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MISHA KACHMAN: PAINTING OUTSIDE THE LINES

Written by Davi Napolean

When Misha Kachman met with director KJ Sanchez for initial talks about the sets and costumes he would design for her production of "Venus in Fur" at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, he carried something surprising with him. 

"Misha said very sheepishly, 'I'm not married to this, but I brought a model,'" she recalls. "It was a perfectly executed full design, but I wasn't prepared to look at it and say, 'Yeah, that's perfect.'"

She suggested they think about other ideas, and he drew a few. It wasn't long before she realized the model Kachman had brought to that first meeting was just what the play needed.

"He has such a knack for understanding how to build a landscape to play on," says Sanchez. "I've never worked with a designer who is so thoroughly prepared before we have our first conversation."

That's not an unusual experience for directors who work with Kachman. "He's always underselling it, but his first idea is ultimately the foundation of the design," says Howard Shalwitz, artistic director of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in DC, which Kachman calls his artistic home. 

A model at an early meeting is the least of it. Kachman has been known to imagine designs before plays are finished. He helped give shape to Aaron Posner's Stupid F*king Bird, an original take on The Seagull that is, in part, a send up of Chekhovian design cliches. "Misha is the kind of designer who can make or break a production. Stupid F*king Bird had lots of challenges and puzzles in it, especially when we were first working on it, and Misha's design gave the whole thing both a physical and dramaturgial shape. He's the kind of artist who can bring big, powerful ideas to the table," says Shalwitz, who directed the world premiere at the Woolly.

Read more here on pages 107-122.

Date of Publication: 
5/4/16