Little Red with a Twist

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Little Red in the show, Into the Woods, gets to turn the Wolf into a new cloak, after the part of the story you know. I won’t give it all away, but here’s a sneak peak at how she’ll look when the unexpected part of the story starts.

This play is great with all kinds of archetypical and symbolic overtones. You should definitely come see it if you are in the A2 area.

Cinderella’s Birds

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The next play is Into the Woods, which is a fairy-tale mash-up. It goes up in a couple weeks, and so we are in construction mode. Not all costume design is done with a needle and thread, and as you have probably guessed, I like building things that people don’t expect.

In the play, Cinderella has birds that help her out, and in most productions, they are flown in. Our theatre doesn’t have flys to move in trees, birds, etc, so our trees and birds are puppets instead, making them my job instead of the scenic artist’s.

It means I get to play with power tools!

These were cut from insulation using a bandsaw, then sanded with a big belt-sander, and glued together with liquid nails.

Brecht, Aelita, and other Inspirations

Natella Abashwili in the CourtroomOne of my other recent projects was at the same school where we did Charlie Brown, but with the “Upper School” students (Grades 9-12). It was the play by Bertholt Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle. It takes place in the Caucuses region in what is present day Georgia. It is not about “white” people, though if one did it as a period piece, set in the 1940’s and the 1920’s, I suppose people in that part of Western Asia are white.

The play is a parable based somewhat upon Solomon’s Judgement, but also focusing on the political situations in Russia and Germany at the time. That is, the Historical framework upon which the play sits is that of the Bolshevik Revolution in the late 1910’s, the ensuing chaos, and political drama.

The director, Emily Wilson-Tobin chose to use the current influence of The Hunger Games as a lens to help the students relate to the sideways angles of Brechtian drama, and make the underlying unfamiliar history relatable. The costumes in The Hunger Games, by Judianna Madkovsky have crazy lines, beautiful high-end construction, and a finish that in 9 weeks with 2 plays going at once weren’t going to be possible.

Natella Abashwili and her Towering Shadow

To solve this quandary from the beginning, we planned to use non-traditional materials which don’t need to be hemmed, can be glued rather than sewn, and theoretically are cheaper than fabrics, since many of them can be got for free. For example, the Balloon Dress above, or the wild pink-ribboned farthingale.

The Balloon Dress was actually one of the more expensive pieces because it went through several iterations and in order to allow the actress practice time with it, we had to re-inflate and add balloons at a few points. We made it modular rather than all taped together so that this would be possible.

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First, looking at the costumes in The Hunger Games, I realized there was some relationship to the costumes in Fritz Lang movies, and in a Russian Film, Aelita, Queen of Mars, a film which drew my gaze while browsing in Paris at a DVD shop because it holds my namesake, and held my attention because it had such wonderful sets and costumes.  It is a silent film, made in 1923.

So in the costumes for Greenhills’ production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, as well as the set, we were most influenced by Russian and German Avant-Garde Cinema and Constructivist painting between the Wars than by the real clothes people in the region would have worn.

It was fun to work with students, and many of them helped with the design process, or just came to help out a little here and there. They learned a little about how we would do things in a larger scale professional production, about how to make design choices, and how some things are good on paper but less so on the proverbial boards.

For those who were interested, I also talked a little about my own family’s history and experiences at that time in Karelia, on the other side of Russia; the social connotations of dress and how to manipulate the audience’s perceptions; and how the history and social connotations of clothing and fashion are still present today, though in a different form.

Director: Emily Wilson-Tobin

Music Director and Composer: Benjamin Cohen

Tech Director: Laura Bird with assistance from Tim Ebeling

Assistant Costumers: Sarah Ceccio, Luena Maillard

Assistant Makeup Designer: Cat Bonner

(All Photos except Natella Abashwili and her Towering Shadow, are by Gabe Linderman, Greenhills student)

Contemporary Costumes

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The next play was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. These photos show everyone onstage at once, during the baseball game. There was a cute bit where the “Woodstocks” rearranged the letters of the word “TEAM” to spell different things, concluding with the actual real spelling.

As you can see we did not go with a super cartoony set of clothes, but rather contemporary clothes against a cartoony scene with movable pieces. The set and Direction again by Laura Bird, Musical direction by Ben Cohen, and Technical Direction by Ben Ebeleing.

Since it was done with middle-school students, this is a blurry photo so you get an idea of the design, but the students’ privacy is not compromised.

Play-ing Around

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This summer, through a mysterious series of events, I fell back into the world of making and/or sourcing costumes for Theatre.  Since then I’ve costumed a total of 3 shows.

The first show was Lend Me a Tenor, by Ken Ludwig.  The second was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, by Clark Gesner (inspired of course by Charles Schultz), and the third was The Caucasian Chalk Circle, by Bertholt Brecht.

Without giving too much away, it is a fun play, and there are 2 Otello’s on stage at once, and there are plenty of fun scenes involving various states of undress, and a dress like the Chrysler Building.  Since it’s no longer playing, perhaps I should tell you more, but instead, I’ll just refer you to my photos on Flickr.

The photo in this shows the denouement in which the whole cast is on stage and all the events become clear to some and muddy to others.

Director and Designer Laura Bird, other crew, let me know if you want a plug!