Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dressing the Show

ASC actors Colin Ryan, Patrick Harvey and Elizabeth Belzoni in Costumes by Eva Lachur-Omeljaniuk
Photo by Cindy Boyle, Boyle Images
In her review of ASC's Macbeth, Ruth Ross cited the costume design by Eva Lachur-Omeljaniuk, complimenting the designer's choice of "appropriately medieval" garments worn by the authentically 11th C characters and citing how the "addition of a tabard, a cloak, a hat or a robe" creates the illusion of an actor changing roles entirely.  Ms. Ross has astutely brought attention to one of the more salient backstage roles in any theater production, that of the Costume Designer/Mistress.

Eva Lachur-Omeljaniuk Adjusts a Costume for A Midsummer Night's Dream
Photo by Cindy Boyle, Boyle Images
 Often a director will choose to set a Shakespeare play in another time or place than that which was designated by the playwright, and it is important for the costumes to reflect the director's vision of the play as well as the underpinnings of the characters .  Having conferred with the director, it is the costume designer's responsibility to know each of the roles in the play well and to research setting, then to find a way, within the strictures of the budget allotted for costumes, to create a costume plot, a series of costumes that are "in character" for this particular production.  The costumes must fit the both the text itself and the direction of the play as well; that is, the costumes must enable the actors to play their scenes authentically while they are maneuverable within the confines of the director's blocking so that they never get in the way or draw attention away from the action of the play.

Costumes do more than simply create resonance of time and place.  They serve to enhance characters' personalities, pointing out taste, mood, social class, maturity, mores, etc., in such things as color, fit, and style of the garment.  An effective costume designer must be creative, knowledgeable, skillful and collaborative.

Working in concert with one another, the costumer,  the lighting designer, hair dresser, the set designer create the world of the play, enabling the audience to suspend disbelief in order to be swept away from their "real life" world and into the life on the stage.

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