Producing Marisol Marisol, a play written by Jose Rivera, is the play I enjoyed reading the most this semester. Rivera, one of the leading contemporary Latin American playwrights, writes with an image. After reading Marisol, I came away with a very specific picture of what Rivera had in mind. He easily combines the realistic moments of life, the dangers of the Bronx, dealing with an emotionally unstable young man, Lenny, and the friendships developed with those we work with, with his world on the verge of apocalypse where the mundanities of life we take for granted have changed. Marisol has elements of pure theology where Rivera’s own possible musings are written in to his characters.
These elements include the appearance of Marisol’s guardian angel in Marisol’s dreams, the threat to Marisol’s life in the form of a woman turned to a pile of salt and the smoke from a fire in Ohio blocking the sun in New York City. These all occur in the first act before the War of the Heavens begins. This play was written in the early nineties, copyright 1992, 1994, and revised and copyrighted 1999. Rivera was very specific in his stage directions and overall views of the design and production of the play in order to facilitate his image. These stage directions and other designs should be followed by the people producing his play in order to produce the image the play means to impart to the audience.
He poises a gold crown, suspended in the air over the set, over the actors, over all of his creation, signifying God. But this crown, this God, remains motionless, remains detached from all the proceedings. To support his unnervingly imminently apocalyptic world, the mundanities that we would take for granted that are missing from Marisol’s world, like the moon and the extinction of coffee, are dropped to the audience in a conversation between June, a co-worker and Marisol’s best friend, and Marisol at work(Rivera 22-23). To accomplish the subtlety of unnerving the audience, Rivera gives a perfect office building; two desks, a radio, books, papers, the New York Post (Rivera 20) contrasting perfectly with the utter absurdity of facts pouring out of their mouths. This show should be done in a small theatre, and for design explanations, I will use the Studio Theatre at Towson University.
This will allow the action to be closest to the audience, including them in the show. The set would consist of three brick walls painted directly onto the walls of the theatre. The wall behind the center rows of seats would remain black due to seat proximity. The back wall of the staging area (backing the scene shop) would be painted to the rafters , leaving the balcony itself black but the wall behind the upper balcony painted. The wall would have faux windows with iron gates on them running horizontally at about four feet above the floor.
The two side walls would also have brick running up above the balcony. The two side walls would be completely masked by a black dropcloth for the first act. There would be two wagons used in Act One, neither bigger than 8 feet (which I am guessing to be the width of the scene shop door). The graffiti’d poem, The moon carries the souls of dead people to heaven./The new moon is dark and empty./It fills up every month/with glowing new souls/and carries its silent burden to God./Wake Up. (Rivera, 9) will be painted on the scene shop door which will remain closed. All entrances and exits will be from the four studio doors.
The exterior door of the studio will be Marisol’ s apartment door and have a series of locks she will lock behind her. It will only be used once. There will be a ladder from the balcony to the floor that the angel will use for her entrances. It will lock onto the bars for support. On one of the wagons will be June’s kitchen, and the other will be Marisol’s apartment, including bed, table, lamp, and clock (Rivera 12).
The office will be downstage with the two desks, chairs and props wheeled in from opposing house doors and meeting in the middle. The gold crown will hang from the upstage center of the theatre. Act Two will see the removal of the two wagons to the scene shop during intermission and the removal of the two black drops from the side brick wall paintings. The addition of various and asundry trash cans, trash, and piles of junk will help to transform the studio during intermission. There are three sections of sidewalk making an I shape onstage, running across the backwall, down centrestage and across the foot of the stage area. The ladder between Marisol and her angel will also disappear. This should complete the feeling of being in a familiar, yet completely different place, which is where Marisol ends up.
Costumes for Marisol are relatively simple, the play being a contemporary piece, yet again, in some places Rivera leaves very specific instructions. Marisol wears a simply cut but very nice dress with a long winter coat with matching scarf and gloves. She will change into flannel pajamas in the third scene in act one. For work the next day she wears a suit, but she looks not quite as well put together as she did in the first outfit. Her hair is pulled back, but almost unkempt.
Her scarf is crooked and there is a run in her stockings. Later that day, she changes clothing when she packs to move in with June. She is wearing jeans with running shoes, a shirt with a sweater over it. Those are the same clothes she wears through the end of the play. Rivera maps out both of Angel’s costumes. The first act sees Angel in ripped jeans, sneakers and black T-shirt.
Crude silver wings dangle limply from the back of the Angel’s diamond-studded black leather jacket. (Rivera 9) At the end of act one, Angel has changed. The Angel wears regulation military fatigues, complete with face camouflage and medals.. The Uzi is strapped to her back. (Rivera 35) The Man with Golf Club is simply wearing rags, a filthy black T-shirt and ripped jeans..His shoes are rags (Rivera 10) June has short red hair, gelled in a spiky hairdo. She has a nose ring and many earrings.
She wears a calf length flared skirt in green, slit on both sides up to the knee with brown calf high boots with thick heels. A brown button up shirt with big cuffs and a matching green shirt underneath. Her dark gray peacoat is thrown over her chair. Later in act two she is dressed like a skinhead, her short hair slicked down, with black army boots, beat up green army jacket and surplus pants. Woman in Furs is dressed in a dirty fur coat with silk pajamas and matching high heels.
Man with Scar Tissue is in a wheelchair, wearing shredded, burnt rags. He wears a hood which covers his head and obscures his face. He wears sunglasses and gloves. (Rivera 41) Lighting in this show in act one could be limited to area washes mostly. There will be light amber and amber gels interspersed with non gelled lights. There would be a dim series upstage for in the subway.
There is a special at the top of the ladder for Angel. There is a section for Marisol’s apartment, the office and June’s apartment. There will be several white Frenels for effects, like in I iv when the woman outside Marisol’s door turns to salt. There will be a red special to mix in for when the angel drops her wings of peace. During intermission all the previously non gelled washes will be gelled primary blue to lend an unusual and different feel to the second act.
Marisol by Jose Rivera is a play requiring some very specific elements from the designers in order to stay true to the author’s image. This unnerving image of reality gone wrong in a pre-apocalyptic world carries the audience through the play by being close to them and dragging the audience into his vision too. Bibliography Rivera, Jose. Tape Humana Festival ’93: The Complete Plays.Ed. Marisa Smith. Smith and Kraus:1993.
211-218. Rivera, Jose. Marisol. New York, NY: Dramatist’s Play Service, Inc, 1999.