Figure in Performance

Coordinator: Christina Smith

The figure is one of the elements available to be manipulated by the designer in the development of a design for performance. An audience reads (either consciously or unconsciously) that figure through its relationship to its environment, and how it presents itself to the viewer. The human figure is in some ways the only element in a design that is non-negotiable in terms of scale, however it can be transformed through costume design, its relationship to space, its relationship to light and as represented through the puppet.

Over twelve weeks in a series of lectures and studios, students examine how costume designers across a range of performing art forms manipulate the human figure in order to convey meaning in a performance. They examine costume design for dance, opera, music theatre, drama and circus, revealing how in each of these forms the underlying principles are fundamentally the same while their technical requirements can be significantly different.

The major project of the subject required students to design a response to any character from Mary Zimmerman's play Metamorphoses, based on a translation of Ovid by David R. Slavitt. A retelling of Ovid's famous epic poem dating from Ancient Rome, Zimmerman's Metamorphoses explores, through a series of short character-based episodes, the idea of transformation. The universal themes within this piece make it excellent source material for interpretation and adaptation, with students needing to also specify a performance style covered in the aforementioned lectures for this classical story.

Photo by Nicolas Thomas on Unsplash

Performance Design 2020_summer