Thoughts From Behind The Scenes: Costume Designer!

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During the production process of Dead Man’s Shoes, we’ll be posting a number of journal entries from folks working in different areas of the show. First up is Amber Cook, our Costume Designer!

Hello, Amber Marisa Cook, the Costume Designer here!  Tony asked me to write this blog entry and I was happy to oblige because I love what I do and being able to share a behind the scenes perspective with y’all.

I am really excited to be working on Dead Man’s Shoes for Williamston Theatre and the Performance Network for a number of reasons, but at the top of the list are the lovely people involved with this production and the challenge of working with a new script.  As a designer, any time I get to put my stamp on a story first, it’s very exciting, but also challenging- I always want to serve the needs of the characters and the play, but in this instance, I am helping the actors and director bring these people to life for the very first time. Yikes! No pressure!

I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration for this production looking at photography from the American West during the 1870-1890’s , and I think the audience will get the feel of old photography in the grey and sepia tones of the costumes. I was able to see the scrolling drop that Scenic Designer Kirk Domer painted in person today which was great because now I have a better idea of what the overall color palette on the stage with the costumes is.

I had marathon fittings for a large portion of the costumes this past Saturday (New Year’s Eve) and I am excited to finalize the rest of the pieces and that things are coming together so quickly.  I actually pulled together most of the clothing before the first read through even happened, which seems like I am far ahead of the game, but with such a short rehearsal process and so much of the show relying on quick costume piece changes to aid in the story telling, I feel like I am right on schedule.

For this production, most of the costumes have been been purchased especially for the production.  I say costumes, and that’s what they are, but really for the characters, these are clothes that have been lived in.  As I write this I am looking across my living room at a stack of clothing all shiny and new, ready to be beat up and drug through the mud (paint and dye.)   Because of the nature of the story and its rough and tumble characters, I figured out early on that everything would need to be what we call “distressed”- think of it like buying a pair of jeans with holes and faded spots already worn in.  I will need to do that to most of the costumes worn in the show, on top of adding -SPOILER ALERT- an occasional blood spatter, so it’s a much more effective use of my time to concentrate my efforts there as opposed to sewing a lot- plus there are some great authentic Western Wear companies out there.   Getting messy is definitely a fun change of pace for me.

Before I end this post, I feel like I have to mention one other important piece of the puzzle.  I have a fantastic and often bizarre job, and one element that illustrates this perfectly is the shoes referenced in the title of the play- I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say I am currently fleshing out the perfect pair of shoes. For those of you who do know what I mean, sorry, I couldn’t resist!   See you at the theatre!

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