Theatre The Sultan’s Dilemma

Theater
“The Sultan’s Dilemma”, Al Hakim, 1960
International Voices Project, Chicago, IL – April 2013

Stage directors: Patricia Acerra and Hassan Amejal
Costume designer : Meriem Bahri
Photographer : Scott Dray

WHAT WAS ONE OF THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES IN YOUR COSTUMING CHOICES?

For any project I’m working on, my motto is simple: the story first. In other words, that means that every parts of what will make the whole show have to tell the same story we’re presenting to the audience. In my opinion, the costumes serve the story by making clear the visual identification of each character or group of characters and highlight their roles in the story as well as their personality, according to the stage director’s vision. So it’s very important to be always on the same wavelength than the director so the action, the gestures and the costumes can make an easy-to-read and pleasant ensemble in the public eyes.

DID YOU REFER TO ANY IMAGES OR IDEAS IN PARTICULAR?

Yes. After reading the play and discussing with the stage director of what they want in terms of general image, I’ve collected pictures for every character. The story takes place during the Egyptian Mamluk period but even if this time period covers several centuries of history, no specific date was mentioned by the author, certainly by purpose. In this respect, the paintings selected to make my inspirational boards for colors and styles, go over the whole Egyptian Mamluk period. Thus, the design was lead more by the role/position that each character symbolizes, than by high historical precision. Seeing the comedians rehearsing also gave me some new ideas to improve the costumes!

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU DURING THIS PROJECT?

My biggest challenge was to work differently that I’m used to do, i.e. designing from scratch. For this production, we had the chance to borrow very beautiful pieces of costumes from the Looking glass Theater. Working with these pre-existing elements has defined the first layer of my palette and certainly boosted my imagination to create a harmonious visual atmosphere!