Sep 30

Costumes – A Wordless Way of Discovering a Character

By Sami DeSocio

To an actor, a costume is part of discovering the character and for some it is really the only way they know how to ‘step into their character’. It takes on a whole new meaning when you’re asked to provide part of the costume yourself out of your own wardrobe.

After the show ends, it always feels so weird to me to wear the piece or pieces of clothing that I wore onstage. They take on a whole new meaning and the clothes that once meant they were just my clothes and an option to wear, are now flooded with memories of an awesome show, and some great people.

While this is seen and practiced more in community theater (budgets, people!), I’ve also seen it occur on Broadway. For example, the plaid coat Mark Cohen wears in Rent was actually a coat that Anthony Rapp owned and wore onstage. If I’m right, I believe he gave his coat to the show when he left.

It works just the opposite, when you get to keep a piece of a costume you wore onstage. When I played Maria in The Heiress, I was offered to keep the boots I wore in the show. While I declined the offer graciously (after really considering it), It would have been cool to own a pair of shoes I had worn onstage that for me had memories of a wonderful run!

Half of the fun of a show is getting to costume day and seeing everyone for the first time in their costumes. When I was in Rent and I saw the guy playing Roger dressed as him for the first time, I dropped to my knees in shock. Not only was I living a dream to be cast in the show, but with the flannel pants and shirt he had selected as his costume, he became Roger when he put them on. I was floored.

On the other side, costumes can be used to change a significant part of a production. Last year, a theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida, did a production of Spring Awakening, in which the characters wore modern clothing, but the adults wore period clothing, as a way to show the juxtaposition between the children going through learning about themselves and the parents inhibiting them.

Costumes are a big part of any show-they help set the time period, personality of the character, and tells you a lot about a character before they speak onstage. Being able to bring something of your own to the costume makes you even closer to the character-and it makes your clothes cooler than they were before.

What kind of costume pieces have you contributed to shows? What show was it?

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