"Costumes at Theatre UAF" Photos, 1990-1996 by Tara Maginnis

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"Costumes at Theatre UAF" Photos, 1990-1996 by Tara Maginnis. Part of an exhibit of Costumes, renderings and artwork from these years done for the college-wide adjudication review of UAF done in 1996.

Caption from 1996: The majority of photos that I take are portfolio shots of the costumes that I design for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Most often this means I am doing straight theatre photography--- shooting actors live on stage, without flash. Occasionally I also do backstage and/or setup shots to get details that are missed using the above method. Mainly, for these photos I am trying to get the best picture of the costumes in the show, not necessarily the best technical photography. What follows are some of my best portfolio shots, and what was most interesting about doing each show.


Picture 1: Woyzeck, 1990,Backstage with the Dead Soldier, the Gypsy and the Old Woman. Woyzeck was fun because we got to make a lot of young, beautiful undergraduates look like roadkill. All the costumes were spray dyed with 3-4 colors of muck, then coated with artificial excrement (equal parts sawdust, glue and paint), and then finally shredded with saws, wire brushes, and sandpaper. Then the actors were given makeup designs based on expressionist portraits. To show how well this succeeded, I should just say that the Old Woman on the right was played by a beautiful, tall, blonde, Swedish exchange student, whose other role that year was as a fashionable store mannequin in The Hat


Picture 2: Much Ado About Nothing,1991. Much Ado used an invention of mine called the "Omnigarment",seen here on the right shoulder of Ann Turner as Beatrice on the left. The"Omnigarment" is a series of panels on an arrangement of elastic, attached to a mask, and controlled by a drawstring. It can be worn by the actors as skirts, pants,tunics, capes, and wimples, over 30 different ways. The two actresses on the right wear two skirt versions. These costumes have been exhibited at the National Conference of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, and at Costume Con 14. They were also shown in an article in the journal, Theatre Design and Technology

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Picture 3: You Can’t Take It With You, 1992. This quintessential American play has two Russian Émigré character’s in it, one, a sort of wacky aesthete/dancing master, and the other, a Grand Duchess who works as a waitress. In contrast to the simplified cartoony dress of the American characters, we dressed them in their faded Sunday best clothes, full of texture and pre-1917 Silver Age Russian style.


Picture 4: The Inspector General, AK, 1992. In contrast to You Can’t… most of the Russians in Inspector General were dressed as American clichés. The director, Anatoly Antohin, originally envisioned all the Russians in scruffy pre-Peristrioka underwear. Then as their fantasies of life in an American capitalist world blossomed, cut out figures of famous Westerners would pop out of the sky, embodying each character’s ideal self image. They would then put on the clothes of the cutout, as they ran around spinning their fantasies. The cutouts proved to be beyond the capabilities of our scene designer, but the costumes stayed as planned. The Mayor (far left) dressed as the Millionaire in the Monopoly game, Bob and Dob (bottom) two local rubes, dressed as sports stars, The Mayor’s Wife (far right) dressed as Elisabeth Taylor, and the Russian and American students (center) switched the nationalities of their University T-shirts, just as real students usually do.


Picture 5: The Eagle’s Gift, 1993,Root Woman. Root Woman’s costume was the largest costume we have ever made at UAF. According to the script, she was a mass of vines and roots covering the stage,appearing instantly from the earth like an angry Mother Nature. Root Woman’s dress made use of nearly all recycled materials, mainly garbage, highway erosion cloth, and bits of rope, yarn and macramé cord donated to us over the years. We used a hoop skirt and bouffant petticoat left over from Iolanthe, and attached all the costume shop garbage to it. We then tied it to a scenic baton (pipe) and spider-like wove a two story web going from the baton to the skirt, and all across the stage. Two days were spent lifting the baton a foot at a time while we wove the roots to the stage level. For the show the whole web and skirt weaving was kept up in the flies, until a blackout when it was dropped in over a hole in the floor. The actress, Melanie Brown, then arose through the hole, with smoke and flame colored light from below, and slid up and into the costume, like Glinda the Good arising out of a land-fill, none too happy with mankind.


Picture 6:The Eagle’s Gift, 1993,The Eagle Mother and Blood Woman confront the Young Man and Young Woman." Eagle’s Gift was Tuma Theatre/Theatre UAF’s attempt to take an ancient Alaskan legend and apply it to the modern world of Native Alaskans. As a result we juxtaposed modern people like the Young Man and Woman, with legendary characters, whose costumes were also made out of modern materials. Blood Woman (Ransom Amarantal, rear) is a terrifying but good spirit, who frightens the couple after they kill the Giant Eagle, but then takes them to the Eagle Mother to be forgiven, purged and healed. Blood woman terrified the audience as well as the couple by appearing in a loud clanking costume of aluminum cans, dry walling stilts, and giant claws, here seen making a protective circle around the Eagle Mother. Eagle Mother’s costume was designed by Diane Swanson for The Child From the Sea, (1992) and reused.


Picture 7: "Noises Off, 1993. Some costumes contain construction problems that regular dressmakers never deal with. Like how to turn a super serious directing student into a bouncing jiggling bimbo character without personal embarrassment for the actor. This costume had built in beanbags in the bra that would bounce on cue like somebody about to escape their cups, and enough boning and binding t oensure that the real actress beneath could never pop out.


Picture 8: [Shows100pagesCabaret|Cabaret]], 1994, Chorus. A more complex illusion was used for Cabaret, where much of the action takes place in the Kit Kat Klub, where in reality the chorus would be semi-naked stripper types. To get the audience to believe they were seeing lots of flesh, and the students to know they were not, we gave all the women flesh colored dance unitards, that covered them from the bust down. Since unitards look like unitards if seen clearly, we then did a sort of fan-dance with their costumes, putting sleazy minimal lingerie from Value Village on top of this, plus translucent lace stockings on their legs. Then this was in turn covered with see-through lace dresses and cross garters, that revealed the lingerie, garter belts, and stockings beneath. Because one can see through the dresses to see the stockings and underwear, the mind assumes that one is also seeing through the stockings and underwear to the flesh below.


Picture 9:Comedy of Errors, 1995,Adriana and Luciana. Our production of Comedy was inspired by early silent movie comedies and the works of Russian Constructivist designers like Lyubov Popova, Sonya Delaunay Telk, and Alexandra Exter. Their painted costume styles mixed with the clichés of early screen comedy, allowed us to make a show that required almost no sewing. These two dresses were Value Village items, with only a small sewn in pleated panel added. All the rest of the design is created using fabric paints.


Picture 10: Comedy of Errors, 1995, Antipholus of Syracuse and Adriana. The suit on Antipholus is also just a white thrift-store suit with fabric paint additions. Many people assume a costumer’s life consists of sewing, but in fact, much more time is spent scrounging materials, dying,painting, and gluing things than is ever spent sewing. Scrounging doesn’t only happen at thrift stores, but is a constant pursuit. For example the bright yellow "hat netting" on Adriana’s hat is in fact the wrapper for a Butterball turkey I ate at my folks on Thanksgiving many years ago.


Picture 11: The Mystery of Edwin Drood,1996. Another assumption people often make is that we make all new costumes for each show. The reverse is true. Drood, a lavish-looking Victorian show was made nearly all out of old costumes, thrift store finds and donations. Two overcoats, a vest and two pairs of pants were the only "new" garments made. Here, the Chairman (Darrell Clark, left) wears a donated Ukrainian smoking jacket, a vest from Woyzeck, pants from Value Village, and a donated scarf and gloves. The Princess Puffer (Barbara Pitsenberger, center) wears a wig from Grease, redressed, a hair ornament from SFAC’s Oliver, a bodice from the Tartuffe done at UAF in the 1970’s with new sleeves and trim, a skirt (formerly a petticoat) from Quilters, and a petticoat (formerly a skirt) from Iolanthe

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