Director Julian Wiles

What’s the color of a ghost?  We often think white or grey when imagining the spirit world.  In the original production of Blithe Spirit, when the ghost of Charles’s first wife Elvira showed up at a seance, she was dressed in grey and wore grey makeup—in fact makeup companies still make “Blithe Spirit” grey.  But putting beautiful actresses in grey just seemed a little bland to us so costumer Barbara Young,  set designer Stefanie Christensen,and property master Mike Christensen and I decided to take a different tack and turn the old cliche of grey ghosts upside down.  In our production of Blithe Spirit, the real world is presented in gorgeous black and white art deco and only the ghosts appear in color.   This meant every piece of furniture had to be reupholstered in black and white fabrics and every costume had to be made from scratch to insure we used only blacks and whites (and a few greys.)   Since we were using such a limited color scheme for costumes, fabrics of different textures were selected to provide variety.  The result is that our ghosts really do stand out I think, in a clever design solution that might have given Noel Coward a smile.


Charleston Stage Resident Actor Justin Tyler Lewis as Charles and local actress Jan Gilbert as Elvira.

For the Medium Madame Arcati, who lives between the real and the spirit worlds, Costumer Barbara Young decided to have Madame Arcati’s  basic costume follow the black and white color scheme but added some colorful accessories, elements.  Other than the ghosts, she’s the only character in the show that has any color on their costume.

Seance web

(From left to right: Samille Basler as Mrs. Bradman, Ross Magoulas as Dr. Bradman, Susie Hallatt as Madame Arcati, Charleston Stage Resident Actor Priya Paranthaman as Ruth, and Charleston Stage Resident Actor Justin Tyler Lewis as Charles)

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