Monday, March 6, 2017

by Kathleen

I have a friend from grad school, lo these many, many... many years ago. We overlapped for a year... him as a directing grad student and me in costume, and we worked on a of couple projects together, including his thesis show.
He's now doing a touring one man theatrical company,, and I've had the pleasure of working with him on several of his recent projects.

The first was his Lotto' Shakespeare. Using a bingo ball roller he has the audience pull  out 5-6 different names of plays (and characters) from which he has memorized a monologue. He never knows what will be pulled that evening and has to be prepared for all possibilities. He must have over 30 monologues altogether!
For this he wanted a basic Elizabethan doublet and breeches costume, with shirt. We initially considered options such as removable sleeves, but decided that opening and closing the front would give him enough play to create a change between characters.
I chose a nice blue brocade (to go with his eyes)...
Open sleeves to show the shirt in front, and to give better movement through the armscye.

Ornamented with black trim and gold buttons.

Looped tabs at the shoulder.
And a rather fun lining.

And the whole shebang in action...
photo by April Petersen, from

The next costume I did was his Hamlet... a one hour, one man version he calls "Breakneck Hamlet". It was another double and breeches, but I got a little fancy for this one. The shirt was fancier (than the one seen above), and I did some fabric manipulation in the garment as well.

 We learned a few things from the first costume...We learned that the shirt needed a taller collar and shorter front placket. And that I wanted interest... a ruffle with contrasting edge trim.

The trim was done by making a folded edge ruffle and then doing a thickly serged edge onto the fold. I swung the blade up out of the way so as to prevent cutting anything accidentally and went slowly... oh so slowly.

As everyone (?) knows Hamlet dresses in all black. But on stage that can be kinda... dull. especially since in a one man version there are no other costumes for him to play off of. So I looked for a way to add interest... and first added texture.
I started with a satin that was quilted in 1" lines and added another line in between

From this I made shoulder yokes and the sleeve crescents.

And I added lines of black braid trim in diagonals across the chest. 
Nice enough... 
but still too black on black, and not enough punch.

So things were semi-undone and... I started playing with sparkle.

 Decorative stitches and silver metallic thread...

So much better!
The addition of some sliver piping and silver-black velvet trim and...

photo by Dale Jessen, from

This may be the second costume... a mostly exact re-creation after his first was part of a load stolen from his car. What the heck is the thief going to do with a custom made Hamlet costume? Oh well. One of the challenges he has to deal with as a travelling player, storing his livelihood and living out of his car for most of the year.

Right now I am working on a third costume, and a totally different look... Breakneck Caesar! We've had our first fabric fitting and I'm in the middle of deconstructing and reconstructing things...

But it's gonna look pretty dang cool when complete...