"Costumes at Theatre UAF" Photos, 1990-1996.
by Tara Maginnis, Ph.D. of The University ofAlaska Fairbanks
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"Costumes at Theatre UAF" 1990-1996.
The majority of photos that I take are portfolio shots of the costumesthat I design for the
Tara Maginnis University of Alaska Fairbanks. Most often this means I am doingstraight theatre photography--- shooting actors live on stage , without flash.Occasionally I also do backstage and/or setup shots to get details that are missed usingthe above method. Mainly, for these photos I am trying to get the best picture of thecostumes in the show, not necessarily the best technical photography. What follows aresome of my best portfolio shots, and what was most interesting about doing each show.(Click thumbnails to see larger images).
Picture 1: "
Woyzeck, 1990,Backstage with the Dead Soldier, the Gypsy and the Old Woman." Woyzeck was funbecause we got to make a lot of young, beautiful undergraduates look like roadkill. Allthe costumes were spray dyed with 3-4 colors of muck, then coated with artificialexcrement (equal parts sawdust, glue and paint), and then finally shredded with saws, wirebrushes, and sandpaper. Then the actors were given makeup designs based on expressionistportraits. To show how well this succeeded, I should just say that the "OldWoman" on the right was played by a beautiful, tall, blonde, Swedish exchangestudent, 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 amask, 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 weartwo skirt versions. These costumes have been exhibited at the National Conference of theUnited States Institute for Theatre Technology, and at Costume Con 14. They were alsoshown in an article in Theatre Design and Technology
Picture 3: "You Cant Take It With You, 1992."This quintessential American play has two Russian Émigré characters in it, one, asort of wacky aesthete/dancing master, and the other, a Grand Duchess who works as awaitress. In contrast to the simplified cartoony dress of the American characters, wedressed them in their faded Sunday best clothes, full of texture and pre-1917 Silver AgeRussian style.
Picture 4: "The Inspector General, AK, 1992." Incontrast to You Cant most of the Russians in Inspector General weredressed as American clichés. The director, Anatoly Antohin, originally envisioned all theRussians in scruffy pre-Peristrioka underwear. Then as their fantasies of life in anAmerican capitalist world blossomed, cut out figures of famous Westerners would pop out ofthe sky, embodying each characters ideal self image. They would then put on theclothes of the cutout, as they ran around spinning their fantasies. The cutouts proved tobe beyond the capabilities of our scene designer, but the costumes stayed as planned. TheMayor (far left) dressed as the Millionaire in the Monopoly game, Bob and Dob (bottom) twolocal rubes, dressed as sports stars, The Mayors Wife (far right) dressed asElisabeth Taylor, and the Russian and American students (center) switched thenationalities of their University T-shirts, just as real students usually do.
Picture 5: "
The Eagles Gift, 1993,Root Woman." Root Womans costume was the largest costume we have ever made atUAF. 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 Womans dressmade use of nearly all recycled materials, mainly garbage, highway erosion cloth, and bitsof rope, yarn and macramé cord donated to us over the years. We used a hoop skirt andbouffant petticoat left over from Iolanthe, and attached all the costume shopgarbage to it. We then tied it to a scenic baton (pipe) and spider-like wove a two storyweb going from the baton to the skirt, and all across the stage. Two days were spentlifting the baton a foot at a time while we wove the roots to the stage level. For theshow the whole web and skirt weaving was kept up in the flies, until a blackout when itwas dropped in over a hole in the floor. The actress, Melanie Brown, then arose throughthe 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 Eagles Gift, 1993,The Eagle Mother and Blood Woman confront the Young Man and Young Woman."Eagles Gift was Tuma Theatre/Theatre UAFs attempt to take an ancient Alaskanlegend and apply it to the modern world of Native Alaskans. As a result we juxtaposedmodern people like the Young Man and Woman, with legendary characters, whose costumes werealso made out of modern materials. Blood Woman (Ransom Amarantal, rear) is a terrifyingbut good spirit, who frightens the couple after they kill the Giant Eagle, but then takesthem to the Eagle Mother to be forgiven, purged and healed. Blood woman terrified theaudience 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 EagleMother. Eagle Mothers costume was designed by Diane Swanson for The Child Fromthe Sea, (1992) and reused.
Picture 7: "Noises Off, 1993. Some costumes containconstruction problems that regular dressmakers never deal with. Like how to turn a superserious directing student into a bouncing jiggling bimbo character without personalembarrassment for the actor. This costume had built in beanbags in the bra that wouldbounce on cue like somebody about to escape their cups, and enough boning and binding toensure that the real actress beneath could never pop out.
Picture 8: "
Cabaret, 1994, Chorus."A more complex illusion was used for Cabaret, where much of the action takes placein the Kit Kat Klub, where in reality the chorus would be semi-naked stripper types. Toget the audience to believe they were seeing lots of flesh, and the students to know theywere not, we gave all the women flesh colored dance unitards, that covered them from thebust down. Since unitards look like unitards if seen clearly, we then did a sort offan-dance with their costumes, putting sleazy minimal lingerie from Value Village on topof this, plus translucent lace stockings on their legs. Then this was in turn covered withsee-through lace dresses and cross garters, that revealed the lingerie, garter belts, andstockings beneath. Because one can see through the dresses to see the stockings andunderwear, the mind assumes that one is also seeing through the stockings and underwear tothe flesh below.
Picture 9: "
Comedy of Errors, 1995,Adriana and Luciana." Our production of Comedy was inspired by early silentmovie comedies and the works of Russian Constructivist designers like Lyubov Popova, SonyaDelaunay Telk, and Alexandra Exter. Their painted costume styles mixed with the clichésof early screen comedy, allowed us to make a show that required almost no sewing. Thesetwo dresses were Value Village items, with only a small sewn in pleated panel added. Allthe 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 whitethrift-store suit with fabric paint additions. Many people assume a costumers lifeconsists of sewing, but in fact, much more time is spent scrounging materials, dying,painting, and gluing things than is ever spent sewing. Scrounging doesnt only happenat thrift stores, but is a constant pursuit. For example the bright yellow "hatnetting" on Adrianas hat is in fact the wrapper for a Butterball turkey I ateat 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 eachshow. The reverse is true. Drood, a lavish-looking Victorian show was made nearlyall out of old costumes, thrift store finds and donations. Two overcoats, a vest and twopairs of pants were the only "new" garments made. Here, the Chairman (DarrellClark, left) wears a donated Ukrainian smoking jacket, a vest from Woyzeck, pantsfrom Value Village, and a donated scarf and gloves. The Princess Puffer (BarbaraPitsenberger, center) wears a wig from Grease, redressed, a hair ornament fromSFACs Oliver, a bodice from the Tartuffe done at UAF in the1970s with new sleeves and trim, a skirt (formerly a petticoat) from Quilters,and a petticoat (formerly a skirt) from Iolanthe