I recently designed costumes for The Crucible at The University of California, Irvine which opened last weekend. Most of you have heard of it. Its that dated story about a bunch of pilgrims and some witches- nothing to do with our modern life, right? That is what I thought I would be designing this winter as part of my masters program at UCI. But in walked director Beth Lopes with a radical idea to set this play in modern times. This won’t work, I thought. I researched past productions and couldn’t find evidence of a single production with a modern setting. My conclusion- maybe they know something we don’t. The time just can’t be changed.
My first steps in this design process were to analyze the text very carefully, and begin pulling images of modern clothing and fashion inspirations. I hit a wall. I couldn’t see this town in modern dress. The girls didn’t make sense in jeans and t-shirts, and the whole thing seemed way too literal. Where in modern day America are we hanging witches? Our team met, and we met, and we met. We wanted to create a language for our designs that made sense of what is a truly a beautiful text (when you see past all of the Pilgrim garb and read it for what it truly is- a metaphor).
With this new appreciation for the text and characters of the play- I set out to explore this idea of community and create a certain timelessness and metaphorical design, both of which are technical impossibilities. What I eventually designed was modern clothing, with a certain 1950s sensibility, and a dash of Puritanism. For the metaphor- I developed a color palette (that made shopping incredibly difficult- my assistant can attest to that) which stepped from red and orange, to orange and green, to blue and purple, to black and white over the course of the show. This allowed me to create an arc where the audience could see visually the life of this town draining as time went on. I was nervous about how we would accomplish this lofty goal, and leery about how it would all eventually read, on stage.
What I believe we have accomplished is the most beautiful telling of this story I have ever witnessed. It is also, frankly, the most dramatic and profound piece that I have had the honor of being a part of. From the director, to the other designers, to stage management, to the cast, and crew- everyone came together to create a very moving piece of theatre. I am incredibly thankful for the struggle that I experienced in my this process and the opportunity I had to be pushed to reexamine how I design.
Check out samples of my work on my online portfolio.