Actor, Amalgamation of Life, Costume Designer

Why read?

I decided to write half of this post before the read through.

  • Read throughs and the necessity for a successful show

I’ve gone through read throughs before – clearly, since I am writing a blog about becoming a director and my work in the theatre of various roles, I’ve done some things.  I haven’t produced yet, but I’m almost there.

The read through I am planning to write about is happening on Monday (shock, that was yesterday when this gets posted) and I am actually nervous.  I am working on The Laramie Project and working with extraordinarily talented individuals, a director who strikes awe in the hearts of her actors, and actors who actually directed me and will direct me in the future.  I don’t even know how to comprehend the amount of talent that is going to sit in front of me – talent, that I am going to attempt to enhance via their costumes and props.

How am I going to do that?

I read the script. I love it. I like how live animated it is – some of the shows that tackle this topic can sometimes drag through the horror and shock. While I was horrified to be reminded of everything that happened to Matthew Shepherd, I was more enthralled with the dialogue.  The multi-layered approach primarily relying on the actors vocal capabilities, cadence, and (strictly from my opinion which I have no say in since I am not the director) their facial mannerisms.  Movement on stage is not necessarily required although it can be warranted and, if done right, only emboldens the imagery of the script.

I am going to have to partner with each of the actors – I know I’m making it harder than it should be for a costumer, but that’s me.  I don’t do any thing half ass.  It can be as easy to find a priest collar and hand it off to the actor but I take my role another level – I provide them the exact script moment they need it. When it would make sense, from both an audience and a production staff perspective, to take their prop/costume and turn into their next character.

It’s about the impression actors can impose on the audience through their character change enhanced by the article of clothing or item in their hand.

  • What does the pipe say about the character?
  • Why did or didn’t a puff of smoke come out of the pipe?

All hypothetical and non-relative to the actual show, Laramie, but emphatically necessary to consider.  That, to me, is extremely important for costumers to consider – it’s not just about the dress (metaphorical in this case).

Back to the read through portion.  As a costumer, considering all of the (thee not the) above, I find it paramount to being a part of the actors progression in character development.  What if they don’t have an idea or aren’t necessarily melding with the directors point of view?  An article that I can provide them can help them take on a new persona – sometimes, and this is rare, I’ll let them take pieces home and wear it around while they learn lines.  I’ve been thanked over how helpful that has been because it becomes a reminder and an external support system that leads to a comfortable stage presence.  And that’s my goal as a costume designer.

Post read through.

Wow.  Can I tell you how poignant this show is?  If you don’t know anything about Matthew Shepard or The Laramie Project – I highly insist you do some reading.

I’ve read it before – three times.  I’ve watched the movie.  I’ve read interviews.  I am an overly prepared costumer but I feel that this is one show where you have to be over prepared.  The topic is so heart wrenching and moving that it’s almost impossible not to cry – I was close to, several times, last night but (un?)fortunately kept it together (I have issues crying in public).

I don’t think that every show requires a read through – I know I did not attend the one for Oliver! (sorry Christa … not really) when I was cast for that (as I was in dreaded tech week for Anything Goes).  I don’t think I lost anything from it.  I do believe, and there’s no way to prove this, that I would have lost something had I not attended the read-through for Laramie.  Aside from not meeting the cast and getting their names initially scribbled into my brain – there is something about this kind of show and the people it draws that opens you to a new perspective and a new worldly understanding.

I didn’t for the longest time let myself become personally involved in the Matthew Shepard thing.  It didn’t seem real. […] I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s so weird, man. I just – I just feel bad. Just for all that stuff I told you, for the person I used to be. […] How did I ever let that stuff make me think that you were different from me?

Jedadiah Schultz

This event happened.  These are retellings/recallings of the event.  It’s not something we should ever forget – much like the Holocaust or the Detroit rebellion.  These types of expressions – plays, musicals, nonfiction novels, television interviews, etc. – help humanity remember what it did wrong in the past, how to prevent these horrific acts of violence from happening again.  Hopefully.

Matt’s beating, hospitalization, and funeral focused worldwide attention on hate.  Good is coming out of evil. People have said enough is enough.

Dennis Shepard

That’s what Matthew gave us, according to his father, he died to emblazon the missing human rights not only in Wyoming but all throughout the world.  And this is one of the many reasons that I am an active member of theatre.

‘Til next time.

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