Monday, October 6, 2014

CORALINE: Our Director

As a 2002 book (and audio book), a 2009 stop-motion film (and video game) Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is already a modern classic, especially for parents and children who’ve grown up with the story in their childhood.

 “People who know the book or the movie will love the musical,” director Rae Robison believes. “The musical is more like the book. It has the same characters—the movie added others—and it has the same mood. The elements that have been expanded upon in the music are really book-driven. The movie is kind of Disney-dark rather than Brothers Grimm dark. The book and the musical are more closely related to the Brothers Grimm.”

 But those who don’t know Coraline in any of its forms are in for a special treat—of discovery. “Neil Gaiman really is a gem. He’s one of those rare writers that no matter what he comes out with, I’m going to buy it.”

 “The things he comes up with are so original. He’s dark but he’s also very funny. Parts of this show are hilarious. There are scary moments but there’s also a lot of humor and a lot of fun.”

 “I love this show because it doesn’t matter how old you are. Coraline is a children’s story but it’s about what it means to be brave, and that’s for everybody.”

Parental Advisory

 “There’s nothing inappropriate in the show but some of it might be too scary for young children. Some nine year-olds would be fine, but maybe not others. The Other Mother gets to be a scary character. She starts out looking like the perfect June Cleaver and gradually evolves into this hideous monster, and that can be pretty scary. All we’ve done is reveal who she really is.”

 But it’s not scary just to be scary. The story has positive messages, and Coraline is a kind of role model. “She’s a very determined little kid, and very funny.”

The Music

Prepared piano, using rubber erasers, playing cards
slivers of wood, etc. to create particular effects 
As a musical, Coraline is different in several ways, from composer Stephin Merritt’s experimental style to the unique instrumentation that’s required.

 “We have six toy pianos that accompany quite a few of the songs. Toy pianos have an odd sound to them—that merry-go-round, circusy feel. There’s nothing more childlike that these toy pianos—childlike, and creepy.”

 There are also two normal-sized piano, but one of them is “prepared.” “We received a sheet of instructions, apparently from Stephin Merritt, on how to modify a piano to create effects when certain keys were played—like the sound of wind or rain, or animal noises.”

 The HSU Production

 “This is a fast-paced, short show—I’m aiming for an hour and twenty minutes. It’s a one act, played without intermission, because there’s no good place to stop once this train gets going.”

"We're proud to be the first university to do this show. I have a great cast. It’s a real ensemble—everybody but the actors who play Coraline and the Other Mother play more than one role. Even when they’re not on stage they’re singing. It takes everyone working together. We’ve got several freshmen, some new majors, a couple of graduating seniors—it’s a nice mix, a really tight little company."

"I have student designers in all the areas. We have large-scale puppets, shadow puppets, masks—everything we can do to tell the story. We’re basically following Coraline around—we see what she sees. So we always ask ourselves, how would a kid see this."

  The set is meant to keep the action continuous rather than build a complete world.
 “Our set is very place inspecific—we do a lot of interpretation by lighting. Kids don’t need to see the castle walls to imagine they are climbing a tower. Kids use their imagination and that’s what we’re suggesting.”

 More About Gaiman 

 “I spent all last summer reading and listening to his books like Neverwhere, American Gods and The Graveyard Book—I think he’s just amazing. I love to listen to the audiobooks because he generally narrates, and he has this delicious delivery that’s so colorful. I gave the audiobook of Coraline to the whole cast because listening to him reading the entire story really imparts those characters.”

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