Costume Class Project: Designing in Cooperation

The “Lecture” (please read):

One of the first points that should be made about costuming is that it is part of a social organism. The organism may be part of a University theatre program, or part of a film production company, community theatre, Renaissance Faire producing group, television series producing studio, or professional repertory theatre, etc. However in all cases, costuming exists as a piece of a much bigger pie, in which costume is not the center, but a support to a larger whole. This is the key to understanding what we do. We exist as one of the heads of a multi-headed beast trying to create ‘ art.’ If we don’t talk or get along with the other heads, if we try to pull in the opposite direction from that which the rest of the beast is going, we trip over our own feet, and go nowhere at all.

Therefore, lesson number one: everyone must talk to each other, get to understand how one’s cohorts think, trade ideas, make suggestions, and then, when all the heads find a consensus on which way to go, go, go, go…..GO with commitment in the direction chosen, even if it means going over a cliff in one’s individual opinion.

This is very hard to do.

It can be emotionally draining. Especially, when one occasionally ends up going over a cliff, or, far worse still, you go with the group, only to get sabotaged by the one idiot in your group who does not.

However, these are the rules of the game, and on those occasions when you all do get it together, it is an amazing (and legal) group “high”.

The Project:

Find a willing partner in your class or on the online egroup and agree to co-design the costumes for an amateur production of a given Gilbert and Sullivan musical show (choose from the options listed below). You will need to jointly agree on a color palate and fabrics to be used (report on this), discuss with one another how you want the show to look overall, and choose which characters each of you will be designing. For example, student A may design all the men, and student B will do the women, or student A will do the “hippies” and B the “straights”, etc. Each of you will then produce 6 color renderings for the show (12 between the both of you) and post them to the Files section of the eGroup.

You have NO budget limitation on this show, assume your amateur company has lots of money.

The options are:

Patience: Aristocratic ladies who were engaged to cavalry officers, now spurn their fiancées in order to follow a fashionable (Oscar Wilde-like) poet in a goofy cult-like ardor. The poet, meanwhile, has the hots for a low born milkmaid. The soldiers plot to get the girls back, another sexy poet arrives on the scene, and chaos ensues. This delightful operetta normally gives you a chance to trot out all those Aesthetic dresses of the 1880’s, BUT, your director insists that what he wants is to set the play in the Vietnam War/Hippie Flower-Power era, and like good little costumers, that is what you will do!

The Mikado: The Lord High executioner of Titipu has a problem, he needs to execute someone within a month, or be executed himself. He needs a substitute volunteer, but the only guy who will, insists that he be allowed to marry the executioners bride-to-be for a month or he won’t do it. This show was conceived as an excuse to set a play in Japan, complete with fun Japanese costumes and sets, although the story is very English. So, your director, fearful that he will offend the Asian community by doing a “Japanese” play with a mostly white cast, and bored with the usual way she has seen it staged, asks you to try to design it like a Marx Brothers film of the 1930’s. She wants, Ko-Ko to be Groucho, and Katisha to be Margaret Dumont, but she leaves it to you to decide which other 1930’s stars the other players should resemble.

The Pirates of Penzance: Frederick was mistakenly apprenticed to a Pirate band as a child, but now he is 21 and free to marry the delectable Mabel, daughter of a General. He wants to lead the police on a raid to eradicate the lawless pirates now, but he finds he has some problems including a love struck middle aged Pirate lady, reluctant police, and the awkward fact of having been born on leap year, and so being still indentured to the pirates till he will be 84. The director you work with really likes traditional Gilbert and Sullivan style, so with the exception of wanting “more glitter”, and “more over the top” style, he wants you to keep the show in period, and the pirates as pirates. There is just one unusual thing: The amateur company you are designing for is all male, and yes, this is therefore a Drag style version of the show.

Pick from among these options, and work together to achieve your goals. All these 3 concepts by the way have been used by real costumers out there with great results, so no whining please, this is all about the process of COMPROMISE, and learning to accept other people’s ideas and run with them. This is why it is worth so many points!

Bring your renderings to class or Scan and post the images you drew to your files section and then post a notification on the message board that you have done renderings for this play and would appreciate feedback from the other students.