The theatre and dance department’s Fall 2016 production is “Cosi,” directed by theatre and dance department professor Al Schnupp. This series will follow the creation and production of “Cosi” and explore what making a student production is all about. Read the first installment here and the second installment here.
In a play, costumes help bring a production together and are instrumental in defining each character as their own person. For “Cosi,” and 24 Cal Poly theatre productions prior, theatre professor Thomas Bernard has been the costume designer.
Bernard’s goal is to make the “Cosi” costumes as realistic as possible. This presents a challenge as the show is set in Australia in the ‘70s. The time period requires specific articles of clothing made of specific materials, which means many of the costumes in “Cosi” will be made and not purchased. Costume manager Sarah Bryan has been helping Bernard, working since the start of the school year to assemble the pieces.
The ‘70s were a marked time of fashion, with a flair that leaned toward the eccentric side. Communicating ‘70s America through costume can be a challenge of its own, but ‘70s Australia is new territory.
“The other question is ‘How different was 1970s Australia to America? And how do I communicate that to the audience?’” Bernard said.
He found that the solution for “Cosi” is to incorporate iconic looks of the ‘70s, like bell bottoms and brighter colors, into his designs. Orange and yellow colors will be highlights in the costumes, but with a muted tone.
Costume design is a collaboration of ideas and concepts from creative people. It takes meticulous planning and conceptualizing before those ideas even make it on stage.
After speaking with Al Schnupp, theatre and dance department professor and “Cosi” director, Bernard researched the “Cosi” time period and setting and started making sketches of costumes. These sketches turned into renderings and once the show was cast, the construction began. Now that the cast has been measured, multiple fittings will ensure the costumes are custom-fit.
Costumes are also used to showcase a character’s persona. Every color, stitch and accessory is particular to a certain character. During a fitting, theatre senior Emily Brehm talked to Bernard about which necklace her character, Justin, will be wearing.
“I feel like she would have one particular necklace she would wear,” Bernard said as he searched through the assortment of costume jewelry.
Costumes can change how an audience views a show, from the outrageous to the realistic. The designs for “Cosi” make the characters all the more lifelike and believable.
“We find ourselves in the characters,” Bernard said. “Each character has a little bit of different in them. But then don’t we all? The costumes bring that out in each character.”