The ephemeral nature of theatre breaks many hearts...
After a play has ended and all of the sets have been struck, everything vanishes. Many people believe the best way to discover what a production felt likehow the director actually chose to navigate through a sea of infinite choices in tone, casting, design, movement, rhythm and interpretation is by reading the reviews of a number of wise critics. Often, two thousand words are just not enough. Not even a movie can really capture such a visceral experience. Film, like the novel, passionately guides the viewer's eye through every moment, every frame, in an order that will never vary; but the theatre accommodates free will. Each member of the audience simultaneously watches a different version of the event, simply by choosing which of a hundred different gestures, images, or speckles of dust upon which to focus. One would need as many cameras, as permutations of what the eye could see to capture what it actually feels like to be in that room.
So how is it to be done?
This book attempts to reconstruct productions I have both directed and designed over many years. Many of the photographs you will see in this book were taken by me. Most of the original drawings are mine as well. Here, I have compiled key images for each production, in an effort to distill the essence of each show. Included are final production photos, character portraits, designs, and most importantly, inspirational images. Whether the Colorfield paintings of Mark Rothko's Houston chapel or the physicality of Robert Longo's "Men in the Cities" series, other artists' work are a point of departure for my work in the theatre. It is a way that allows the actors, other designers, and me to develop a shared vocabularysomething instinctive which acts as emotional scaffolding in the first stages of rehearsal. As in any laboratory, sometimes our hypothesis doesn't prove correct, and we abandon these images, to discover others. I feel that all of these visual elements together begin to hint at not only what a production felt like, but also how these productions were guided into beingillustrating the choices that became inevitable for me and my collaborators. Special thanks are extended to Robert Brustein, Founding Artistic Director of the Yale Repertory and the American Repertory Theatres, and Richard Riddell, without whose support many of these productions would not have been possible.
Manfred Flynn Kuhnert
Director and Designer