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Scenes from the Parsons/Mannes Opera Collab: “Il Postino”

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AMT caught up with students and faculty of the Parsons and Mannes Opera collab class during crunch time–the final crazed but exciting weeks of production. The whole team has been preparing all semester for the performances of “Il Postino” happening this Friday and Saturday (5/9, 5/10) at the Kaye Theater at Hunter College, and were kind enough to share their insights and excitement while putting the finishing touches on the prop and costume elements.

Students on the props team were hard at work at instructor John Jerard’s incredible prop studio in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he and his partner Mary Creede work on props, set pieces and structural costumes all year long for Broadway.

When asked if she was stressed about getting all the props finished in time, BAFA student Anna Kaller, studying Interior Design and Visual Arts, reported that while it had been a hectic schedule, John and Mary had been incredible at keeping them on track.

John Jerard noted that the nature of a production schedule vs. an academic schedule was something that all the students had to adjust to: “There’s no turning things in a week late,” he said with a chuckle. Some of John’s other favorite production credos voiced during the class: “Keep track of your tools,” “Measure twice, cut once,” and, in reference to some cardboard signs made to look like wood, “It’s really important that the actor not feel burdened.”

Mochi Liu, an Architecture student, said that the best part of the collab was the array of options offered to the students. The class began with all of the students meeting with both instructors, John Gerard and Genevieve Jezick, and learning about the various forms that Il Postino has taken. The class read the book, watched the movie, read the libretto, and then were encouraged to let their imaginations fly, designing for any era and concept they could imagine. Later, they learned the value of designing within limitations: this version of Il Postino would be going the traditional route–taking place in 1950s, small-village Italy. The students got the chance to “try a bit of everything,” said Mr. Liu. Before committing to the props team, Liu worked on costumes, making the postman’s hat. Sewing was “not new for him”, he said, as he’d taken sewing classes as at Parsons previously.

Product Design student Adrian Kwak said that many of the skills she’d learned in Foundation Year–including model making–applied to this class. She found building the battery box and learning to replicate wood grain on cardboard were among her favorite assignments.

Back at 2 West 13th St., Fashion instructor Genevieve Jezick, with help from Soft Structures faculty Kirk Larsen, was helping students to crank out the last of the costume pieces.

Jezick is no stranger to costume design–having owned a dance studio for 30 years, and costuming for film, dance and off-broadway productions.

Integrated Design student Alexis Fournier also enjoyed the “little bit of everything” approach to the class. While she entered the class thinking she’d end up working in costuming, she found she also really loved working on the props. “I’m really into Halloween,” she said with a smile. She stayed on with costuming due to her much needed hand-sewing skills, which she was then using on a belly pillow to indicate a character’s pregnant state.

BFA Illustration student, Roshni Kochnar, on the projection team, was wonderful at explaining the trajectory of the class, guiding me along their research and inspiration walls. She enjoyed making set models and learning about fashion illustration.

Please come experience the results of this incredible collaboration!

Mannes Opera Presents: Il Postino by Daniel Catán, Performance 1
Friday, May 9, 2014 at 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
The Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College
695 Park Avenue, New York, NY

Mannes Opera Presents: Il Postino by Daniel Catán, Performance 2
Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
The Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College
695 Park Avenue, New York, NY

Under the direction of Artistic Director Joseph Colaneri, the critically acclaimed Mannes Opera Young Artists present a complete, fully staged performance in collaboration with the Mannes Orchestra. The opera for this spring production is “Il Postino” by Daniel Catán. This production will be a design collaboration between Parsons The New School for Design & The Mannes Opera.

Tickets: $25; students/seniors: $10; FREE with The New School ID on the day of the performance, while seating is available.

Call the Kaye Box Office at 212.772.4448.

Article and photos by Leslie Fierro

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