Mio Infante Talks Designing Costumes & Sets for CHARLIE BROWN, LITTLE MERMAID & More
Manila, Philippines, February 26, 2012 – Actor turned designer Mio Infante has both or either designed scenography and costumes of some of the biggest and arguably the best children-centric musical Theater Productions of the past 11 years: Trumpets' Little Mermaid (2001) and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2002); and Atlantis Productions' Disney's Beauty and the Beast (2005) were some of the magical worlds he has created on stage.
Although Infante's scenography and costumes for 9 Works Theatrical's production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, a musical based on the popular comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz, are less of a spectacle compared to Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast et al., they still don't fail to excite and stimulate the audience's imagination of a world that's full of color and happiness.
In his own words, Infante takes BroadwayWorld.com readers to his fond childhood memories and to his rediscovery of the basic elements of stage design as he works on his latest assignment, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown:
"'Happiness is five different crayons!' This is a line from the Broadway musical You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown – a line that hits close to home.
As a child, happiness was not just five different crayons – but 96! I had a box of Crayola crayons with 96 colors including colors I'd never heard of before like 'periwinkle' and 'chartreuse.' I was truly fascinated that these crayons provided hours of endless fun! And, I'm sure that my current career had its beginnings from that one box of crayons.
Color and Art
As I worked, I found designing for children's productions more challenging than designing for the more adult-oriented shows.
Like all adults, I had forgotten that kids see the world for what it is – pure, simple, candid, without bias or malice. I had to see the world through a child's eyes again, and needed to reconnect with and tap the child in me. It also meant going back to the basics of design – line, form, mass, value, and color.
I took my cue from comic books and cartoons. They work for kids because of the strong bold strokes; clear outlines; distinct of shapes and forms; and primary and secondary colors.
This cue was especially helpful for the current production of You're A Good Man Charlie Brown by 9 Works Theatrical. Since the musical is based on the comic strip by Charles Schulz, it's pretty much like watching a moving, talking, singing comic strip. So I designed a set that was predominantly bright reds, yellows, and blues complemented with oranges, violets, and greens. I also made the set pieces and hand props larger than life so the adult actors lookEd Smaller and their costumes were loose almost shapeless that made their bodies appear more childlike.
This use of scale and color plus some touches of child-like whimsy also worked well for my designs for Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and Trumpets' N.O.A.H. and Little Mermaid: these basic elements, combined with exaggerated proportions and puppetry techniques, had brought crockery and kitchen utensils to life; had created an ark filled with Mexican piñata-inspired zoo animals; and had created an undersea world filled with red and yellow giant octopuses, and shoals of fish in every color.
It was color and a pervading color scheme that tied the varied elements in each of these shows – Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid et al. – into a cohesive whole. Color also directed the audience's attention to where it needed to focus on.
The audience must always be able to identify the lead characters amidst the overabundance of actors, dancers, and costumes especially in a big musical production number. In Little Mermaid, the lead protagonist was a stand out in red orange amidst cerulean blues and greens while the lead antagonist was in black, silver, and purple – appropriately evil and grim.
In a world that now heavily relies on computers and Adobe Photoshop, these concepts of color and the use of its wide spectrum remain with me, and continue to help me create worlds for the actor to live in; and for the kids and the kids-at-heart to enjoy.
The musical You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown ends with the whole Peanuts gang singing 'Happiness,' each character cites the simple things in life that make him happy – pencils, fireflies, pizza with sausage; small things that remind even the most cynical of people of the child they were and still can be.
For me, after all these years of working in the theater, happiness was – and still is – an orange and green box of 96 colored crayons. Thank you, Crayola, and thank you, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown!"
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown performances are on Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:30 p.m at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City until Saturday, March 3. For tickets, contact (632) 5575860, (632) 5867105, (63) 9175545560 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos c/o Mio Infante