Costume Designer Kendra Rai looks to the ancient world for “…Nightingale”

The costumes for The Love of the Nightingale promise to be a mix of ancient shapes and modern interpretations in the unique way that only Kendra Rai can do. We had a chance to sit down with Kendra and talk about designing costumes for this production. The sketches are all Kendra’s originals.

What was your inspiration for the costumes? 

The Love of the Nightingale costumes reflect the periodic which it takes place. We considered going modern but the stories and situations in the play were definitely from another time in history:  we went right to the Athenians for answers! This is a Greek world.

Blog.sistersIn the play a simple formula is to see the casts in black and white – good and bad. The Athenians – Procne and Philomele and their chorus, are good. Their costumes carry Greek outlines from the ancient world. They flow, they drape, they are beautiful.

Procne and Philomele are Athenians, and  the daughters of the King of Athens

By the way…there are no togas!

The Thracians - or Tereus’s clan and chorus, are darker, “not so nice” in common parlance. Their costumes tend to be darker, harder, more rigid, with asymmetrical lines.


Greek mythologyThrax (by his name simply the quintessential Thracian
was regarded as one of the reputed sons of the god Ares, the God of War

The Chorus’ presented some unique problems because the actors switch sides and costumes again and again, and quickly. Theoretically, we know how difficult it is to go from dark to light and back again in seconds! So we created base costumes with pieces that the Chorus adds for the two cultures. The Athenians have long veils with gold accents, while the Thracians have black leather and silver/metal accents.

What is your favorite costume in the show?

My favorite is the Captain costume for Ashley Ivey. I love Ashley Ivey! (Kendra has costumed Blog.CaptainAshley in over ten productions). Although Ashley’s Captain is Thracian he is a softer character and Philomele actually falls in love with him. We made the Captain a beautiful leather coat with asymmetrical lines. He looks amazing in it.

How much can you tell us about the birds?

In the myth, the main characters turn into birds at the end of the play.  From a costume standpoint, this switch happens really quickly. But we were able to add masks, capes and in a few cases, wings,  that quickly change the characters into beautiful birds: swallow, nightingale, hoopoe.

You had some masks made for the show, too?

Yes, I designed several masks for the play within the play: the story of Phaedra, who falls in love with Hippolytus, the son of her husband. I had two mask builders who took my drawings and made them. We were able to duplicate Grecian Theatre Masks for this play, which are really gorgeous and exciting.

blog.Play One word to describe The Love of the Nightingale?


Thank you Kendra!

Constellation Theatre Company and the power of myth

With The Love of the Nightingale, Constellation will have five epic mythical tales in their production history: The Ramayana, The Arabian Nights, Metamorphoses and Gilgamesh.
The Love of the Nightingale, 2014

The Love of the Nightingale, 2014

Founding Artistic Director and Nightingale Director Allison Arkell Stockman, wrote: “As an undergrad comparative religion major I was very drawn to Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey, all of those ideas of myths and milestones that are seen repeated between cultures and throughout time.
Myths are larger than life and often incorporate call to adventure, initiation, ordeals, trials, sacrifice, resurrection.  This is a world of symbols, dreams, otherworldly mentors and guides.  They are imaginative and spectacular, and they reflect on a grand scale the core milestones that ordinary humans go through over the course of their life.  They connect the past to the present.  They allow us to understand ourselves and the world around us on a deeper level.”
“I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman or child.” 
― Joseph CampbellThe Power of Myth

Metamorphoses, 2012

About The Love of the Nightingale, Allison wrote: “This myth is a vehicle for us to express and process the darkest desires of the human heart.  It is a complex world in which both love and violence are beautiful and terrifying.  Tereus, the King of Thrace, is a war hero who has liberated Athens by conquering the invading army.  His physical prowess and steely courage are celebrated, but when violent tendencies emerge later we find ourselves condemning the warrior we once adored.  Wertenbaker gives us glimmering moments of love, both familial and romantic.  The strength of the sisters’ bond drives the play.  The romance between Philomele and the Captain allows them to feel “the gods within us.”  Yet, the god of love can also be cruel, even merciless, fueling a fiery passion that can be all consuming. The script, both witty and lyrical, allows this classical tale to resonate sharply today.”
Please join us for this powerful story!
The Love of the Nightingale runs April 24 – May 25.Pay-What-You-Can Previews: April 24 & 25 at 8:30 pm and April 26 at 8 pm.Post Show Talkbacks on Sunday, May 4 & Saturday, May 17 after 2 pm performance

Join us for Post Show Talkbacks on Sunday, May 4 & Saturday, May 17 after 2 pm performance.

Andreu Honeycutt as Enkidu with Gilgamesh

Andreu Honeycutt as Enkidu with Gilgamesh

“The Love of the Nightingale” alights at Constellation, April 24 – May 25

In a world of passion and violence, two sisters are driven to do the unimaginable.

Against a backdrop of war, two loving sisters are separated by a royal marriage and a vast ocean. Ever curious about the world, young Philomele bravely takes a voyage on the high seas in hopes of a reunion. While the stars may guide the ship’s course, danger is in the air. Our heroine must use her creativity to reveal the truth. Olivier Award-winning playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker adapts Ovid’s mythical tale about family loyalty, desire and betrayal.


With Live Music by Helen Hayes Award Winner Tom Teasley

Directed by Constellation Founding Artistic Director, Allison Arkell Stockman

Lawyer’s Night Out – Friday Jan 31 at Matchbox

Constellation Theatre Company’s Lawyers’ Committee and friends gathered for a pre-show party at Matchbox on 14th St with a great crowd of about 50 people.  Special thanks to Board Member Scott Chatham and the SunTrust Private Wealth Management Legal Specialty Group for making a contribution to the event!  We were joined by Seth Waxman, who later made an appearance in the performance of SCAPIN.

At a regular performance of SCAPIN, one of the characters, Argante, goes in search of a lawyer to get his son’s marriage annulled, yet he never retains counsel.  However, on Lawyers’ Night Out, Argante boldly insisted that he would hire a lawyer who had argued in front of the Supreme Court, who was an honorary Special Agent of the FBI, and who was even a former Solicitor General and Seth Waxman stepped out of the audience to oblige.  The charismatic Waxman gave the clown guidance and advice that delighted the actors and audience alike, even though it turned out that a farce is settled not in court, but in a chase.

Constellation welcomes people to future Lawyers’ Night Out events!  We had a blast!

And special thanks to Edward Cragg for the wonderful photos!

Director’s Notes: Scapin’s Kathryn Chase Bryer shares her experience

Director Kathryn Chase Bryer, or Kate, sent us this piece she wrote for the Imagination Stage blog (where she works) about her experience working with Constellation Theatre and on Scapin. Scapin opened January 16 and will run through February 16. We’re excited to report its getting fabulous reviews! Meanwhile, here are great thoughts from Kate.


Kate Bryer speaking at a Design Presentation

In the spring of 2013, Allison Stockman, Artistic Director for the DC-based company Constellation Theatre wrote to ask if I would consider directing a show for their 2013-14 Season.  I have long been an admirer of this company, which won the 2009 Helen Hayes Award for Best Emerging Company.  Additionally, I have attended most of their productions since their inception in 2007, often hiring some of the same actors and designers to work at Imagination Stage.  I have been at Imagination Stage for over 25 years and have been devoted to my work here in directing, developing new scripts for the world of children’

Constellation Theatre's marquee at Source

Constellation Theatre’s marquee at Source

s theatre, and most recently uniting Theatre and Education in our Early Childhood department. I was quite taken by surprise when Allison inquired about my interest in directing at Constellation, but after talking with Janet Stanford and Bonnie Fogel,  (Imagination Stage Artistic Director and Executive Director), I was excited to take on this project! After reading many scripts and talking, we settled on Scapin by Moliere, as Allison and A.J. Guban, the Managing Director, felt that their audience would really love to see a comedy. Since the script has been adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark McDonnell, we all felt that this would be an accessible and fun theatre experience for a modern audience.

One of the exciting aspects of this union for me was to learn new ideas from another theatre company.  Having worked at Imagination Stage for so long, we have our own way of doing things, and I was really curious to see how another theatre company conducted auditions and the design process. Once we cast the show in July 2013 (this was very early for Constellation as the show did not go into rehearsal until December, but at

The Cast of Scapin

The Cast of Scapin

Imagination Stage we do tend to cast early), we began the design process the very next month with a full read through with the cast.  We had never done a read through this early at Imagination Stage, and I thought it was such a great idea to have the design team hear the actors that they were designing for before actually coming up with ideas. I hope to be able to do this at Imagination Stage in the future.

After much planning and designing, we started rehearsals on December 2. We rehearsed 6 days a week, from 6:30-10:30 p.m. and then took a week off for the holidays. I went to Imagination Stage every day from 9:00-5:00 p.m., then got in the car with Nick Vargas (my Assistant  Director for Scapin), who happens to also to work as the Casting Associate and Coordinator for Early Childhood Theatre at Imagination Stage, to head down to Source Theatre for rehearsals. Near tech week, we ended up going out to the shop where they build the set so that we could actually rehearse on the set before going into the final week of rehearsal (another great Constellation idea!)  I was tired working at both theatres, but I was also exhilarated by all that I was learning and all of the great people I was getting to work with.

Michael Glenn as Scapin

Having now opened the show, as I sit back and look at the experience, I think the one thing that strikes me is how NOT VERY DIFFERENT this experience was from directing at Imagination Stage. Yes, there were new people to meet and work with and new systems to get to know, but the bottom line was that theatre is theatre, and I knew that my artistic sensibility and the things that I value when it comes to making good theatre (good writing, good actors, an ensemble, the play is the thing—all things lead to the production, and a genuine desire to want to make a great experience for everyone involved—actors, designers, crew, and the audience) were the same as those that are important at Constellation. For me, directing for adults was the same as directing for children, because in the end, we worked together to create a great experience for everyone involved.