I recently took on the task of designing some of the costumes for SCT’s upcoming Main Stage production of Disney’s Tarzan. This blog will share a little insight into this exciting process!
When designing costumes for a production there are three main factors that I consider:
1) The actors limitations; i.e., in Tarzan they will be partaking in extensive acrobat movement
2) The shape and structure of the time period or animal that I am to design
3) The feeling that the director wants for the show
In Tarzan I am working primarily on the ape costumes. So how do I begin?
First, I begin by having a conversation with Artistic Director , Kelie Miley, and we discuss the project and what she envisions. I love collaboration and the theatre is a perfect place for it! In our discussion on this production, Kelie’s requests for the ape costumes were that they be made of natural materials, reference tribal culture, and of course, that they be kept to a reasonable budget.
With this information in hand, I began to immerse myself into the world of the play by gathering all kinds of design references and materials; things like pictures of gorillas, tribal patterns from the Congo, or pieces of natural materials like raffia, leather, and rope. I sit with these materials, organize them, and think about them. I let my imagination soar. This is one of the main reasons I volunteer at the Savannah Children’s Theatre; where else do I get to design and build animals, fantastic creatures, and magical beings and to let my imagination take over? At this point I might also do a few quick sketches of costumes to make all these references, shapes, and materials come together.
Then I go through what I like to call an “incubation period” in which I walk away from the project, like putting it on a back burner. I might begin or work on another project as long as I get away from the current one. The period of time depends on production schedule and how fast the turnover from sketch to costume has to occur. Sometime it is a few months, sometimes this is a day or so. What this achieves for me is time for my ideas to “incubate” and when I return I can see the project and materials with fresh eyes. At this point I narrow down all the ideas and try to come up with a composite rendering.
So here is what I came up with for the apes.
Next, I await approval of the final rendering. This is when, if there is anything that the director does not like, we can change it. We gather the actors and start to take measurements to assure the right fit.
Will this first design meet Kelie’s approval, or will it need to be changed? Stay tuned! I’ll be keeping you up-to-date about our progress throughout the 15 weeks leading up to this amazing new show. You’ll get to see how our costumes are created, from start to finish. Feel free to comment if you have any questions about the process. Until then, I’ll be sketching and sewing!