Virginia Tech’s theatre department takes audiences back to England in the 1960s in its upcoming production, which presents the challenge of maintaining historical authenticity.
“Pinter Works," which opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Squires Student Center Studio Theatre, features three short plays by British playwright Harold Pinter. The three shows, “Applicant,” “The Lover” and “The Dumb Waiter" were each written in the 1960s.
For student designers, this meant a lot of research had to be completed to ensure historical accuracy in the production. Property designer Allie Gillaspie and costume designer Jennie Allen spent several months working to find the right materials for the show.
“I spent a good amount of time in antique stores looking for different things,” Gillaspie said, who is a second year theater arts graduate student. “We’re in southwest Virginia and there’s not a lot available, so I did a lot of (online shopping) as well.”
In addition to shopping around the area, designers had to make some costumes from scratch.
“And then we make some of our pieces since we can’t find them,” said Allen, a fifth year senior theatre arts major. “We end up making dresses from scratch, and we also make suits. We also attempt to find modern pieces and alter them to make them look more (from that time) period.”
Although doing a period piece such as “Pinter Works” can often mean more work on their part, both designers agreed that the process is enjoyable.
“It’s more fun,” Allen said. “There’s more research involved, but you get to play a little bit more than with contemporary.”
‘Rosetta Stone for dialects’
In addition to creating an extra research element for the show’s designers, doing a period piece presents a challenge to the actors in the show.
According to Gregory Justice, associate professor of theatre and cinema and director of “Pinter Works,” the production features several different English dialects. These dialects denote the different social classes in British society at the time, from the more educated English of the upper class to the cockney accent of the working class.
To master these different accents, the production’s actors took lessons on their character’s specific way of speaking with a dialect coach. Coryn Carson, an actress in “Pinter Works,” says that dialect work began very early.
“Our first rehearsals as a cast started in August, but we were given our dialect coaching and study materials in June,” said Carson, senior theatre and communication double major. “We all had to have dialect, so we had to start those early.”