These are photo's from the 3rd dress rehearsal. A discussion between Director Ken McGlaughlin, Set Designer Laura Fine Hawkes, and myself resulted in an abstract concept- a kind of merging a contemporary minimalist aesthetic with historical reference's from the late Victorian time period. This idea enabled the team to pay homage to the playwright's original intent and ultra freedom to creatively interpret the piece with a modern eye. I drew from inspiration from 1870-90, when women wore corsets (tying costume to set with the caged set effect, pun intended), a smaller bustle (for movement), and a simpler silhouette (costume shop friendly). I focused on creating a distinct hierarchical class system (not always portrayed in other versions of the play), but with the end goal being the audience's understanding that the lower class is not powerless- we all connected and create the world together for good, and this case- ill. It was very important to focus on the idea of facade (a buzz word that became a strong driver of the directorial concept) and further, the world as if in a dream. This way the choices made did not have to be an exact and literal interpretation of the late victorian period but more of an accentuation of elements of the period. By heightening the silhouette and through strong use of color, a very Brechtian theatricality is achieved (not real life).
Research! More research, sketches, budget, more research, purchase, pull, plan, build, and illustrate. Add to the wall (these boards are merely a sampling) and get to work! ;)
Now we have a detailed plan for the semester! After the discussion with the draper, and ordering on;line and purchasing locally all the fabric and notions, the students and I begin to build. First, we prep the fabric, and then cut and sew petticoats from an historical pattern purchased online. This is a good exercise for new students to learn from those more seasoned (mostly made up of those that have worked with me the previous semester, or have just taken a basic costume construction class- shows what you can do :). Students and work study also helped prepare for muslin fittings, and continued to work through to final garments. his allowed for even more opportunities to work on a number of start to finish projects. Working this way, all kinds of techniques are learned.
Did you see the wig above? Here are a few more natural hair and hand-knotted full lace wigs students styled. Also, a few of the hats and accessories student worked on. They had their hands in altering, stretching, embellishing, with things like feathers and painted flowers. Plus- dying gloves, shoes, parasol, fans and and other.
Jenny Diver, the character below, transformed from the street singer to the Madame of the Brothel. Even though the red jacket didn't show up- the hat did- so we dyed Isaac's hair red and the show went on. Shout out to Austin Creswell for creating Jenny's undergarment, start to finish, even though he was the stage manager. The shop custom made Jenny's corset- what fun, a corset for a man, to have a feminine look, but not entirely disguise the man!! Btw, his jacket had to be aged with acrylic paint because dye would not take on the fabric we bought at Joanne's ;) Very pleased with the result.
Below is one of five prostitute's in the making! Students cu (in muslin) five pattern's for the chemise (each had a different sleeve style) and bloomers. Then after sewing, they fit, corrected the pattern, and then recut and finished in final fabric. Then large amounts of lace were dyed and attached. The entire look (chemise, bloomer and corset) was dyed and aged (this included color correcting the fabric to match). Makeup was designed by student assistants, complete with backstories for each girl- bruises, and small wounds... more. Students also painted flowers, combined wigs, dyed shawls, and fixed shoes. More than that was learned in the process of whipping these gals together.
This is the head prostitute Dolly. She is a bit older than the other girls. Can you tell by her finished makeup? What gives it away...? Hint: darker lines and shadows blended in the right areas. Student-Designer makeup tests and makeup concept conversations were held with the director, we all agreed to push the facade by creating a mask like image. That the prostitutes should be differnt from the beggars in this way, although they are tied together (you will see this when you get to the beggar photos). Each prostitute had a distinct color palette but all were painterly and had a watercolor effect (ok, answer here- like the beggars). Students did sketches and research they presented so we could discuss properly and presented to the cast formally. They also did pre-final and final makeup tests. In the end this was helpful for teaching the run crew and volunteer student collaborators.
These are the beggars. Their makeup (like the prostitutes) has a watercolor-painterly effects, but much looser and seemingly randomly applied. This relate to the beggars action on stage, when they paint signs for panhandling, as part of their beggarly duties. The beggars are Peachum's Gang (hence the peach flower) and what they wear is a costume given to them by Peachum, another way to play with facade. The first makeup tests were a bit too realistic, but that evolved to further this concept of facade. This is evident when viewing the studio photos below (btw these were taken by a student photographer Willow Howell for a grade). I gave a heads up to the director before first dress, letting him know that we wanted to see the beggars under the stage lights before calling them done (correct level's of saturation and detail). As we went, more color and patches were added. The students continued to work on the aging and dying and makeup looks until final dress- when both was ready. Also, some of the girls dressed as boys and vice versa. Can you tell who is who? not really and not important? good- that's the idea- facade!
These are the men of the opera. The students very carefully helped create the looks for their hair- as evident by the first image of Mack the Knife. His action and emotion causes his costume and yes, hair, to become undone and disheveled slowly throughout the show, but that's ok, it's part of the arch of the character. Check out his neck scar- perfectly visible to the back row. The third image below is of Tiger Brown, in a brown suit and tie (made by a student). He is the dirty police commissioner, well, they are all dirty hence all the aging on the suits- again, pun intended. We decided to keep the actors ponytail when, after research and discovery, it was deemed appropriate for the period. It also was in keeping with his bad boy image. Mr. Peachum, who is older than the actor playing him, was helped along thanks to a bit of old age makeup. Also, he is made peachier by adding eyebrows and a mustache with crepe hair and spirit gum. The gangsters, well, they are a very colorful lot indeed. Students also worked on alterations on all characters for fit and maintained costumes through the run of the show.
Cops, commissioner, priest, and victorious messenger riding! The play is actually a comedy.
...but in the the last moments a very serious and moving message is delivered.