As You Like It

Miami University Theatre • Fall 2011

A love story! Characters fall in love at first sight, but are blocked by their own awkwardness (and a little bit of villainy). We started talking about it like it was a Jane Austen novel, and this led us to give the play an Empire setting. The Empire look came from Napoleon's deliberate rejection of the ornate decorative style of the Baroque and Rococo. He wanted to associate himself with the Roman emperors. The line is clean, vertical, graceful and elegant.

The design question I faced was how to create a forest environment that would suggest forest and still somehow resonate the essence of the period, while all the time providing a backdrop in which the main signifiers of period, the costumes, would feel at home. I also had to figure out how to make the few scenes outside of the forest work without huge changes in scenery.

For me the feel of the period resonates in the look of the women’s costume silhouette – the height is emphasized with a high waistline, and the fabric tends to be gathered, creating vertical lines. More than that, the fabrics can be sheer, allowing us to see layers through the garments and adding a feeling of airiness.

Inspired by the fashion, I stylized the look of the forest, keeping the lines very clean and the shapes relatively geometric and playful. The vertical is emphasized, and the strips that make up the trunks of the trees mirror the pleating of the long dresses. The structures that make the trunks and the tree tops are open, allowing us to see through layers of forest to the bright sky, and to let light pass through and highlight the contours. The tree tops suggest foliage by picking up a detail of French ironwork of the period.

The simplicity of shape helps make the leap back to the court when necessary. Removing the tree tops from the picture leaves the trunks, which in their rectangular shape can also suggest tall columns, as you might find at the palace.

The costume palette includes whites, creams and pastels. Knowing this, I’ve kept a palette of earth tones (olives, warm greys, browns) in  mostly medium to dark values to allow the costumes (and the actors wearing them) to visually advance in the space.