Broadway By Design: Neil Patel & Paloma Young Bring TIME AND THE CONWAYS from Page to Stage
Who is Annie without her red dress? Or Eva with out her balcony? It is the charge of the Broadway designer to transport the audience into the world of a show, whether it be Great Depression-era New York City or outside of the Casa Rosada.
In Broadway by Design, BroadwayWorld is shining a spotlight on the stellar designs of this Broadway season, show by show. Today, we continue the series with Neil Patel and Paloma Young, who acted as scenic and costume designers for the first-ever Broadway revival of Time and the Conways.
In 1919 Britain, Mrs. Conway is full of optimism during her daughter's lavish twenty-first birthday celebration. The Great War is over, wealth is in the air, and the family's dreams bubble over like champagne. Jump nineteen years into the future, though, and the Conways' lives have transformed unimaginably. This time-jumping play by J.B. Priestley (An Inspector Calls) takes place at the crossroads of today and tomorrow-challenging our notions of choice, chance and destiny.
Where did the designers find their inspiration? "I was inspired by Do Ho Suh's fabric buildings," says scenic designer Neil Patel. "They made me see a way to create a "ghost" room of Act 2 which could live simultaneously with the room from Act 1. The simultaneity of the two spaces from different moments in time would illustrate in a powerful way the idea of time put forth by Priestley in the play. Instead of a literal change in the aging and decor of the room as is indicated in the text we found an exciting and theatrical way to go from Act 1 to Act 2."
"The challenge was to fly in a room for Act 2 in front of the Act 1 room that would appear light and devoid of structure elegantly and silently which was key to making the transitions between Act 1 and Act 2 and the final shift of the play poetic and non technical in feeling, but very, very technical in execution. Fortunately I had the excellent teams of Aurora Productions, Showmotion Scenic Studios and the uncompromising staff of the Roundabout Theatre to assist me."
"As we discovered the unanticipated problems in technical rehearsals, everyone rallied to find the solutions. I was pleased and humbled by the result as it reminds me that no matter how good the conception without an impeccable execution the audience cannot understand and most importantly feel and experience the intent," says Patel.
Costume designer Paloma Young found inspiration in color. "All of the costume shapes in the show are fairly faithful interpretations of historical garments from research and museum collections, but the colors and textures take a poetic detour," explains Young. "We were inspired by the way our minds can "color" memories depending on the emotions that surround them. The colors for our 1919 birthday party draw on some of the most saturated colors of the time--they're excessively optimistic and aspirational. There's a sparkle in everyone's eyes as well as their dresses and uniform buttons."
"In 1937, the characters wear their years of disappointments on their sleeves. The costumes, especially in family tableau, signal a loss of joy and confidence. The color palette is nearly monochromatic and the fabrics lack luster--even Mrs.Conway's inappropriately fancy lace dress has had the metallic threads tarnished with time."
"Director Rebecca Taichman had the very smart idea to do the show's first big time jump in the first act rather than interrupt it with an intermission. My team and I had to age the actors 18 years in as little as 75 seconds. But for me, it allows the biggest payoff of our color work--you instantly see the palette sucked of saturated color," says Young.
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Roundabout Theatre Company will conclude its new Broadway production of J. B. Priestley's Time and the Conways, Directed by Tony winner Rebecca Taichman on Sunday, November 26. At the time of closing, Time and the Conways will have played 28 preview performances and 56 regular performances. Previews began on September 14, 2017 and opened officially on October 10, 2017 on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre (227 West 42nd Street).
Time and the Conways stars Elizabeth McGovern as "Mrs. Conway," Steven Boyer as "Ernest," Anna Camp as "Hazel," Gabriel Ebert as "Alan," Charlotte Parry as "Kay," and Matthew James Thomas as "Robin," with Anna Baryshnikov as "Carol," Brooke Bloom as "Madge," Alfredo Narciso as "Gerald," and Cara Ricketts as "Joan."