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24 MAY 2011

The Purpose and Focus of Research for Costumes

"One of the greatest challenges for any practitioner in the performing arts is to create a believable and completely honest 'world of the play,' no matter how abstract or obscure it might be to the modern eye. A costumer's overarching objective is essentially to create forms of clothing that are appropriate to any and every type of character, taking into account not only the obvious variables of nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation and creed, but also those of geography, climate, occupation, familial and/or marital status, physiology, personality, psychological state, ideology, historical milieu and so forth. ...

Evocative research, the most liberating form of research for a costumer, is found all around us. This form of research, includes the visual arts but expands to encompass highly abstract art, music, nature, fantasy, film, language, demography and sociopolitical perspectives. Used by directors, actors and designers alike, it creates a basic vocabulary of concept and style upon which to begin discussions of production design. For example, one of the first discussions regarding a play or opera might be the director bringing to the table a piece of music or a painting that to them conveys the mood and spirit they are looking to evoke in the production. For example, a painting by Gustav Klimt might have a specific palette and a detailed use of texture and pattern that evoke key emotions from the director and serve as an excellent springboard for a stylized concept. A director could even bring in a list of adjectives that describes his or her response to the play, and a production team would be expected to visually interpret these words. It is the combination of evocative and factual research that brings focus, cohesiveness and consistency to a production design. Finding fundamental themes or through–lines upon which to base the clothing of the characters therefore allows the designer to create a more controlled environment and a more unified aesthetic."

(Linda Pisano, Timeless Communications September 2010)

Fig.1 Gloria Swanson in the ruins of the Roxy Theatre. Eliot Elisofon. New York City, October 14, 1960. © Time, Inc.



actorsartistic practicearts practitioner • basic vocabulary • believability • brings into focus • characterclothingcohesiveness • colour palette • consistencycostume design • costumer • demographydesignerethnicityevocative research • factual research • fashionform of research • forms of clothing • fundamental themes • key emotions • list of adjectives • nationalityoperapatternperforming artsproduction design • production team • response to the play • socio-politicalsocioeconomic status • sociopolitical perspectives • stylised concept • texturetheatre designer • theatre director • theatre productiontheatrical play • through-line • unified aesthetic • visual artsvisual interpretation • world of the play • world of the story


Simon Perkins

The ingenious use of technology in stage design

"Svoboda's opera productions evidence his ingenious use of technology, as well as his use of all manner of modern materials, such as plastics, hyrdraulics, and lasers. In Tristan und Isolde, performed in Wiesbaden in 1967, Svoboda created one of his best–known effects, the three–dimensional pillar of light with an aerosol mixture through which shone low–voltage luminaires. In Richard Wagner's The Ring Cycle, performed in London between the years 1974 and 1976, the central unit was a platform that raised, lowered, tilted, and transformed into stairs that leveled no matter at what pitch the platform was. In addition, its underside had a large mirror to reflect performers who were below stage level."

(Thomas J. Mikotowicz, Theatrical Designers: An International Biographical Dictionary)



aerosol mixture • Czech National Theatre • Czechoslovakia • hyrdraulic • influential designer • ingenious use of technology • Josef Svoboda • light • opera production • performance • pillar of light • pioneer • principal designer • Richard Wagner • Ring Cycle • scenic designer • scenographer • scenographystage • stage design • theatretheatre designer • Tristan und Isolde • Wiesbaden


Roma Patel

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