Costuming, set design and lighting together create the look and tone of a show. They animate the stage so that an imaginary world comes alive for actors and audience.
Costumer Anna Foster, set designer DeAnne Kennedy and lighting designer Janine Myers — the very three who breathed life into “The Wiz” at Paliku Theatre last year — have again united their talents for the musical “Children of Eden,” and when the curtains open, the magic that unfolds will have been rooted in weeks of creative planning.
The show, produced by the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation, opens at Paliku Theatre on Friday.
The musical begins with the creation of the universe, and explores parent-child relationships beginning with the original Father, his children Adam and Eve, with their children, Cain and Abel, and finally with their descendant, Noah, and his family. With lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz, known best for “Wicked,” it features more than 50 actors, storyteller-narrators and dancers.
“It is a story about the complexity of parent-child relationships, personal freedom vs. authority, forgiveness and second chances,” says director Mary Hicks.
THE FIRST step the director and design team take when a play is chosen is to examine the script, to interpret the world a playwright has provided. Then they come together to share ideas before developing the components of an immersive and engaging experience.
Anna Foster, who has created set and costume designs for numerous local and Mainland theaters, delves into extensive research for inspiration. She pores over online pictures, studies time periods and locations.
For “Children of Eden,” Foster said, “my concept comes from the idea of humans being created from spirit, which made me think of flowing costumes — coming into the world naked, (hence) my use of nudes and skin tones.
“There will be touches of gold in each costume relating back to the song ‘Spark of Creation’,” she noted.
Foster credits the show’s creative team for giving her the leeway to get extra innovative: “For every show, I like to pick a technique that I’ve never done before,” she said. “For ‘The Wiz,’ it was airbrushing the yellow brick road’s costumes to match the set. For ‘Children of Eden,’ I am creating wet felt pieces for Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden.”
Ideas must come into fruition within the confines of the theater’s budget. Foster says she’s become adept at thinking outside the box.
“I like to walk through hardware stores and discount stores imagining unusual ways to use materials,” she said. “I’m thoughtful with color and color grouping which make a show cohesive.”
Foster takes her fellow designers’ choices into account when making creative choices.
Noting that darkness is a component of the set design, Foster said, “I want the costumes to stand out but not compete with the set.”
The lighting plan for “Children of Eden” includes “dance-style light” designed by Myers. That in turn influences Foster’s costume choices, she said, so that the lighting highlights actors’ movements.
COLLABORATION IS key for DeAnne Kennedy, whose work is commonly evident at local theaters. Kennedy, who taught set design at the University of Hawaii- Manoa, is also known to answer to Mainland theaters that come calling for her scenic talent.
“For ‘Children of Eden, I did some paintings to depict the colors, shapes and textures I felt would best create the world of the show,” Kennedy said.
“This show starts in darkness and then becomes the creation of the earth,” she said. “I’m designing the set to look like the pieces placed onstage were coalesced from the universe and stars.”
Kennedy notes that having a team that works well together is instrumental in producing a quality show.
For her part, she said, “I create the environment that the set lives within, so that when the curtain opens or the audience comes into the theater and sees a design that is rich and complex, and fills the space, it makes them say, ‘Wow!’
“I love to have set pieces with surprise capabilities, or to use a space unconventionally. I also paint all of my sets, to stylize them visually.”
ROUNDING OUT Children of Eden’s creative team is Janine Myers, who has garnered 12 Pookela Awards for her lighting designs. Theater manager and lighting designer for Paul and Vi Loo Theatre at Hawaii Pacific University, Myers has also served in a variety of technical capacities at Oahu venues.
She’s done simple shows with just a few dozen light cues, and complex shows with numerous light strips and hundreds of cues.
“Lighting serves to illuminate what exists within the world of the play,” she said. “My job is to show the world of the play in its best light — pun intended — so that what the set and costume designers have created looks the best that it can.”
The set and costumes are a canvas for Myers’ craft. She especially favors lighting sets that might at first look neutral, perhaps gray, but if spatters or layers of paint are included within the gray, she’s able to shine various colors of light to dynamic effect. She also likes to work with abstract sets, she said, where she can be inventive with lighting to convey a feeling of time and place.
“I get to change the mood and feel of each scene. I get to control when and how the audience’s attention is focused. I get to selectively hide and reveal elements of the show that, together with the direction and choreography, determine the overall flow of any given scene or production,” Myers said.
“My paintbrushes are intensity, color, angle, texture and movement. When I use these tools and layer them on top of the designs of Anna’s costumes and DeAnne’s sets, some truly beautiful stuff happens.”
“CHILDREN OF EDEN”
>> Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, also 4 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 29
>> Cost: $21-$41
>> Info: imabrightkid.org