There’s nothing quite like thinking about the magic of midsummer on a cold March morning – so I’ve decided to spend my morning in the magical world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And today, my contemplation is helped along by the gorgeous costume design renderings for the show – costumes that our costume shop has already begun to build. There are a couple of challenges that the creative team has to solve for this play – and one of them is creating two distinct worlds that merge unexpectedly. The costumes, designed by Pamela Scofield, are a great place to see how the team is approaching the challenge.
We begin with the world of the Athenian court – represented by Theseus and Hippolyta. Their wedding day approaches – Theseus has won the right to marry Hippolyta through battle, and all of the stories this character is based on emphasize his strength.
According to Pamela, “Theseus is meant to be heroic. I wanted to get into the Classical world without the aspects of that look which aren’t as easy for the contemporary eye to appreciate. It’s difficult for a man today to go bare-legged in what is essentially a skirt and still look masculine! So his design addresses that issue.”
Now, Hippolyta is fierce. She’s the Queen of the Amazons, so she’s foreign to the Athenian court, and yet, is marrying Theseus. She needs to match the power of Theseus, but clearly be from another world. I love Pamela’s description of her: “Hippolyta represents the ‘Other’ in the visual aspect of this production. She is neither a part of the court nor the woods. She is exotic. The ‘real” Hippolyta or Amazon was Scythian and her look is a sort of riff on that one. She is tattooed and sexy. More Avatar than Classical warrior.”
Let’s stay with the court for one more minute – we still have the four lovers, the young couples whose desires to choose their own destinies – and life partners – kicks off the action of the play. Their wandering through the enchanted woods in an effort to elope is what initially brings the two very different worlds together on this day. Again, Pamela: “The Court in general is meant to be a contrast to the Fairy world: it is smooth and formal, controlled and cool. When the Lovers enter the forest that look is eroded until they begin to resemble the Fairies.” So, here are two contrasting sets of costumes – the lovers before they enter the woods, and then after their encounters with the fairies.
OK, so what causes this transformation from stately, classical, well-groomed lovers on the left to the disordered, tattered chaos on the right? It’s the intervention – or interference – of the magical fairy world. What inspired the design for the fairies themselves? Pamela shares the spark of the idea: “For the Fairy world in general the idea was to create a look that is organic and also glittering, so they can catch the moonlight. The fairies all have human characteristics of course but they also incorporate aspects of insects, reptiles, animals and plants. Moth has moth-like wings and antennae but she also has a tail and her skin is tiger-ish. I also wanted to take the edge off the fairy world, so to speak, to blur the edges a little. Like a butterfly at the end of summer or a garden gone wild. A little ragged.” I’m enchanted by the costumes for Titania, Queen of the Fairies, and her court – and after you see them, I dare you to feel otherwise…