S: Often you're designing for an entire production - Set, Costume & Lights for Catalyst - and then other places such as the Pacific Opera you're only doing Set & Costumes. Do you find the process different when you're designing for one - if you are just designing Set or Costume or Light - different than if you're designing for the whole?
B: Yeah, it is different. I think you sort of dream in a different way when you're doing all three. You are working as a unified whole, right?! So, you don't know on any given day what's going to come, you know?! Something that I thought was going to be a collar turned into a skirt. Something I thought was a skirt turned into a table. You know what I mean?! (laughs)
B: That sounds really flaky but it's all true. (laughs)
S: (laughs) No, it sounds completely true.
B: So things shift. Something we built as a set piece for Hunchback I actually thought was going to be a skirt. So you know, it just ended up that that sort of overlap happened. When [I'm working] on Enron - where I was doing Set & Costumes - I don't ever design a set without imagining it lit because that's how my brain works. I can't imagine it any other way. I see it lit and I am always fascinated by materials, translucence and transformation, right, so that's how my brain works.
Now, Kevin Lamotte (Lighting Designer for Enron at Theatre Calgary], lit it. I'm not telling him how to light it in any way but he's saying to me things like "So, is there anything I should know about how you thought this might all work or come together?" So he and I are able to collaborate. [I say] "I imagine this is possible or I imagine this was possible or I'm not sure how to get this glow happening but, you know?!". And then he sort of runs with that. And, the same is true for projections. The materials that were chosen for that set. For Enron. Were chosen specifically to be lit and projected on. So, it's not about me, in a singular way. It's about the team and those guys also don't hesitate to make offers or suggestions to me about what could happen on a set or costume front. I think that is personality, right?! It's just what you're open to because that's the way that team likes to work together. So, hopefully at the end of the day, I think the goal on all shows is for it to look pretty seamless like everyone was on the project and wanting to reach the same end result, right?!
S: Yes! So, a sort of related question but a little bit different. My blog that I write is geared towards younger emerging artists so if you had some advice for young designers - or you could go back and give young Bretta advice - what advice would you give them?
B: Oh my gosh.
B: Oh wow. (laughs). What advice would I give them?! Um...
S: Yeah, people that aspire to be costume designers or production designers or....?
B: I would say... Find the joy in what you do. I would say that it can be a very challenging, cut-throat, very harsh art form because you are being criticized publicly. All the time. I would say that that is anti-creative and counter-productive. And, to stay open to possibilities. To big, big dreams. Bravery. Fearlessness. And just being really okay with diving into unknown territory. Sort of leave any sort of fears behind about judgement. Because it will happen. That's the nature of this beast. And, with your integrity intact and your honesty and spirit of wanting it to be the best possible thing it can be, whatever your working on, you can keep from getting caught in the potential muck and mire. Does that make sense?!
S: Absolutely. That's great. Yeah.
B: I would say one more thing... I would say find the thing that drives you. That excites you about getting up and doing what you do every day. And, find out what that thing is that you bring. The unique thing that you bring that you love. Because I think we get all very caught up in, you know, having to make a living at this. Because it's mad.
B: (laughs) Like totally mad.
S: (laughs) Absolutely.
B: Like no one would ever choose such madness, right?! (laughs)
S: Yeah, exactly. (laughs). I agree very much. Absolutely.
B: (laughs) So find the thing that keeps you excited and inspired and drives you forward.
S: Yeah, yeah, Absolutely! So, I'll just bring it back to Hunchback since that's kind of why I'm chatting with you (laughs).
B: (laughing). It all applies.
S: (laughs) It does all apply. It's true. So, for people that are coming to see the show soon, how would you like the audience to leave the theatre feeling? How do want people to leave Hunchback feeling or having had experienced?
(The cast of Hunchback. Photo by Ian Jackson)B: I want them to feel transported. To feel like they just went on a ride. They got on a ride and they went on a ride. (laughs). They went somewhere that wasn't driven by their brain. It was driven by their heart and gut and their soul, and they went on the ups and on the downs, and they came out the other end feeling excited, feeling moved, feeling something. That's what I want. I think that's what we all want, you know?!
B: We want to be moved. We want to be taken somewhere. And, that's what we want for Hunchback.
S: I'm excited to see it!
B: Ahhhh! I'm excited for you to see it too!
S: Were there any big surprises that came that you didn't expect, through rehearsal or through the process, that came up that you were like "oh, that surprised me the way it turned out. Or I really like this one element but I didn't kind of expect it to happen?"
B: (laughs). You ask the most impossible questions. Excellent. It's a challenge.
S: (laughing). I'm sorry!
B: (laughing) No! It's great. That's the way it should be. That's a tricky thing to say because... Seriously, every single day is a surprise! (laughs)
I'm in a constant state of "Really?! Oh my god! Okay! Really?! That's where we're going" You know?! Seriously, I'm not in Edmonton right now and right up to this very second I'm still getting texts with pictures. I have an assistant working on a bunch of improvements on the show and she's sending me these images and I'm like "oh, thank god. Now that feels right. Now that feels like it's in the right zone".
If it was one big surprise I would say that in a visual world I'm sort of shocked...
One of the people I'm living with right now was watching a tv show called "Smash". Have you heard about this new tv series?
S: Yes, I have heard about it. I haven't seen it but I've heard of it.
B: Okay, so he was watching "Smash" and Dennis [Garnhum], the director [of Carmen at Pacific Opera], and I came home from rehearsal two nights ago walked in and saw two seconds of this tv show and then it went to commercial. And, the commercial was for Hunchback!
So on the tv were all these images of Hunchback and it startled me in a way that I can't even describe to you. It went from this New York audition - which is what was going on in "Smash" - to this crazy visual world of Hunchback. And, what surprised me was, that I'm so in that zone all the time I always think that what we do is kind of normal. Then when I see it butted up against something that's real. Like real people in an audition in New York. I'm like (laughs) what we do is stranger than I ever give it credit for.
(Molly Flood. Photo by Layla Hyde)
So, I don't know how to describe that but I think it is just the butting up of reality [against] this kind of dreamworld [of Hunchback]. I catch myself a little bit and I go "oh, wow, okay, yeah, now I get it, why people say it's not what they expected". Because it takes a minute to immerse yourself in that universe. Does that make sense?!
S: Yes, that when you're so involved in something and you do it so often that then to stand back and see it on tv butted up against something else you go "oh, right, yeah okay, I get that."
B: Yes, and its context right?! You're used to being in the zone and you don't see it as odd and then to see it contextually on tv that I just went "Wow, yeah, that makes statement" (laughs).
S: Yes, absolutely (laughs). Well, I don't have too many other questions. Is there anything else you wanted to say about Hunchback or your design process or anything before I let you go after taking almost an hour of your time (laughs)?
B: (laughs). I don't know. I don't think so. I think you've probably covered a great deal of it. More than many. (laughs).
S: Oh! Well...good I'm glad. (laughs).
B: It's great! It's lovely to talk to you. And, I hope that people come and enjoy.
And, there you have it folks. Bretta Gerecke. It was such a pleasure to be able to chat with her and I love what she had to say to young aspiring artists and designers: Find the joy.
Tickets and more information on Hunchback can be found on the Vancouver Playhouse website. It officially opens February 23rd and then will run until March 10th. Get your tickets now before they are gone!!