[flagallery gid=48 name=”CU’s Costume Workshop”]Ensuring no actor goes onstage naked requires a lot more effort than one might think.
Entrusted with this task, the costume department at CU tackles the difficult behind-the-scenes work that goes into making aesthetically successful shows at CU.
Currently, student workers are meticulously constructing garments for the Charles Dickens holiday story “A Christmas Carol” that will be staged by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in December. This play, set in 19th century England, requires specific costume work that must be historically accurate to its respective time period.
Assistant Professor of Costume Design, Markas Henry, said that creating period costumes for any show has its difficulties in modern day theater.
“Probably the most challenging thing is to constantly to have your eye on the prize of making it look like a period garment,” Henry said. “We don’t have the ability to jump in a time travel machine and go back and get the real clothes. [Now] fabrics are different, construction is different, and bodies are different. We’re also building costumes for the stage as opposed to the street or a museum piece, so there’s a level of durability and technical precision that needs to be there.”
Fortunately the costume shop at CU draws many students with a love of sewing from a variety of different scholastic backgrounds. Henry said that, though some students work in the costume shop to satisfy curriculum, some are paid to work there, but others simply volunteer for fun.
“We don’t discriminate,” Henry said. “Many of our students who work with us are BA or BFA students, but not everybody.”
These students spend long hours working on a given show. Lindsey Kethan, a 23-year-old senior art history major, said she loves getting to witness the final product of complex work.
“I just really enjoy being able to see [a costume] go from nothing to something onstage,” Kethan said. “[I enjoy seeing it] just going from the pattern, literally making the pattern, and building the whole thing up until its ready to go onstage.”
Though students often get the opportunity to design costumes for CU plays, a guest designer was brought in for “A Christmas Carol.” In the costume shop, students are working to bring to life the concepts of Colorado Shakespeare Festival designer Anne Murphy, who also co-teaches a costume class at CU.
Instructor and costume shop supervisor Theodore Stark said that it is important for students to experience translating another person’s costume sketches into wearable costumes.
“Our ultimate goal is to elicit a specific reaction from the audience,” Stark said. “Once the designer has generated the images and the director has approved them, then we take over in terms of taking this image and interpreting it into three-dimensional reality.”
This is where student workers get to practice complex sewing skills in the costume shop. For “A Christmas Carol,” Kethan is able to individually construct a dress for a child actor. However, Kethan said it has been a several-year process to achieve this level of ability and responsibility.
“When I first started I would work on little things like, ‘sew a button here’ or ‘put the hem in this skirt,’” she said. “Now I get an actual ‘make this girls dress, here’s the pattern, do everything and put it all together.’ It’s kind of been building up to the fact that I’m building actual pieces now.”
With demanding needs of the theater world, costume designers must invest hours of work and overcome unusual obstacles for their costumes to function. Henry said that, ultimately, students are learning the craft of making beautiful clothing that must pass tests that ordinary fashion could never survive.
“A lot of things go into the costume process that many people may not think about,” he said. “But we have to think about [these things] to make sure the garment looks the same day in and day out; no matter what war it has gone through the night before, it has to be ready for battle the next day.”
“A Christmas Carol” is showing at The University Theater at CU from Dec. 2 through 24. Tickets can be purchased here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Stephanie Riesco at Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org.