Friday, June 30, 2017

SRT's "Forbidden City: Portrait of An Empress" 2017: Diva's Interview with Costume Designer Yang DeRong

A musical extravaganza about the life of Empress Dowager Cixi, "Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress" will return to the stage for the 4th time at the Esplanade beginning 8 August 2017.

The SRT production, developed by Stephen Clark, Dick Lee and Steve Dexter, was first staged in 2002 as part of the Esplanade's opening. Since then, the play has another two sold out shows in 2003 and 2006. The star of the show, Kit Chan, will return in the main role of Cixi for the 2017 production.

With an epic spanning over decades, "Forbidden City" is a large set with several period costumes hailing from the last dynasty in China. This is a huge undertaking for any costume designer, and that's where talented local designer Yang DeRong comes in to the picture.

Veteran fashion designer Yang DeRong spent several years abroad working with names like Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and fashion group Esprit. He is now back home and has been involved in many high profile international and government projects, including being SG50 NDP Art Director and Costume Designer.

Yang loves the theatre, and his craft has been seen in productions like Theatreworks "The Elephant Man" (1987), SRT's "The Dresser", NUS Cultural Centre's "Man of Letters" and "Beauty World" (2016) by Singapore Street Festival.

He was also designer for SRT's previous run of "Forbidden City" in 2003, and will return to work on this year's production.

Red Dot Diva managed to get hold on Yang DeRong to ask him some nosy questions:

Red Dot Diva: What is it about "Forbidden City" that draws you back to working in it?
YDR: It's a great show with a great production value and It's a privilege to be working on it again as it's successfully being re staged for the fourth time!

Red Dot Diva: Are there any major changes made to the costumes since the musical's last run?
YDR: There are some changes to enhance the overall look and feel of some characters. Lots of tweaks overall here and there and lots of enhancements and remake as well due to the wear and tear of some of the items and accessories . Also there some complete changes to some characters' costumes.

Red Dot Diva: Which "Forbidden City" character's costumes were the most complex, and why?
YDR: That really depends what you mean complex. HAHA... in forbidden city the ensemble has to play many "roles" throughout the musical - from peasants/commoners to concubines/courtesans and army/guards so you can imagine the "transformation" they have to go through with a quick change in hair make up, costumes, right down to their shoes!!! and imagine if you have a big ensemble - then you have to cope with "transforming" 10, 20 people in a very short time!

Red Dot Diva: Have you ever faced an unforgettable costume accident when a production is live on stage?
YDR: We have a GREAT costume/wardrobe team working on the show and so far it has been running very smoothly! However it's hard to predict what happens on stage - like when one of the characters accidentally pulled on a necklace in the act while in motion and the beads fall all over the stage ...

Red Dot Diva: How did you deal with that incident?
YDR: We picked up all the beads after the show and strung them back!
Red Dot Diva: Ha! That's amazing!

Red Dot Diva: Which costume designers do you look up to?
YDR: Eiko Ishioka and Colleen Atwood are some of the costume designers I look up to because I admire and love how they bring a character ALIVE with what they create, and provide the "foundation/transformation" for the actors/characters to further enhance the role with their acting/ singing/ dancing skill and art.

Red Dot Diva: Any advice for aspiring costume designers?
YDR: Bring your characters alive, and sometimes make them larger than life and be part of the experience. NO DETAIL IS SMALL. RESEARCH + IMAGINATION + GO ALL THE WAY POSSIBLE.

Red Dot Diva: In five words, describe what you think the audience can expect from "Forbidden City" 2017.


Thanks to SRT for the interview opportunity!

Also, check out Red Dot Diva's interviews with Dick Lee and Cheryl Tan!


Tickets for "Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress" are available at SISTIC!

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