2012-2013 Season

A Conversation with Costume Designer, Catherine Zuber

Posted on: April 9th, 2013 by Roundabout


Costume Designer Catherine Zuber shared some of her insights and experiences with Education Dramaturg Ted Sod.


Ted Sod: Would you tell us about yourself? Where were you born? When did you realize you wanted to design costumes?

Catherine Zuber: I was born in London. My family immigrated to New York when I was nine.  The excitement of being in New York was thrilling. All the details reverberated with the exotic. The architecture was different, the cars were different, the way of life and what people ate and wore were all new to me. I think those differences informed how I examine what makes a particular world what it is. In costuming a play or an opera, I love to do the research and get inside a specific time and place. I try to inhabit the lives of the characters that are telling the story.


After I went to art school and majored in photography, I moved to New Haven with a boyfriend who was going to Yale. While I was there, I discovered costume design. I applied to the Yale School of Drama and was accepted. It was an amazing environment to learn the craft of costume design. What I really love about theatre is the collaboration among the designers, the actors, the director, the writers, the musicians, the technical people and the stage managers; the way we all come together to create something, it’s very fulfilling and exciting. Other disciplines can be very solitary in their execution.


TS: Can we talk about your first response to the play The Big Knife?

CZ: The journey of Charlie Castle is a Faustian story.  Charlie Castle’s naturalism is appealing to Hollywood and it has made him very successful.  In the process of embracing this world, he loses his soul.

Costume sketches: Catherine Zuber


TS: Tell us about your research process on this show. Did you study period newspapers or magazines?

CZ: Yes. I have a personal collection of magazines from the time period: Harper’s, Vogue, and some sewing pamphlets from various pattern companies. Also, I often go to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), which is a great resource. They have a library with a great collection of publications from all different time periods. They have plates from various department stores with images of what was for sale in a given time period. You need to think about where the characters you are designing would have shopped for their clothes. Sometimes the character is somebody who would have ordered from a Sears catalogue, or they could be a person attends the Paris couture collections for  their wardrobe. You have to consider what a character is thinking when it comes to their clothing. What is particularly interesting about The Big Knife is that it is set in Hollywood. Image is, then as now, extremely important. Flamboyance contributes to the choices that are made. Photographic research of post-war California indicates how high-style casual clothing was becoming popular. There were amazing prints and colors. Color in film was becoming more prevalent. There were leisure clothes for men where the shirts are beautifully cut, but it is a casual look.

Marin Ireland and Bobby Cannavale. Photo by Joan Marcus.

TS: Which designers influenced style at the time the play takes place?

CZ: Movie designers like Adrian had a huge influence on fashion. Hollywood costume design had a certain aesthetic that translated into what was then available in department stores. I think that, for the most part, fashions were dictated by what was happening in Paris. When you look at the late 1940s, Dior was starting to introduce the new look, which was such a departure visually from what was happening up until that point. Of course, during the war years with fabric shortages, a lot of design choices were influenced by the materials that were available. That’s why women’s dresses were quite short. After the war, there was a real interest in embracing color. Garments used more fabric and it was a very different look.

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2012-2013 Season, The Big Knife

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The Big Knife: Read, Watch, Drink

Posted on: April 9th, 2013 by Roundabout


Immerse yourself in the world of The Big Knife with our recommended reading, watching and drinking lists!

What to Read

The Noir Forties: The American People from Victory to Cold War by Richard Lingeman

A vivid re-examination of America’s postwar period, that “age of anxiety” characterized by the dissipation of victory dreams, the onset of the Red Scare, and a nascent resistance to the growing Cold War consensus.

The Time is Ripe: The 1940 Journal of Clifford Odets by Clifford Odets

This one-year diary offers insight into Clifford Odets: his ego, his seriousness about art and politics, his appetites for women, conversation and food, his love of Beethoven and other classical music, his coping with his first flop on Broadway and his interactions with Hollywood.

What to Watch

Sweet Smell of Success

The film tells the story of powerful newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker who uses his connections to ruin his sister's relationship with a man he deems inappropriate. Co-written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman.

Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco and Burt Lancaster as J. J. Hunsecker in the famous 21 Club Scene.

Out of the Past

A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

The Petrified Forest

A waitress, a hobo and a bank robber get mixed up at a lonely diner in the desert. Watch the trailer of the 1936 film that starred Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.

Angels with Dirty Faces

A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.

James Cagney as "Rocky" Sullivan. Image from Warner Bros. Studio

The Roaring Twenties

Three men attempt to make a living in Prohibitionist America after returning home from fighting together in World War I.

The Maltese Falcon

A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. 

Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

Double Indemnity

An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions.

Barbara Stanwyck & Fred MacMurray.

What to Drink

Studio Sidecar
Whiskey, triple sec, fresh lemon and lime

Movie-Land Mule
Vodka, ginger beer, fresh lime and mint

Castle Cocktail
Prosecco, brandy, sugar cube and spiced cherry bitters

These show cocktails and small plates are available before the show or by pre-ordering for intermission in American Airlines Theatre Penthouse Lounge and concessions bar in the ground floor lobby.

The Big Knife plays March 22 through June 2 at the American Airlines Theatre. For more information and tickets please visit our website.

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2012-2013 Season, The Big Knife


The Talley Trilogy by Lanford Wilson

Posted on: April 5th, 2013 by Roundabout


How many times have you reached the end of a great book or play or film and found yourself wishing that you could find out what happened to the characters next? The current trend in film is to take that emotional investment and parlay it into a sequel, often just a new iteration of the same events we saw the first time around. This premise has made billions of dollars for a variety of superhero franchises, simply swapping in a new villain each time around.

While these serialized stories have their own kind of entertainment value, there’s a different kind of richness that comes from a well-told tale that is both expansive and finite. It’s something that very few playwrights even attempt to do, but when the great ones get it right, a truly special theatrical experience is created.

Shakespeare’s history plays could be considered the progenitor of this idea, and in the modern day we’ve been graced with a very few great ones, including Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, Horton Foote’s Orphan’s Home Cycle, and, of course, Lanford Wilson’s trilogy of plays about the Talley family of Lebanon, Missouri.

Fifth of July
The last play chronologically, but the first play Lanford Wilson wrote in what would become his “Talley Trilogy.” This piece takes place on July 5th, 1977, thirty three years and one day after Talley’s Folly and Talley & Son . Kenneth Talley Jr., a paraplegic Vietnam War veteran, has moved back to his childhood home with his partner Jed. An impromptu reunion takes place over the course of the weekend. Ken’s sister, June, is visiting, along with her daughter Shirley and their Aunt Sally (the same Sally from Talley’s Folly). Ken and June’s childhood friends, John and Gwen, now country musicians, are also up for the weekend with their guitarist friend Weston. Gwen wants to buy the Talley home and turn it into her personal music studio, but Sally is not ready to give the house up. Family secrets are revealed, and the characters have to face up to past decisions that impact their future choices.

Talley’s Folly
This is the second piece in the "Talley Trilogy" and takes place simultaneously with Talley & Son. This is the only play in the trilogy where we step outside of the house and into a different area of the Talley farm. The ornate but dilapidated Victorian boat house is where Wilson places the unlikely love story of Matt Friedman and Sally Talley.

Talley & Son
This play takes place at the same time as Talley’s Folly on July 4th, 1944, but it was the last piece of the Talley Trilogy to be written. The play starts with a glimpse of Sally Talley running out of the house to find Matt Friedman after he has been run off by her brother, but much of the play revolves around Old Man Talley’s relationship with his eldest son, Buddy. Mr. Talley, despite his slow slide into dementia, refuses to give up ownership of his textile factory to his son and their business partner. Mr. Talley is determined to save the factory for youngest son Timmy to run when Timmy returns home from the war. The play is narrated by Timmy, who has been killed in the war, information that his family has not yet learned.

Talley's Folly plays at the Laura Pels Theatre through May 12. For more information and tickets, visit our website.

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2012-2013 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Talley's Folly

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