Putting it Together, by David I.L. Poole

 (Read the first part of my design process here!)

      So did my design of the ape costume meet approval?  Yes, it did!  Artistic Director Kelie Miley loved it!

     The next phase of design is the actual implementation, which is where things can become a little tricky.  Transferring the costume from a drawing to the finished product is a process called “draping.”  Draping is a method of dressmaking in which fabric is pinned and hung on a mannequin form in order to create a pattern.  This is usually done with inexpensive fabric, like muslin, so there is no real loss if a mistake occurs.  This process is done with much trial and error, and there may be many drapings depending on the complexities of the garment.  Once a pattern is determined from the draping, then more expensive materials can be cut and sewn into a finished costume.

Draping and pinning one of 28 ape costumes!

Draping and pinning one of 28 ape costumes!

      One of the exciting materials being used is coming all the way from Hawaii!  We ordered traditional Tahitian bark skirts in a variety of colors.  These will be deconstructed and sewn onto the edges of the ape costumes to give a full fur look without it using actual fur, which is very expensive, heavy, and difficult to maintain.   The Tahitian bark will be used on principal characters, while we are using raffia that has been painted and dyed to costume members of the ape ensemble.  With 28 apes to costume, we aren’t just talking about small quantities here; we’re talking loads and loads of material!

A sea of raffia!

A sea of raffia, divided into baskets for each performer.

     After settling on the designs for the apes, the director also asked that I design tropical flower costumes that could bloom on stage, and a hybrid butterfly/puppet costume for some of the featured dancers.  I love these opportunities to create fantastical creatures!  That is why I love to volunteer at the Savannah Children’s Theatre where I have a place to let my imagination soar.

     Thanks to our army of volunteers, including Karen Clark, Pam Edenfield, Chann Givens,  Bonnie Juengert, and Marcia Karp, we are making quick progress.  Main Stage productions are a team effort, and our volunteers are the best in town!  We talk and laugh, sew and hot glue.  Spending time with these creative, talented minds makes the work go by so quickly.

     If you haven’t reserved your seats yet for TARZAN, do it now! Tickets are available on our website, or by calling the box office at 912.238.9015.  The next post you’ll see from me will show the finished product.  But trust me, you’ll want to see it on stage and in action!

Getting the Right Fit, by David I.L. Poole

     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.

Ape Design by David I.L. Poole for Savannah Children's Theatre, October 14, 2013

         Ape Design by David I.L. Poole for Savannah Children’s Theatre, October 14, 2013


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!