And all Samantha’s costumes are very relaxed and unobtrusive, but characterful. I was torn over Kelly’s silver ankle sneakers but they would prove to be a little too Vegas for this particular version of the show, I think.
The hardest decisions have been about the set, where Tim Morrison is coming up with some amazing stencil images for the walls, but each one leads to an important debate about the connotations of the images, and why they are present or not. Once you use a media image but change its context, especially by putting into a show about racial issues, the echoes of meaning start to become deafening. Even the placement on the walls becomes thematic, about who is in and who is left out of the frame. This whole rehearsal process, and working with these three thinking artists, has been a wonderful debate about the issues we are staging—much of it essentially stemming from the central paradoxical problem of mixing hip-hop and classical theatre aesthetics. Hip-hop culture is all about specificity and individuality, speaking only for the different self and personal experience—but all conventional theatre is built around the idea of representation, that everything on the stage is a symbol or represents something in the real world, therefore always speaking for others, erasing difference. It is a conundrum that I hope will yield some very interesting talkbacks.