Good People marks the fifth Geva production for which Devon Painter has designed the costumes. I asked Devon for her take on working at Geva, and creating a look for the characters in this funny and moving drama.
JW: You’ve designed the costumes for quite a few productions here at Geva – do you have a favorite one?
DP: I’ve loved all the shows I’ve done at Geva and have been lucky enough to get to design some really fun ones; If I had to pick one, I would have to say I enjoyed Sweeney Todd the most–mostly because that was my introduction to working with the talented artisans at Geva; it has become such a true friendship and a mutually respectful, energetic, and inventive collaboration. So much so, that I’ve designed costumes for both Five Course Love and A Christmas Carol that I did not know how to create myself! I knew, though, that the Geva Costume shop would have ideas about how to create it to get the desired effect. It’s an amazing experience when the design of a costume goes beyond my own imagination!
JW: Can you tell us anything about what is guiding your decisions about the costumes for Good People? Is there a metaphor or an image that you would use to describe your approach to this play?
DP: My initial thoughts about Good People have to do with how to strip away artifice – how do you visually strip a character down to his/her most raw form? Is there a way to really do that?
JW: Does a play like Good People have any special requirements, as you approach your design? Would you say that contemporary plays are harder or easier to design than a play set in a historic period?
DP: Contemporary plays are challenging in that the collaboration with the actor becomes even more present. Everyone has tastes about what people look like in their own economic environment– and cultures across our country have similarities and distinctions that I need to make visible and present.
JW: Good People has been produced on Broadway and at theatres all over the country. In fact, last year it was the third most produced play in the country, and the year before, it was at the top of the list. Do you have a sense about what makes the play so popular?
It is popular because it’s a surprising play and raises interesting questions. We go through this world thinking we know the answers to why things work or don’t; who are “good people”, who aren’t–then we discover that the answers to those questions aren’t clear at all, and people who seem “good” may or may not have our interests or well-being in mind and may not be “good” after all….and isn’t that relative, anyway? Is good for one person always good for another? Hard questions–no easy answers. This play is a great example of that.