Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog


ARTHUR OLIVER INTERVIEW

ARTHUR OLIVER INTERVIEW

In Flings & Eros the 4 Flying Karamazov Brothers play close to 20 characters from Romeo and Juliet, as well as themselves, which means there are lots of costumes to design. That task falls to Arthur Oliver, who has been designing professionally for theatre, opera, film and television since 1991. He has worked on many productions of Shakespeare’s plays, including the PBS Boston Pops special Evening at Pops/Brush Up Your Shakespeare, a fully staged version of Romeo and Juliet with the accompaniment of the Virginia Symphony and the Buffalo Philharmonic, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anthony & Cleopatra, and King Lear at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA.  

Arthur has graciously taken the time to answer a few questions about the design process for Flings & Eros, as well as supply some of his early costume design sketches.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in designing for Flings & Eros?

Juliet Costume Desgin - Arthur Oliver

Juliet Costume Desgin - Arthur Oliver

I’d have to say that the biggest challenge was coming up with Renaissance inspired costumes which allow for the extreme movement that goes into this piece.  Ease of movement was something, for women in particular, that was not a top priority for garments in the 1600’s.  My solution to that was to sneak a bit of 20th century magic into the elbows and armseye by joining the sleeves and bodice with elastics rather than stitching them in.   The ribboning and button decorating in these areas are there to disguise the elastics, as well as add another layer of visual aesthetic.

Obviously, as a designer for Shakespeare & Company you’ve had the chance to tackle Shakespeare before. How is this different from other Shakespeare plays you have designed for?

Friar Costume - Arthur Oliver

Friar Costume - Arthur Oliver

This play is very different in that it is comprised of bits and pieces of Romeo and Juliet rather than the entire play.  There is also a cross story that progresses through the play in tandem with the bits and pieces incorporated from Shakespeare’s tragedy.  We are also doing the piece with only four actors to cover approximately 20 parts! 

Is there a certain character in Flings & Eros you particularly enjoyed designing for?

Not really, each design represents the real essence of the character-especially in the finale-so it’s hard for me to pick a favourite.  I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that I do have a slight preference for beautiful dresses….

You’ve been designing costumes professionally for almost 20 years. Is there a particular costume or play you’ve worked on that stands out as a favorite from a design point of view?

There are so many to choose from but at this moment I’d have to say that my 2006 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor would have to get that distinction.  It was a colorful, elegant Cavalier style production that ended in a moonlit wood with fairys, all in ghostly white.  A little spooky, but fantastical! 

For more information on Arthur Oliver, please visit arthuroliver.net

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