November 3, 2015

Behind the Curtain: Evita Karasek (Butcher)

Evita Karasek

Set and Costume Designer

QDF: How was your experience while working on Butcher?

Evita: It is such an interesting script to work with as a designer because nothing is, as it seems. It was so much fun to be able to work with that theme and that feeling that starts somewhere modest and ends up somewhere really profound. And that is really a privilege for me, as a scenographer.

QDF: When you read the script, where do you get your inspiration to start designing it?

Evita: I usually read it once, and then I just seek for the themes, or the feelings from reading the play. I often go straight to looking at images.  I just open photo books; I have some kind of idea of what photographers would work best with the theme.  I checked for photos and whatever image catches me in relationship to that story, I photocopy it and place it on a board. I’ll then see what came out of that research, and start from there.

QDF: Are there a lot of set elements on the stage?

Evita: You know, it takes place in a police station, so we have to start there.  It’s a police station from the 1920s or 30s that has been updated over time. So, there are some contemporary elements as well as period elements. All the walls are made of scrims and at one point, no wait; I don’t want to give too much away.  It is a very important turning point of the play and I don’t want to reveal the ending. However, it is also going to rain. Rain is a big character sound-wise systematically in the play. It rains during the play; during the transitions. There is actual rain onstage.

QDF: What are the challenges with rain on stage?

Evita: We talked and talked about it, we would troubleshoot ideas, and we came up with the right solution.  Working with the technical team of the Centaur Theatre has been wonderful.  They are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. We kind of figured out the problems we got in the theatre, and now it works. We are in the middle of it now and so far, we are doing pretty well.

It is not raining on the actors. The water goes to two suction tubes that are placed on either side of the set. They also serve for a metaphoric feeling that’s reflecting the action on stage and as well to collect the water.  So, no it doesn’t rain on the actors, sorry!

QDF: And you also did the costume?

Evita: Yup. I followed the script in terms of what it called for but I also followed my creative side. All the costumes are contemporary except for the butcher’s uniform.

QDF: You are the second person I got to talk a little about the show, and how do you feel that you can’t talk too much about it without revealing some kind of plot twist?

Evita (Laughing): I remember first reading the play and being “Aw, man! It is kind of boring. It is kind of this cop drama. It’s not going to be anything crazy. ” And by the end of the first scene, I was like: “Oh my God, this is such a crazy twist.”  Then, I read the second scene, and I thought to myself: “This is an even crazier twist.”  It twists and twists, changes and becomes deeper, more violent and psychological at every page. It is very important to not give away what happens. I’ve watched it now for like 15 runs, so it doesn’t affect me anymore. But the first time that you see it, it is such a crazy, intense story. It’s such an amazing story.

QDF: How was working with the director’s vision?

Evita: It was great to work with Roy Surette. I really really enjoyed it. He is so experienced, which was so lovely and straightforward.  We had a very nice team working experience. I really had a great time.

QDF: What is your process when designing a show?

Evita: Sure, as I said before, I get the script, read it and get inspired with an image. I, then, usually have a meeting with the director. We talk further, and see what they have to say.  Then, I prefer to work with a program called Google Sketchup; it is a computer program that works with 3D. I will go back and make a preliminary sketch of the ideas and feelings that we talked about between the director and I in that meeting. For example for Butcher, how do you express justice architecturally was an important question. After that is done, I have another meeting with the director; we talk about the proposal, what’s good about it, what’s not so good. We talk about entrances, exits, and movement with actors on stage, and how my choices will affect them.  I usually go back to the drawing board, after that point, to do some more tweaking. We will go back and forth about three to four times. Then, I will make a model; it is a half inch scaled model.  It’s called a white model. It doesn’t have all the details like paint or color. Then, the director will approve that. I will continue by making architectural drawings that I will submit to the production manager and the technical director of the theatre. They will cost it out; to make sure what I want is actually feasible and fits within the budget.

Hopefully that is the case.  Once that is approved I will make a final model. I will make the world of the play in miniature in 3D.  So, in the case of Butcher, I made little tiny desks, little tiny people and other things that will be in an office. I would make them all super small. I, then, present it to the director and the entire team.

I move on to the costumes.  Sometimes it is very evident what it has to be and other times, it’s not. Other times, there is a lot of creative license. You can do quite a bit of research and have free and creative time making up the costumes. For this play, we know basically what everyone is going to wear from the script.  Then, I make costume drawings and show them to the director. We go back and forth. Then, the first day of rehearsal, we have a big presentation, where I explain to the actor what we have come up with.

Then, we start to build the set, work on the props and build the costumes. We do that over the time that we are rehearsing which is for one month usually.  So that’s kind of a rundown of how it works. It takes about four months in total. Obviously not full time for the first three months but the last month that we are in production, I usually work full time on that show.

The amazing thing about it is that everybody who reads the script will have a different reaction to it or a different creative, intuitive feeling about it, and will come up with a different design, not totally different. They might not be the same, but they will have the same elements.

QDF: For an aspiring designer, what is one tip you wished you had when you started?

Evita: Oh, I don’t know.  I guess the best thing that I have learned is to try to keep one’s cool about things although perfection is extremely important in our jobs. Making sure that your vision is realized is not as important as your mental and physical health.  Also, to remember that you aren’t performing surgery, we are just making theatre. In general, it should be fun!

Butcher opens on November 3rd and runs till November 29th  The Run has been extended till December 5th

Centaur Theatre

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