Workbook: The Shoplifters

Ken and Morris make a quick trip down to DC for casting and prelim discussion of design. Also to tour the beautiful Arena stage complex designed by fellow Canadian Bing Thom

Arena Stage Mead Centre for American Theatre is composed of grand public spaces and three separate theatres. Shoplifters will be performed in the 500 seat Kreeger Theatre, an intimate space with a broad apron not unlike the Vancouver Playhouse where we have done a number of shows. Because the show itself is intimate the space suits the play ideally and while there are very generous wings and flies, we wont be using much of them for this production since there in but one location; a back room in a grocery store which Ken has broadly interpreted as a kind of prison with cardboard boxes.

Ken and Morris sneak into the back of a grocery store to snap some quick photos for inspiration. Although the set will veer towards the absurd, its always best to have realistic source material, We want to capture the ambience, if not the accuracy

Veteran stage actress Jayne Houdyshell plays veteran shoplifter Alma and we are lucky to have her. Jayne has a very busy Broadway and regional career but, just like Ken and Morris, this is her first time at Arena stage, Below, Alma sidekick Phyllis played by DC actress Jenna Sokolowski. Two dynamite actresses

DC actor, Adi Stein, will play Dom, the hapless intern who needs only about seven hours to screw everything up. Of course he has a lot of help from the rest of the characters, but he also does quite well on his own as an overly eager young security guard

Delaney Williams, left, plays Otto, worn out and disillusioned security guard with his very own complicated moral code

Kens rather comic interpretation of the characters for costume sketches. In keeping with his style, there is a cheeky aspect to it all but costumes is a serious business and building from scratch as much of these pieces will be, takes the time and dedication and the skill possessed in great abundance by the Arena costume department. Far left, Jenna as Phyllis. Left, Delaney as Otto. Below, Adi as Dom and below, right, Jayne, looking every bit the trouble maker. Let the fittings begin!

Above, boxes get their logos printed on printing press on 4X8 sheets of cardboard

Actors fitted into costumes for photo shoot at local Safeway. Above left Jane and Jenna steal produce, centre Bill in uniform, right, Adi, far left Jenna in jean outfit, and immediate left Jane being apprehended by two security guards. And very far left the set comes together on stage, twenty staggering feet high of boxes, boxes, boxes

From model, above centre, to reality, above left, is a long and arduous process involving much engineering, construction, and the Arena Stage team are up to the task replicating both the detail and the spirit of Kens original idea. Below, left, Morris rewrites on the fly as rehearsals continue. The writer incorporates ideas contributed by the cast in their search for story and character, a rigorous exercise that draws together every mind in the rehearsal room