We had some expert assistance with our costume and wardrobe needs this past month… Catherine Lourioux came all the way from France to design costumes for a show currently in production, and to help train our up-and-coming costume design team (a dress-maker from Phnom Penh, and a local seamstress).
So where to begin for our new show? First, design. But this is a much larger job than you might imagine. The complexity can be overwhelming actually… imagine saying something should be green – but wait – what kind of green? Forest? Neon? Or imagine the idea of an upcoming “hunchbacked” character… Is the character still physically mobile? Thin? Fat? To understand the details of each and every character, Catherine had to work with our artistic director and move through a journey from his mind – to a product adorning a real-life performer.
This process is complicated even more when new people are working together with all different ideas, but also in 3 different languages!
Nevertheless, Catherine explained the following steps to completing costumes for a full production:
1. Talk in-depth with the artistic director to understand the goal of the show. This needs to eventually be reduced down to a brief tagline – like a sales pitch… Something like “despite their many differences, all people are basically the same.” Over the course of the design project, we have to constantly refer back to this theme to remind us of what we’re working towards.
2. List in detail, all the characters with descriptions. No detail is too small. Aside from the expected tall, fat, strong, weak descriptors, we have to know what the life of the character has been like… are they a hard worker, or are they lazy? Are they wealthy enough to afford a nice garment, or are they poor – perhaps always wearing the same thing? The key to making sure ideas are understood before we start sewing? Drawing! Sketch out everything as much as necessary to make sure you are on target…
3. Then the “investigation” really begins… we have to come up with a product that makes the vision real… and trial and error is the only way!
Also, getting colors not only right – but culturally appropriate… for instance, the orange of a monks robe in Cambodia can’t be used without some clear forethought – if you use it, it will be a serious and spiritual message being sent to the audience. You must be careful!
Some characters costumes will be far more challenging than others – the example of the hunchback character is a good one… The wearer must be able to do somersaults and other stunts and this has to be considered along the way in the design to make a costume that can be worn night after night and not fall apart.
4. First fitting! Once the costume prototype is complete, we try it for a week and see what problems arise during rehearsals… alterations are then made to address issues.
5. Finally, the artist trains with the costume – meaning – performances! Here, costume and performer should fit together to become one. Catherine says the costume is a tool, and the performer must be able to use the tool to embody their role without being distracted or limited so they can focus and be the character. You have to ask – as an audience member, with just a brief look and some movement, do we get a feel for the soul of the character…?
6. Final touch? Enjoying the show!
Catherine is looking forward to returning for 3 weeks in June to see how the performers have taken to their outfits before their premiere… and she says this is the greatest reward!
Buy your tickets for tonight’s show now, and if you’ll be in Siem Reap in June, get your tickets with us ahead of time online for our newest production as well. Our performances are growing in popularity and we are beginning to sell out! Providing the best in Siem Reap nightlife entertainment – Phare, the Cambodian Circus.