La Esquinita is a series that serves as a production notebook for Latina/o designers and artisans working on stages across the nation. In La Esquinita, designers and artisans share their process and production work, plus overall thoughts on dynamic collaboration. This series will provide glimpses of the off-stage world where you will find these master artisans, technicians, and designers remembering and retelling their experiences in creating the evocative theatrical landscapes we see today. Welcome to our corner!
On Collaborating with Campo Santo
Courtney: I met Tanya Orellana and Alejandro Acosta many years ago while I was working as Wardrobe Supervisor on a production at Z Space. But knew very little about Campo Santo when I was first asked to design costumes. They approached me during a tequila tasting pre-show at John Leguizamo’s one man show at Berkeley Rep. At the time, I had no idea that this production was to be the first of many that I would design for them for years to come.
Working with Campo Santo has impacted me in many ways in both my professional and personal life. Campo Santo has become my theatre home. Sean San Jose, one of the founding members, has a way of making everyone feel at ease, comfortable, trusted, and respected. There is a shorthand I already have when I work with Campo Santo’s crew. We know each other’s methodology and process of art making. For example, we know each designer’s style, the director’s style, the playwright’s style, and the actors’ styles. And most importantly, we are very aware of what works best when we are all together. As a company, Campo Santo reflects the diversity that surrounded me growing up; so I’ve always felt at home working with this theatre ensemble.
As a company, Campo Santo reflects the diversity that surrounded me growing up; so I’ve always felt at home working with this theatre ensemble.
Campo Santo works primarily on new plays and with playwrights that create culturally diverse plays, and theatre experiences that reflect the lives of the San Francisco Bay Area community. For Habibi, we explored the stories of Palestinian immigrants and their Palestinian-American children, arriving and settling in their new home here. In Chasing Mehserle, we explored the aftermath of the Oscar Grant death and impact on the Black community in Oakland. These were two very different plays that were powerful and beautiful, created specifically to educate and pass these stories forward.
All of the productions that I design for Campo Santo are set in contemporary, or present time. I’ve only designed something once that was earlier and it was for a co-production with Campo Santo and Cutting Ball Theatre for the play Superheroes, which is set in the 1980s and 1990s. I think contemporary shows often get overlooked and are viewed as easy productions to design, but often they are not. Designing so many contemporary plays in a row has made me more conscious about small details that anchor the characters in a particular neighborhood within a city or a state of mind; whether it’s a sticker on a flat back cap brim, or a particular fit, which is even more important.
When working on characters “that live” around the Bay Area, I try to highlight the small nuances and complexities of both Oakland and San Francisco. For Oakland in the 2010s (Chasing Mehserle), I dressed the cast in jeans, T-shirts, Hoodies and Dickies. It took me a few tries to get the right T-shirt sleeve length and the fit for the jeans for the young men in Oakland. Similarly, The River, set in San Francisco, had two unique lead characters. These two self-absorbed, gay hipsters were specifically written as the poster people for gentrification. They were very outrageous and very San Francisco! I dressed one actor in bright orange skinny jeans and a fitted red hoodie; and the other in purple skinny jeans, a striped t-shirt and blue cardigan. They were over the top characters with an over the top style, and presented a very clear image to the audience.
Courtney Flores was born, raised, and still resides in San Leandro, California; she calls the San Francisco Bay Area her home. Courtney joined Campo Santo in 2010. She holds an Associate of Arts in Fashion Design and Merchandising from College of Alameda, a Bachelor of Arts in Technical Theatre from California State University Hayward, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts (Technical Design and Production) from San Francisco State University.
I think contemporary shows often get overlooked and are viewed as easy productions to design, but often they are not.
Although her original passion was to design costumes for film, Courtney fell in love with theatre as an undergraduate student at California State University East Bay and has never looked back. She has been designing costumes for theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2003. Courtney has designed with the following theatres: Renegade Theatre Experiment, Impact Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Triangle Lab (Campo Santo and California Shakespeare Festival), Alter Theatre Ensemble, Los Altos Stage Company, African American Shakespeare Company, Shotgun Players, Douglas Morrison Theatre, Cutting Ball Theater, and soon with Golden Thread Theatre Company.
Campo Santo Productions include:
- Habibi by Sharif Abu-Hamdeh, directed by Omar Metwally (Campo Santo and Intersection For The Arts, 2010).
- The River by Richard Montoya, directed by Sean San Jose (Campo Santo and Intersection For The Arts, 2013).
- Alleluia, The Road by Luis Alfaro, directed by Jonathan Moscone (Triangle Lab: California Shakespeare Festival, Campo Santo and Intersection For The Arts, 2013).
- Chasing Mehserle by Chinaka Hodge, directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Sean San Jose (The Living Word Project [Youth Speaks] Campo Santo and Intersection For The Arts, 2014).
- Superheroes written and directed by Sean San Jose (Cutting Ball Theater and Campo Santo, 2014).
- Nogales (staged reading) written by Richard Montoya, Sean San Jose, and Joan Osato, and directed by Sean San Jose (ICTUS and Campo Santo, 2015).
- Babylon is Burning written by Star Finch; created by Campo Santo and Felonious; directed by Sean San Jose (Circuit Network, Felonious, Campo Santo, 2016)