Since Black Button Eyes Productions received eight Jeff nominations for last season’s shows, I’ve been thinking about the success of this past season and the people who made it possible. The company has had some incredible talent working with us, and the cool experiences we’ve created for audiences wouldn’t have been possible without them, and my hat is off to all the artists who contributed to last season, whether they were nominated or not. But since it’s been on my mind lately, I decided to scribble down some musings on the nominations we got, and why I’m delighted we got them. Below are some of my thoughts about the first show in our season, Nightmares & Nightcaps, and I’ll post later about Evil Dead the Musical.
Best Costume Design, Beth Laske-Miller (Nightmares & Nightcaps)
Beth has been my partner in crime for nearly all Black Button Eyes shows. She both makes it possible to realize some of the crazy ideas I have in my head as real-life costume pieces (“what if, like, this guy has a hat that opens up in the front and there’s a bunch of cogs and gears in there?”) as well as bringing her own thrilling ideas and designs to the table. It was such a pleasure to see her get recognized last season for Shockheaded Peter, and I’m pleased to see her also get recognized for a very different show with a very different look: Nightmares & Nightcaps. Particular moments I was proud of involve the sometimes sly and always appropriate pattern matching of the different characters in the different stories and vignettes- for instance, she keeps everyone in the Carter family in the story “Thus I Refute Beelzy” in matching pink and black/white stripe patterns (Mr. Carter even has pink and black argyle socks not visible in the below shot):
And of course who could miss the hysterical look and pattern matching for the Beasleys when they go on safari in the vignette “Incident on a Lake:”
What I also love about Beth’s work is that she is fearless about going for more fantastical looks when the story requires (such as when Mr. Beasley encounters the Bird of Paradise in the photo below):
…and so on and so forth. For this piece in particular, Beth really shined in fitting looks precisely to each character and world within each individual story.
Best Artistic Specialization, Jeremiah Barr (for puppet design, Nightmares & Nightcaps, The Stories of John Collier) While Nightmares & Nightcaps is a very funny piece, I have to admit some of the biggest laughs we got in the show stem from some brilliant puppets from Jeremiah Barr. Jeremiah has also been a frequent collaborator of mine, including also doing Props/Set/Puppets for Shockheaded Peter and Evil Dead the Musical. Nightmares & Nightcaps has a few puppets that are vital to the success of one of the stories, “Incident on a Lake.” First, when The Beasleys first go on safari, they have a near-miss at encountering the Armadillo, realized below by Jeremiah as an adorable, bug-eyed delight:
Second, near the end of the story, there is a brief appearance by a Megatherium poking its head through a door- the appearance is so quick we didn’t even get a photo during a run, but it left the audience in stitches. The Megatherium appears almost as a Laugh-In Joke Wall bit, sticking its head into the scene in response to a mating call. But most important of all for the success of “Incident on a Lake” is the appearance of the Lake Monster that (spoilers!) devours Mrs Beasley:
We needed something unexpected, monstrous, and with a truly significant size to chomp down on Mrs Beasley and drag her off stage, and Jeremiah succeeded with it in spades.
Best Sound Design, Robert Hornbostel, Nightmares and Nightcaps Robert Hornbostel has also been a frequent collaborator with Black Button Eyes Productions. He’s very chill and very skilled and that’s been a great combination. While he’s an absolute wizard when actors are being mic’d (as they were in Nevermore and Evil Dead the Musical) his design also undeniably enhances productions in which the actors are unamplified, like Nightmares & Nightcaps. Both while designing cues and deciding on the perfect arrangement of speakers to create the most satisfying audience experience in studio two at the Athenaeum, Robert excelled. Specific things I remember that I loved in particular:
-Placing a very assertive subwoofer backstage to help us make moments like the puppet lake monster appearing (and roaring like a T-Rex) something the audience believes and can really feel in their bones. Jeremiah’s puppet is great, but we needed that awesome roar (and the sickening crunch of bones right afterwards) to finish selling the moment.
-Creating a host of other satanic growls and roars, rushing wind, etc. as needed in the piece that help make moments like the chaotic transition below really pop:
-One important plot point in the piece is the periodic sound of a ghostly woman’s voice by the narrator. That voice is almost an additional character in the piece that is only real for the audience due to the cues Robert put together.
-Helping create the recording (including Victrola-sound artifacts and other desired distortions) of the song we use for a dance number in the show; a performance by actress Kat Evans of the thematically appropriate song ‘Ain’t We Got Fun.’
Everyone who worked on Nightmares & Nightcaps brought their best work to the table, and I’m so proud of what we all accomplished. It’s also great to see Beth, Jeremiah and Robert get the recognition they deserve. Way to go!