Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Costuming Urinetown: The Musical

By Jade Bettin, Costume Designer

This is my fourth time costuming for the Summer Youth Conservatory and while I am proud of each of the others, I find myself incredibly excited to see the costumes for Urinetown: The Musical onstage. Perhaps it's because I've been incredibly fortunate to have such a great team ‑ talented theatre tech students and amazingly generous volunteers ‑ working in the costume shop to realize my vision for the show.

That vision began with a collection of images presented to me by one of the directors, Jeff Stanley. The pictures ranged from Depression Era images of men and women standing in bread lines to President Skroob from the Mel Brooks movie, Spaceballs.

Costume research materials
Mel Brooks as President Skroob in Spaceballs

Jeff, Adam Dill (assistant costume designer and costume shop manager extraordinaire), and I really focused in on the juxtaposition that exists in the play between the haves and have nots ‑ groups the directors had dubbed the "Cladwellians" and the "townies". It's a contrast that existed quite starkly in the 1930s and a reality that resonates today in the chants of "we are the 99%". So as a designer I was drawn to the silhouettes of the 1930s, but didn't want to make the look so foreign as to suggest that this was only an issue way back when.

Of course with the Summer Youth Conservatory, we're outfitting a cast of about 30 (if you include the costumed musicians). Consider that some of the actors play both townies and Cladwellians and you have a lot of pairs of shoes. (Or two miss-matched shoes in the case of Little Becky Two Shoes.) With the exception of a handful of pieces, most of what will be seen onstage is pulled from our own costume storage, altered to fit the actor, and then in the case of the townies, made to look as if they haven't washed their clothes in twenty years. All this definitely makes for a flurry of activity in the costume shop.

Costume fitting for SYC actor Bryce Bowden

Urinetown: The Musical will be showing July 19 - 22, 2012
Click Here for more information.