From San Fran to the Everyman

American set and costume designer Lisa Zagone has been involved in theatre in Cork for 13 years.

When Lisa Zagone from San Francisco ended up in Cork on holidays 13 years ago, she fell for the city and made her way to the Opera House to make enquiries about work.

Within two days of meeting her, Declan O’Mullane, now stage manager of the Cork Opera House, proposed to the smitten American. They married and now have a 10-year-old daughter.

Zagone is now the costume and set designer for Jack and the Beanstalk, the pantomime at the Everyman in Cork. Her studio in the Camden Palace Hotel arts centre in Cork is like an Aladdin’s Cave, full of the colourful tools of her trade.

Zagone says she approaches each job with a sense of challenge. She says it’s unusual for one person to be responsible for both the set and costume design. “But I like doing both. The costumes have to complement the set. I have an overall vision of what the entire show will look like and how the set is going to function.”

Since arriving in Cork, Zagone worked mainly with the Opera House but has now crossed the river to the city’s other main theatre.

Zagone has been working in set and costume design for 26 years, having started at 16. She considers everything she creates as being part of a larger body of her work. “I put my own style into design in the same way I would if I was painting.”

Zagone says she was careful not to step on anyone’s toes when she decided to work and live in Cork. “But I brought my own way of doing things to Cork. My sets push the envelope and are a little bit more sculptural than what I saw when I first came here. I started using new and different materials that are now commonly used here, such as camouflage netting, polystyrene and plastics for making masks and shaped objects.

“Instead of painting a backdrop, I use a form of plastic that looks like brick from a distance. I used a lot of that for the 1916 Rising scenes in ‘Michael Collins, the Musical’.”

Fascinated with the strong tradition of pantomime in Ireland, Zagone says it took her a while to get her head around the notion of the dame.

“Coming from San Francisco means I’m used to men in drag but the dame isn’t a man in drag. She is something completely different. This year, the dame will make a grand entrance riding a bike wearing pink bloomers based on Amelia Bloomer’s bicycle suit.”

It’s all in a day’s work for Zagone.

* Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Everyman until Jan 12.


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