Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Why We Wear Black

Late last week, I invited all those who would be attending the Brickenden Awards ceremony, to join me in wearing black in solidarity with the Times Up movement. Many responded to the call, and last night, as London's theatre community came together to celebrate the 2017 theatre season, the auditorium was filled with women and men dressed in black.

with Jennifer Hale & Kaitlyn Rietdyk
#whywewearblack

The evening went on much like years past, celebrating the creativity and bravery of those who took a chance and put themselves out there for their art, and awards were given out to recognize the outstanding achievements of some deserving productions and individuals.

But perhaps the most unexpected and poignant moment of the night, was between presenting the back-to-back Brickenden Awards for Outstanding Costumes and Outstanding Makeup, when I invited Jennifer Hale and Kaitlyn Rietdyk to join me on the stage. Here is the transcript of what we had to say:


"We are all here tonight to celebrate another wonderful year of theatre here in London, and to pause for a moment to recognize the accomplishments of our theatre community.  Before we continue on with the next award, I would like to pause for a moment, and invite Jennifer Hale and Kaitlyn Rietdyk to the stage, as we would like to use this opportunity to speak out about something that is happening in our world and right here in our very own theatre community.

At the beginning of 2018, the women of Hollywood declared, “Time’s Up!” and women and men everywhere agreed with them; there will be no more silence, no more waiting and no more tolerance for discrimination, harassment or abuse. At the Golden Globe Awards, the women and men of Hollywood united together and wore black; an act which some critics said was a trivial statement, but we say it was inspiring, because this is not a Hollywood specific problem. The problem is just as real close to home, including Soulpepper Theatre Company and right here in London’s theatre community. We stand here tonight, with many friends in the audience, dressed in black, in solidarity with Kristen Booth, Patricia Fagan, Hannah Miller and Diana Bentley, and all of the women and men who have endured discrimination, harassment or abuse at the hands of someone in a position of power over them.

Some of you might feel that this is not the time or the place to talk about this; we wholeheartedly disagree with you. In a theatre community where there is much to celebrate, there is also a lot which goes unspoken. As a community, we need to be aware of it, and we need to take a stand against it; because we are determined to change it.

For every woman who posted #metoo, for every woman who wanted to, but for her own reasons chose to remain silent, and for every woman who is still too scared to say anything, we stand with you.

For every woman who didn’t get the part because she is too old, too fat, too tall, too dark, or simply because she refused the advances of the director, we stand with you.

For every woman struggling to find roles when so many shows have only one female part, and for every woman fighting for shows with not only more, but stronger female roles, we stand with you.

For every woman who directed a show about consent and slut shaming and had two male critics claim it was irrelevant, and for every woman who was told the rape scene she was doing wasn’t “actually rape,” we stand with you.
  
For every woman whispering warnings and advice in bathrooms, outside of audition halls and at bars to new female actors, because sometimes that is the only weapon we have, we thank you and we stand with you.

For every woman whose passion for this work has been dismissed as PMS, we stand with you.

For every woman who has to defend her education, experience and skills because a man questions her qualifications and ability to do the job, we stand with you.

For every woman whose desire for respect has been dismissed because of the way she chooses to dress, from bikinis to burkas, we stand with you.

For every woman who has been asked if she could have misinterpreted what happened, or has asked herself, what did I do to make this happen, we believe you and we stand with you.

For every woman who can’t believe we still have to talk about this, and for every woman who is tired of having to convince men this stuff really does happen, we stand with you.
  
For every woman who is not white, straight or cisgendered, and has to yell twice as loud as we do to be heard, we stand with you as allies; and in this fight we will not calm down, we will not stand by, we will not be polite and we will not be silent.

For every girl and every woman; for my daughter, for my niece, for my daughter.

We cannot let the discrimination, harassment and abuse win; instead, we must stand united and commit to providing a safe and supportive environment for everyone, so that we may continue to celebrate our theatre community. As the owner of The Costume Shoppe, and as three individuals who are very involved in London’s theatre scene, we proudly pledge to uphold this mandate, and encourage you all to do the same."


Greeted by an immediate standing ovation, the response was clear; it was time for something to be said. My hope is that our speech has shone a light on this issue and will give those individuals who come face-to-face with discrimination, harassment or abuse, the strength to come forward and share their stories.

Finally, to those who disagree with the stand I took last night, with the support of two incredibly beautiful, fierce and intelligent women, I say this: We need to take advantage of whatever platform we find ourselves standing on, and last night was my opportunity to take a stand for my colleagues, for my friends, and for the future of our theatre community.

I did it for her.

#formydaughter

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Costumes for Twelfth Night: Memories To Last A Lifetime

Its no secret, like so many things in life, designing and creating the costumes for a show takes hard work and dedication, patience and perseverance, as well as having the knowledge, skills and creativity to take an idea and transform it into something tangible for the stage. But it also takes knowing when to ask for help, and I could not have done this show without the support and assistance of my amazing team of sewers and dressers.

Cheers to every single person who had anything to do with "Twelfth."

One hundred and forty-six costume pieces and accessories appear on stage in Twelfth Night, and about half of those were created specifically for this production. While I personally built nearly one-third of the new costume pieces myself, I also had a wonderful team of sewers ~ Mary Jane Walzak, Becky Lenko, Sylvia Behr, Debra Chantler, Tania Harvey, Joan Bolam (my mom!) and Peg Spurgeon ~ who helped in the creation and alteration of the rest.

If you've ever been backstage during a costume-heavy show, if you've ever had to wear a corset, or if you've ever tried to change your entire outfit in less than a minute, you might have an idea of just how valuable a backstage dresser can be. I wasn't able to be backstage during any of the performances, but my mind was always at ease knowing Melissa Moore, Jayme Russell and Becky Lenko were there to help the actors and keep everything in order.

"I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks; and ever thanks."
Twelfth Night III, iii

Some of My Favourites
As the show begins to wind down, and my blog series comes to an end, I've enjoyed reflecting upon my process and the amount of thought and effort I've put into this production. The wonderful production photos by Ross Davidson have not only immortalized these characters, but also sparked a reminder of how much love went into creating these costumes. While it's difficult to say which costume is my favourite, as there is something I love within each one of my creations, I thought I would share a few that stand out for me.

One of my very favourites is Viola's shipwreck costume. As soon as I had the idea in mind, I couldn't sketch it fast enough. Not only do I love the appearance of this costume and the feeling it evokes within the story, but the process of constructing it, only to literally tear it apart, was something very special for me as a costumer, as this was my first full costume breakdown.



The Chorus also stands out for me, mainly because almost every single costume piece worn by The Chorus was built from scratch, and everything just came together so beautifully. These costumes also presented me with the challenge of balancing certain technical aspects of the costumes, such as allowing for dance and movement, with the styling the director wanted. I also had to keep things reasonably comfortable, as The Chorus would be on stage for the entire show, which is not an easy task when you're creating corsets and bustles.



The twins, Viola (as Cesario) and Sebastian are another favourite of mine. Because the actors are so similar in appearance, right down to their eyeglasses and haircuts, it was really important to me to make these two costumes identical, to not only make the confusion within the story believable, but to also keep the audience guessing who's who.




Seeing "The Rascals" on stage together, and mixing together those floral patterns in shades of green, beige and pink, also made me very happy. As much as I had intended for this grouping of costumes to coordinate and compliment one another, seeing it all together on stage for the first time, I was nearly in tears because it worked out so well.



Overall though, I think I would have to say my most favourite costume belongs to Antonio. Loosely basing the design for his pirate coat on Colin Farrell's costume from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I decided to test my abilities and designed a coat with the same split sleeve. I was thrilled with how the coat turned out and the impact it had on the stage, but I think the biggest reason I love Antonio's look is largely due to the actor's reaction to his costume. Every step of the way, through fittings, dress rehearsals and performances, Sam connected with his costume differently from any of the other actors. While all of the actors were pleased with their costumes, Sam embraced his costume as an extension of his character, and when an actor does that, not only have I done my job in dressing the actor, but I've also played a small yet special part in the actor's process of creating his character.

original sleeve design by Colleen Atwood




Since joining London's theatre community in 2009, I have worked on over thirty productions as an actor, producer, costume and makeup designer. With twenty-four costume design credits to my name, I am always proud of the work I put on stage, but from a costumer's perspective, there are now four productions that hold a special place in my heart:

# 4: The Three Musketeers (London Community Players, 2010)
Working in a team of nine costume designers, we sourced and created over 350 costume pieces and accessories for this 17th Century wonder.

Cast & Crew of The Three Musketeers
Directed by: Ceris Thomas
Costume Design by: A. Bennett, J. Bolam, W. Bolam, D. Chantler,
D. Davis, A. Humberstone, B. Lenko, C. Thomas & M.J. Walzak

# 3: Edward II (Empty Space Productions, 2013)
The director wanted something "out of time," so I sourced black and silver costume pieces and accessories to create a goth-cyber punk fantasy.

Cast of Edward II
Directed by: Kaitlyn Rietdyk
Costume Design by: Whitney Bolam

# 2: Antony & Cleopatra (Western Summer Shakespeare, 2011)
My first solo design project, I created each period costume piece from scratch, using colour and accessories to divide the ancient worlds of Rome and Egypt.

Cast of Antony & Cleopatra
Directed by: Jo Devereux
Costume Design & Construction by: Whitney Bolam

and my new # 1: Twelfth Night (London Community Players, 2017)
From the moment I began working on this production, I knew it was going to be something special. I am touched and humbled by the reactions I have received from the director, crew members, actors, friends, family and especially audiences. I often say I love what I do, because I do what I love, and costuming Twelfth Night has been no exception to that.

Cast & Crew of Twelfth Night
Directed by: Kaitlyn Rietdyk
Costume Design by: Whitney Bolam

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Costumes for Twelfth Night: The Lovers

Orsino is in love with Olivia, who has sworn off men as she mourns the loss of her father and brother. Viola arrives in Illyria after her ship is lost at sea, and believing her twin brother Sebastian has perished, disguises herself as Cesario to make her way in an unfamiliar world. Viola, as Cesario finds work in the service of Orsino, who sends Cesario to woo Olivia in his name, only to have Olivia fall in love with Cesario, while at the same time, Viola has fallen in love with Orsino!

The Lovers
photos by: Ross Davidson

Meanwhile, Sebastian, who believes his twin sister is dead, has also survived the shipwreck, having been rescued by Antonio, a gay pirate. The two men become lovers, and upon their arrival in Illyria, Sebastian is mistaken for Cesario and the love triangle becomes a love pentagon ...

Costuming "The Lovers" was much more about their individual personalities rather than grouping these five characters together ... with one exception, of course.

DUKE ORSINO
played by: ANTHONY WALLACE 

Orsino would open the show in a drunken state as he rages at the storm, that coincidentally destroys Viola and Sebastian's ship. The storm would take place at night, and as such, I wanted a look that would suggest Orsino has come from his bed to lament over his love for Olivia to the elements. I created a pair of custom-made Victorian style long johns, and covered him with a lux coat, trimmed with Persian lamb's wool.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Whitney Bolam & Becky Lenko

As his title would suggest, Orsino is a wealthy and prominent man in Illyria, and as such his costume needed to reflect this. I selected a soft shade of sage green for his custom waistcoat, and found a beautiful beige pinstripe suit that would work alongside both Olivia and Viola's costumes. Focusing again on the details, Orsino was trimmed in gold, with buttons, cufflinks and a pocket watch; I also added a green pocket square (not pictured) to give his neutral suit an extra pop of colour.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Debra Chantler
*costume pieces also sourced from LCP Wardrobe and The Costume Shoppe

OLIVIA
played by: ALEXANDRA KANE

Olivia has been in mourning for a year over the loss of her father, and her state of mourning continues over the more recent loss of her brother, but I hesitated with dressing her in black as I didn't want to weigh down the light, airy look of the show. Thankfully, I stumbled across this gorgeous striped fabric in my personal stock and turned it into this luscious ruffled skirt, pairing it with a custom navy and teal jacket to create her look of mourning.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Whitney Bolam
*costume pieces also sourced from LCP Wardrobe

Though she has vowed to remain in mourning for seven years, and continually rejects the proclamations of love from Duke Orsino, once Olivia meets Viola disguised as Cesario, she breaks free from this melancholy state and falls in love. I wanted this drastic change of character to be echoed in Olivia's costumes, transitioning from the dark, Victorian style mourning suit to soft and romantic Edwardian style tea dress in layers of raspberry pink and lace, coupled with a custom made pearl and pink stone Edwardian necklace.

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
jewelry design & construction by: Whitney Bolam

VIOLA
played by: JENNIFER HALE

Heartbroken by the loss of her twin brother, Viola washes ashore in Illyria with nothing but the tattered gown and undergarments on her back. Because she is from another country, I wanted that to be noted in her fashion; the style of her corset is different from any other corsets we see on stage; she wears a very structured bustle; even the shade of pink she wears has a coral undertone giving it a uniqueness from the other shades of pink.

photo by: Ross Davidson

There were many steps in constructing Viola's shipwreck costume. I began by creating brand new costume pieces: an ivory chemise, a pink corset, a pink petticoat and a ruffled bustle cage, made with real hoop steel. Once everything was made, it was time for the distressing or costume breakdown to begin, and I must admit, the thought of breaking down the beautiful pieces I had just created was devastating, and I may have cried once or twice. But I needed to stay true to the story and my original design, and in the end it was absolutely worth it.

In breaking down costume pieces, it's important to look at the natural way a garment would be distressed. In a shipwreck, the most obvious distresser would be water; it would wear and tear at the fabric, as well, everything would be dirty, wet and misshapen. After washing all of the costume pieces to soften their structure, I used a combination of fabric dyes, tea stains and coffee grinds to make things look dirty; hand rips and snips with scissors in the fabric were then roughed up with cheese graters and sand paper to make things look worn; and finally I used vegetable oil to make things look wet.

photo by: Ross Davidson

Once I put all four of the costume pieces together, it was obvious that something was still missing. I wanted to create the illusion that Viola would have been wearing a elegant gown when she boarded the ship, so literally at the last minute, I created a tattered lace overskirt with strips of green and pink fabric to imply that her gown had been ripped from her body and destroyed with the ship.

Finally, Viola would give her gold necklace as payment to the Sea Captain for her aide and guidance at the beach. Using gold chain, pearls, golden beads and a stunning gold amulet that I had in my personal stock, I created this piece to complete Viola's look.

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
jewelry design & construction by: Whitney Bolam

Disguised as Cesario, Viola needed to look like a young man. Again, because she is not from Illyria, I wanted her outfit to be a slightly different style from that of everyone else on stage, even though she would have acquired her outfit in Illyria. Because Viola is a woman disguising herself as a man, I felt it was important that she be very formal in the way she wore her costume, as she was attempting to hide in it. Every button would be done up, sleeves would be worn straight down to her wrists, and she would even wear a ribbon tie and cap to cover up any trace of femininity.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
hat design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Sylvia Behr
*costume pieces also sourced from The Costume Shoppe & LCP Wardrobe

SEBASTIAN
played by: TYLER CINCURAK

The director did such a fantastic job of casting the roles of Viola and Sebastian, and the actors were making an effort with details such as eyeglasses and hairstyles, that I knew without question; of course, Sebastian would be dressed in exactly the same costume as Viola. I did feel he would have worn his costume in a much more relaxed way, as he had been spending time with Antonio. Buttons would be undone, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and though Sebastian wouldn't wear a tie, I added a sash around his waist, which was perhaps a gift from his lover, Antonio.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
hat design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Sylvia Behr
*costume pieces also sourced from The Costume Shoppe & LCP Wardrobe

reunited at last
photo by: Ross Davidson

ANTONIO
played by: SAM DIDI

Many productions of Twelfth Night largely overlook the relationship between Antonio and Sebastian, however, in this production, the director wanted to shine a light on the love shared between these two men. Antonio is a sea-captain, viewed by some as a pirate, who saves Sebastian from the storm and the two become lovers. When we first see the pair, both are somewhat disheveled, suggesting that they have just come from bed as they prepare to make their way to Illryia.

photo by: Ross Davidson

Antonio has a sensitive side, and every time we see him, his loyalty and love for Sebastian are what drive his action, right up until his heartbreaking ending. His costume came together in pieces, beginning with the neutral layers of his shirt, waistcoat and knickers, until I was inspired by a coat designed by Academy Award winning costume designer, Colleen Atwood. I created Antonio's pirate coat with split sleeves in a rosy pink with blue lining, as a play on the whole "pink is for girls, blue is for boys" nonsense. Antonio is a wealthy  man, and so once again the details became very important. I added a period style cravat, gold cuff links and an incredible vintage military shoulder strap belt to give him a renegade style for carrying his purse.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Whitney Bolam & Mary Jane Walzak
*costume pieces also sourced from The Costume Shoppe & LCP Wardrobe

Tomorrow will conclude my blog series about the costumes for Twelfth Night, and I will share some of my behind-the-scenes costuming secrets, including how many people it took to bring these beautiful costumes to fruition.

Special thanks to Ross Davidson for the production photos.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Costumes for Twelfth Night: The Rascals

The main, more familiar storyline of Twelfth Night focuses on the love triangle among the characters of Viola, Orsino and Olivia, as well as the mistaken identities of Viola and her twin brother, Sebastian.

Lesser known, is the secondary storyline involving the secondary or supporting characters, who in our production became affectionately known as "The Rascals," due to their shenanigans and mischievous behaviour. Maria, Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Fabian, and Feste the Clown, team up to play a practical joke on Malvolio, the steward or head servant of Olivia's household, in an attempt to humiliate him in front of their mistress.

The Rascals
photo by: Ross Davidson

In designing the looks for these characters, I spent some time reading, researching and analyzing the characters long before I began sketching them. The costumes needed to reflect each character's role within the story as well as their individual personality. Through the use of colour, fabric and pattern, The Rascals are tied together as a group, set apart from the other characters while still maintaining the overall look for the show.

MARIA
played by: JULIA WEBB

Maria is Olivia's lady-in-waiting who is the mastermind behind the plot to humiliate Malvolio. Because of that, I wanted to create two very different looks for her; one that reflected more on her role as Olivia's maid, and a second that identified her as one of The Rascals. For her first costume, Maria would mirror Olivia's state of mourning, with darker tones and a more rigid, Victorian shape. My original design (below on the left) began much darker and more layered than what ended up on stage, largely because of the beautiful blouse I found at The Costume Shoppe that was a perfect fit. I completed the look with a gold trimmed, black velvet waist corset and a veiled hat, which I embellished to compliment her Victorian look.

costume design, costume & hat construction by: Whitney Bolam
*costume pieces also sourced from The Costume Shoppe

Maria's second costume needed to be more reflective of her role as one of The Rascals. While her corset and jacket still suggest a sense of formality in her role as a lady-in-waiting, the lighter tone with a floral pattern in shades of soft green, together with flowing fabrics and an asymmetrical skirt lends the playfulness we see in Maria through her humorous interactions with the boys.

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam

Maria and Toby have a friendly relationship at the beginning of the play, which is infused with hints that there is something more going on between them. This is confirmed by the end of the story as we are told the two have been married. Their costumes needed to display some form of bond between these two characters, and because Maria would have two very different looks, I played with the colour green as well as the floral patterns on Toby's waistcoat, Maria's skirt in her first costume and her long jacket in the second.












SIR TOBY BELCH
played by: STEVE FAVRO

Sir Toby Belch is Olivia's uncle, and as his name suggests, is often described as crude, robust and rowdy. He is a penniless drunkard, has a flirtatious relationship with Maria, schemes for entertainment, and takes full advantage of his friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, in order to maintain his extravagant lifestyle. While he may not be the kind of man one would want as a friend, he was certainly enjoyable to costume because of his loud personality.

I wanted Sir Toby's costume to be an extension of the character, and an outward symbol of Toby's relationship with Sir Andrew. Though he is penniless, Sir Toby is well dressed thanks, not to his wealthy niece, but to his friend who has a vast fortune. The garish floral print on his waistcoat together with his short pants evoke the same playfulness we see in Maria and the rest of The Rascals. Throughout the show, Sir Toby removes and adds pieces of his costume to coincide with his level of drunkenness. 

costume design by: Whitney Bolamt
costume construction by: Sylvia Behr & Mary Jane Walzak
*costume pieces also sourced from LCP Wardrobe

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew have been described as a team who represent opposite sides of a coin. This is reflected in their costumes; Toby is playful with short pants and no jacket, while Andrew is very formal with his three piece suit, bowler hat, pocket square and boutonniere. Yet, the colour scheme of green, beige and rose ties them together, and even more subtly, so do their waistcoats: the floral pattern on the front of Sir Toby's is echoed in the flowers and leaves on the back of Sir Andrew, while his stripes also appear on the back of Sir Toby. It's one of those little touches I like to add when I'm designing a show, one that you'll miss if you blink.
























SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK
played by: MICHAEL DONALDSON

Sir Andrew is a fool, but he's a rich fool and that needed to shine through in his costume. As a rich out-of-towner, Sir Andrew's look differs from those of Sir Toby, Fabian and Feste. I wanted Andrew in long pants to contrast with the knickers worn by the others, and I set to work to find him a perfect-fit three-piece suit, which was no easy task. In the end, I settled on this beautiful brown and ivory striped suit with a custom waistcoat and matching accessories, which I loaded on with gusto. From his bowler hat, floral boutonniere and pocket square, to his silver cufflinks and matching pocket watch, Sir Andrew is dressed to the nines. As Walt Disney once said, "Its all in the details," and he was absolutely right. 

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Debra Chantler
*costume pieces also sourced from LCP Wardrobe

FABIAN
played by: JASON MCMANNIS

Fabian is a relatively unseen servant in Olivia's household, and does not make an appearance until he participates in The Rascals' plot against Malvolio. His duties within the household are never explained in the script, and so I created a reason for his absence from the storyline; he was the chauffeur. In keeping with the colour scheme and the playfulness already exhibited by Maria and Sir Toby, I designed short pants to go with his waistcoat, and added driving goggles to his custom designed cap and a scarf for some fun.

costume & hat design and hat construction by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Mary Jane Walzak
*costume pieces also sourced from The Costume Shoppe & LCP Wardrobe

FESTE
played by: LLIAM BUCKLEY

Feste the Clown is Olivia's fool; he is quick with words, integrates himself with just about every character throughout the entire story, all the while entertaining through song, dance and comedy. His costume is casual, complimenting his relaxed personality, and as he shifts from one grouping of characters to another, his neutral look blends in with the costumes surrounding him.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume pieces sourced from: The Costume Shoppe & LCP Wardrobe

During my initial meeting with the director, long before the actors had been cast, she expressed a desire to see "swim costumes" from the Victorian/Edwardian era. With eight ladies filling the role of The Chorus, one young lady would wear a swim dress and bloomers, but I didn't have any men to wear the traditional swim vest and shorts. I wanted to find a way to get this look on the stage, and Feste was the natural choice, as he was a sort of extension of The Chorus, singing and dancing with them throughout the show. The director was delighted, and worked it in to the top of the second half of the show, where Feste and The Chorus are splashing in the surf at the beach.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Mary Jane Walzak

MALVOLIO
played by: RAY MOREAU

Malvolio is the steward, or head servant, in Olivia's household, but unlike his fellow servants, he is not a joyful man. He lives his life with dignity and decorum, and his outward disapproval of Sir Toby and the raucous lifestyle he leads is what leads to his demise. Maria describes him as a puritan, and though most productions of Twelfth Night costume Malvolio in black to symbolize this, I wanted to take him in a different direction to honour our colour palette, and instead chose for him to wear an ivory suit, as ivory represents purity.

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
*costume pieces sourced from: Bud Gowan & The Costume Shoppe

For his second, and perhaps the most famous look in Twelfth Night, Malvolio dons a pair of yellow stockings with cross garters in an attempt to woo his mistress. Olivia abhors the colour yellow, and though this colour was purposely not in my original colour palette, I knew it had to be used for this costume. I found a beautiful plaid fabric of yellow, dusty rose and burgundy for a custom waistcoat, and from there the entire look came together. Obviously Malvolio's legs needed to be the focus of this costume, and so I designed short pants to show off his custom dyed stockings and ribbon cross garters. 

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Sylvia Behr & Mary Jane Walzak
*costume pieces also sourced from Bud Gowan & The Costume Shoppe

~ with special thanks to Ross Davidson for the production photos ~

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Costumes for Twelfth Night: The Chorus

In Classical Greek drama, the chorus was a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play through song, dance and recitation. The Chorus in Twelfth Night would serve a similar purpose, being omnipresent and witnessing the action of the play, while also playing the minor roles, creating sound effects and morphing themselves into parts of the set, such as Viola's ship or Malvolio's prison cell.

photo by: Ross Davidson

photo by: Ross Davidson

Unsure of what the auditions would bring, the director was hoping for a group of nine individuals to take on the role of The Chorus. Instead, eight talented ladies stole the director's heart, and so The Chorus was born. I must admit, I was overjoyed to be able to costume eight ladies, as the costumes I already had in mind would not only be such fun to make, but would also create a stunning visual impact on the stage.

The director wanted The Chorus to look "undone," though not in a sense of their costumes being unfinished, simply that perhaps The Chorus may be in a state of undress while at the beach. She wanted a mix of style in a uniform shade of neutral cream with hints of sea blue to distinguish the ladies of The Chorus as one unit.

photo by: Ross Davidson

For me, The Chorus would be providing a sort of spiritual backdrop for the main action; always watching, always listening, but never interfering with the complications that unfold in Twelfth Night. With the direction I had been given in terms of what the costumes for The Chorus should look like, I wanted to take the director's basic idea and really elevate it to something exquisite.

Looking at the fashion of the era, ladies of the day wore numerous foundation undergarments, such as chemises and corsets, bloomers, petticoats and bustles, and so I began researching Victorian and Edwardian undergarments, many of which are quite stunning in their own right.




Playing with a variety of undergarments, I began layering different pieces on each of my costume sketches, giving each member of The Chorus an individual look that would flatter her figure, and also compliment the look of the group as a whole. The elements I was putting together were a combination of Victorian and Edwardian fashion, with a touch of my personal creativity mixed in. The costumes and would be created in varying shades of white, cream and beige, with integrated flashes of blue, which for me, represented more than just the sea, as blue is a colour often associated with spirituality, an aspect that I also associate with The Chorus.

photo by: Ross Davidson

Once my rough ideas and sketches were sorted out, I began sourcing patterns and my final design sketches came to life. Nearly every single one of the costume pieces for The Chorus was created from scratch, including six corsets. These costumes were definitely a challenge for me to build, but when I look at the group of these gorgeous ladies on stage, it takes my breath away, and I am so pleased that I put in the time and dedication to get these costumes just right.

Fabian, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch hide among The Chorus
photo by: Ross Davidson

even the back view is alluring
photo by: Ross Davidson

Finally, take a look at my individual costume design sketches and the final costumes for each one of the ladies of The Chorus. Special thanks to Ross Davidson for the production photos.


RACHEL FLEAR

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
photo by: Ross Davidson

HANNAH ROBINET

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
photo by: Ross Davidson

LILA CIESIELSKI

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
*costume pieces also sourced from LCP Wardrobe
photo by: Ross Davidson

LIZ MARRA

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Whitney Bolam & Tania Harvey
photo by: Ross Davidson

MARGARITA SANCHEZ LEON

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Whitney Bolam & Tania Harvey
photo by: Ross Davidson

RACHEL KUIPERY 

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Whitney Bolam & Tania Harvey
photo by: Ross Davidson

MERIEL REED

costume design by: Whitney Bolam
costume construction by: Becky Lenko
photo by: Ross Davidson

TARA GONDER

costume design & construction by: Whitney Bolam
*costume pieces also sourced from The Costume Shoppe
photo by: Ross Davidson

Check back tomorrow for a feature on my costume choices for "The Rascals."