Saturday, June 21, 2008

Costumes: A Tale of Two Time Periods (or Three)

It can be the best of times, and the worst of times when one is costuming a show, or two shows, whose time periods range from Edwardian (1880-1910 roughly) to 1969 and 2008. Romeo and Juliet director Bill Kershner decided to set this production around the turn of the twentieth century; picture long, white, summer dresses and men in suits with closed collars and fitted jackets. Sounds cool and delightful, yes? Well, the actors will experience the added challenge of appearing cool and comfortable as they perform outside in Virginia summer weather which, at best, can be breezy and refreshing, and at worst, incredibly still and intensely humid.

Tanya Crandall Anderson as Lady Montague (Romeo & Juliet)

The Bluest Water, directed by Geoff Kershner, moves between two years: 1969, in the aftermath of Hurricane Camille; and 2008, when Jared and Liz Boyle begin to connect past and present. The search for authentic-looking clothing is critical, since many audience members will recall their own clothing or that worn by family members during the time. The unexpected helps come from people such as Rosie Lawson, a local owner of a military surplus store just off of Richmond Highway (rt. 460), who not only gets excited about looking up details of military dress and insignia, but who also offers to loan suits, boots, pins, and dog tags for the production.

Thomas Bell portrays Chip Owens (The Bluest Water)

Without a Broadway budget or a staff of stitchers, finding period costumes for twenty-three performers can be tricky, but when the search leads to an unexpected new resource, the payoff is worthwhile. Organizing, fitting and accessorizing are the final, critical elements of making sure the costumes work, not only in style and color, but in functionality, especially in the dances and fight scenes.

Coordinating the director’s vision along with collaborating with set and lighting designers on texture and color is an exciting process, and, with some creative use of resources – costume rental houses, three local colleges, one local high school, a community theatre, as well as thrift shops and actors’ closets - the costumes somehow come together, and the characters emerge in full form. This is the best of times…

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