This production was a fantastic design challenge. The director Bartlett Sher wanted clothes with a real connection to the 16th century historical events of the play. But he also asked that I create a world with a strong modern feel. Chris Akerlind’s set was modern, made of construction scaffolding with a beautiful pierced wall of cinder blocks.
I started by immersing myself in period research, when dress was regulated by sumptuary laws for each class. Ermine, certain furs, cloth of gold and colors like purple were restricted to the highest nobility. So I did the court in metallic colors; from gold to gunmetal silver. The characters who were killed first were in the palest shades, so that by the time Richard is crowned, the middle-brow henchmen who are left are dressed in the darkest colors.
Our budget was extremely limited and we needed more than a hundred costumes for the cast of 27 to tell the story. I made the designs very simple so that the shop could handle making more pieces. They cut capes out of melton wool with raw edges and made tunics of gleaming metallic denim and leathers, which didn’t need trimming. I incorporated details from safety and construction gear to respond to the world of the set; using buckles from safety harnesses and carpet layers' aluminum shin-guards, which make wonderful medieval greaves. Thanks to my assistant Carisa Bush and costume shop manager Julia Collins, the end result was truly beautiful.
By William Shakespeare
Director: Bartlett Sher
Sets and Lighting: Christopher Akerlind・Sound Design: Peter John Still・Hair/Wig Design: Dennis Bensie • Fight Direction: J. Steven White
Cast: Stephen Pelinski, Michael Winters, Kristin Flanders, Suzanne Bouchard, Allen Fitzpatrick, Allen Gilmore, Bob Wright, John Pribyl, Megan Cole, Timothy McCuen Piggee and Lenne Klingaman
Photos: Chris Bennion and Kurt Wall