I once had an actor tell me that the costume I designed was the final piece of the puzzle in finding his character. It is my favorite compliment. It is enormously satisfying to see a character that lives in my imagination, come to life on stage. This satisfaction propels me forward into each new project. The design work that I do is driven by several essentials: curiosity, constraints and collaboration.
Curiosity drives me to research. In theater, it starts with the text and the interesting stories and characters that lie in the pages of a new play. Since dance is more evocative my dance designs are inspired by emotional reactions to sound, color and movement. Once I have my initial impressions of the work, I devote many hours to research, looking for details which guide and inspire the designs. Because people intrigue me, investigating the cultural trappings of humanity engages my interest. It is the curiosity that keeps me looking for one more book or googling one more topic that might give me insight into the work at hand.
Constraints play a role in fostering my creativity. What happens if I can only use man made materials…or a limited color palette? How can placing a classic play in a modern context hearken back to an earlier time while still being modern? Or maybe I need a suit covered in stars…does that even exist? Nothing makes me happier than to be searching for fabric or costumes based on such limitations. It’s like a treasure hunt.
Collaboration stirs my creativity throughout the pre-production process. I thrive on talking with directors, designers and actors about the stories and the characters. These conversations are another way for me to tap into artistic exploration. My favorite projects have been those where there was enough time for the design team to sit and bat around ideas. Collaboration with the actors tends to happen for me in fittings, where we can talk about character. A costume used by an experienced or insightful actor can be transformative. I have seen characters come to life in fittings long before the actor is on stage.