I may not have mentioned this yet but Bright Room while set in 1930s Germany incorporates a character from the 1980s. The character of Zilla, being portrayed by company member Liz Chomko(The Scarlet Letter and Behold!), enters into the world of the play from time to time to make points about not just the Nazis but about conspiracies and political hypocrisy of all kinds. As a way to integrate these two very different worlds Rahaleh Nassri, the director, decided early on that these interruptions would work best on film. Last night they began shooting these scenes which will eventually be integrated into the performance. Rahaleh took some time this morning to talk about how the shoot and how the show in general has been coming together.
WOW. Everyday everyone working on Bright Room amazes and surprises me.
I got off of a five hour flight yesterday afternoon and headed straight to Casa for our first night of shooting the Zillah scenes.
We planned on shooting four of her monologues but figured the first day would be more of a test. Would we have the props we needed? How would the picture turn out with that black wall? Would Liz know her lines? Costumes? Equipment? Staff? We decided to wing it, see what we got out of it and then have better subsequent shoots.
As I was discussing the “typewriter situation” with Hannah and Viv, Becky Trotter (props designer) showed up with the typewriter and a whole lot more. The German Lesson Book. The Bible. There was also the drawing “Bridegroom Called Death” Nathaniel Sinnott (lighting designer) had sketched for the Zillah set. The drawing is a nod to how Kushner got the title of play.
Frank Labovitz (costume designer) dressed Liz in incredibly imaginative designs we all decided belong in collections by Gaultier. But as we started to dress the set he finally said, “this is what I love to do: set dressing.” I said, “okay, run around Casa and find anything appropriate and dress away.” Becky, Frank, Viv, Hannah and I worked on dressing the set while Grady set up his equipment. There was really nothing on the set but an ugly piece of furniture when we started and an hour later when Jenny walked in, she couldn’t believe how good it looked.
We managed to get great takes and interesting shots for three of Zillah’s monologues. Material that we will actually be able to use and (barring any horrible sound problems) won’t have to reshoot. That is so much more than I expected.
Everyone helped in more ways than one. Viv did everything, including give us her blanket. Hannah, our dramaturg, jotted time codes. For one scene Frank even became the boom operator. And Liz did some great work as Zillah. Her final interruption in the play was positively chilling.
And, of course, none of it would have been possible without Grady. I love being able to do this with the Zillah character. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of taking it on if there was no Grady.
Thank you all for a great first shoot.
The first week of this insane project: the play itself, the film, the set (make that two sets) has been incredibly productive. Not just what we see everyday, but all those working behind the scenes. Scott marketing at the Tony Kushner event, among other things. Randy and Jenny constantly working on production details. I can’t believe how much we get done everyday with so little stress and so much enjoyment.
I appreciate all of you more than I can say.