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Anna Driftmier is an MA Performance Design and Practice student and designer whose ambitious work has appeared at multiple festivals and productions from Camden to Edinburgh.
Tell us about your practice.
Recently a director jokingly commented that she could spot one of my shows in an instant. I work towards creating spaces where there is a dialogue between the performer and the designs.
Every design decision has to be backed with the knowledge of how I will budget, schedule, build, and deliver that idea. By the time the objects enter into the rehearsal space I know them so well that I can demonstrate their uses and start conversations about further ways to explore their potential.
Could you tell us in a bit more detail about Arden Creatures?
Arden Creatures is the most recent production from Footfall Theatre, an award-winning company exploring gender through re-workings of classical texts. The source material for Arden Creatures is Shakespeare's As You Like It.
In this production the traditional pastoral comedy has been re-modeled into an extremely lively, physical production of just four characters and two Klezmer musicians. It was at The Cockpit Theatre at The Camden Fringe in late August and is currently in development for a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year.
What was your main inspiration for the design of this production?
I decided to create a world based on the designs of Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement. The director and the cast had also decided they wanted to develop Shakespeare's bird references into the characters' movements and interactions.
I had started to collect a large number of Art Nouveau patterns and objects that incorporated peacocks, swans, and owls; this led to the natural development of constructing giant birdcages.
During rehearsals the show became increasingly physical, for example the cast used strength as one of the ways to redefine gender barriers. Taking inspiration from Emilie Floege and Arabic and Asian influence I used harem pants and other androgynous wear to blur the gender boundaries further whilst providing the actors with costumes that would not inhibit their movements.
How do you feel costume and set design impacts a performance?
Immensely. It is not something that can be foreseen in a script. It is something that has to be discovered through experimentation and play. However, the extent to which it is used is always based on the context of the show. Every project is different, each needs to be approached within its own context and the designs need to be developed around its unique potential.
What are the best aspects of working in performance design?
One of the best parts of my career is that I have the privilege of collaborating with so many talented people. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with video designers, film directors, fine artists, performance artists, and even an interior designer or two.
Also, I am so happy to be able to have a set of skills that I can use to contribute to great projects and great companies.
Do you have any advice for aspiring performance design and practice students?
My biggest piece of advice would be to have experience in as many different areas of performance as possible. I don’t mean just a day's experience or a weekend workshop, but at least one whole show from beginning to end as a director, as an actor, as a producer, as a lighting operator, as stage crew, as everything.
Performance is such a collaborative art and we are so interdependent on each other’s skills that we need to develop a deep level of respect for all the details of everyone's contributions. The only way you can truly appreciate this is by having experienced as much as possible first hand.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
Always! One of my favourites is an opera company that develops new opera called workshOPERA where I am an associate designer. We are currently working on bringing back the opera “East O' the Sun, West O' the Moon” which had two sold-out runs last year.
I am also currently designing a new children's opera for English Touring Opera Company, a one man show called Radioman at The Old Red Lion Theatre, a series of shows at The Vault Festival, my MA independent project (which you will see popping up in The Street early next year), and a host of other exciting possibilities.