Tickets: 651.291.7005

Posts Tagged Brutal Period

Designing Costumes for the Brutal Period

Macbeth costume

For Sarah Bahr, the costume designer for Park Square Theatre’s production of Macbeth, determining the time period of the play with Director Jef Hall-Flavin was key to nailing down her costume concepts.

“Jef and I discussed creating our own ‘Brutal Period,’ which takes from ancient and modern,” Sarah said.

Lady Macbeth costume design“From the start, I wasn’t interested in an historic representation of ancient Scotland,” Jef explained. “While that’s a fine idea for a film, I find it can remove the audience from the here and now. I want the audience to feel connected to the characters. Historically accurate costumes are also not practical when actors plays multiple roles. My goal was to create an onstage world where swords and daggers don’t feel out of place, but yet we may recognize fabric and garments from our own time.”

Sarah added, “I melded research from couture fashion designers and medieval clothing. Through my research process, I found similarities in the use of leather and heavy woven cloth, draping fabrics and asymmetrical lines.”

Jef further challenged Sarah to create a religious symbol for the prophesying three witches or sisters. It would be the same symbol that Macbeth would wear as well.

“Countless productions have portrayed the witches as supernatural figures,” Jef said, “but I wanted them to be more like nuns. So the challenge I gave to Sarah was to create garments for a religion that doesn’t exist. What she’s been able to cleverly create is an ecclesiastical look for the sisters–complete with symbology and meaning as if it were a major world religion–without being recognizable as historically Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. Ours is a religion without a name.”

Macduff costumes                    Sarah had researched geometric symbols of Alchemy and modern jewelry design to come up with the symbol for the witches and Macbeth, a circle with a triangle inside and a rectangular + shape at the bottom. Then she extended the concept of using geometric symbols to identify characters as Thanes but also differentiate each as coming from a different place, somewhat similar to the idea of family crests. This latter choice also helped to further accentuate the importance of symbols for Macbeth, King Duncan and the sisters.

Because this production has nine actors portraying 24 characters within just 90 minutes, Sarah additionally came up with the idea of color coding characters to wear their related group’s color. For instance, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth wear red tones, while Macduff’s family members are garbed in greens. This not only helps the actors with speedier costume changes but, more importantly, helps the audience track plot lines plus understand who is who and their relationship to each other.

“It’s a great solution to providing the kind of clarity I wanted,” Jef said, “especially since many of our audience members will have never seen the play before.”

Regardless of whether you’ve seen Macbeth performed on stage before, you have decidedly not seen it ever depicted within the Brutal Period, a time reminiscent of both then and now. This tragic Shakespeare play remains pertinent to this day. Don’t miss it on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage March 17 to April 9.

More Macbeth costumes

 

(Note: If you’d missed it, be sure to go back to read the prior post, “SARAH BAHR: Costume Designer for Macbeth.”)

* All costume sketches on this post are by Sarah Bahr; all photos were taken by Connie Shaver.


Ting Ting Cheng joined Park Square Theatre’s Front of House staff in 2014.  Born in Hong Kong and raised in Los Angeles, she became a Minnesotan after graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in English Literature.  She loves live theatre and has a passion for writing.

SARAH BAHR: Costume Designer for “Macbeth”

(Photo by Christa Haeg)

(Photo by Christa Haeg)

The other day, students from a small town southwest of St. Paul, surrounded by some of Minnesota’s most productive farmland, streamed into Park Square Theatre for their first live professional theatre experience. They’d travelled 130 miles in over two hours one way, dressed up for the special occasion and were absolutely thrilled to be here.

Upon discovering, in the post-show discussion, that the town has no formal theatre opportunities beyond community summer stock, cast members encouraged them to create their own projects and, just as importantly, try on as many roles as possible, both in front of and behind the stage.

It was against this backdrop that I received answers from Sarah Bahr, the costume designer for Park Square’s production of Macbeth from March 17 to April 9, regarding her background in design. At this moment, we introduce Sarah herself, perchance to inspire explorers into someday realizing their own dreams.

Sarah Bahr prepares Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) for a photoshoot (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sarah Bahr prepares Vanessa Wasche (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Ooms (Macbeth) for a photoshoot
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The following is an excerpt from our interview:

Sarah, how did you come to become a costume designer? What was your journey to hone in on that as your passion?

I grew up in rural Minnesota, which started my journey as an artist. My mother taught me to sew, my father taught me to work with my hands and my grandmothers taught me to paint. I was always creating and using my imagination, though I didn’t fully understand I could choose a career in the arts until I was in high school. 

I attended the University of Minnesota Duluth to study costume design. I was drawn to the field because of my love for fabric, sewing, sculpting, defining characters through clothes and the collaborative nature of theater. 

After graduation, I worked as a stitcher for the Minnesota Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Guthrie Theater but soon realized I needed a big change. I moved to New York City to pursue a career in building costumes. After working at one of the many Broadway costume houses, I noticed how removed I was from the collaborative theater-making process and how I liked theater creation more than just making costumes.

My next opportunity came from NYU’s TISCH Graduate Costume Shop, where I worked for the next five years, working with the graduate costume students, building costumes, supervising wardrobe, coordinating craft projects and executing wigs and specialized makeup. On the side, I pursued a MA in Studio Art from NYU and studied fiber arts and sculpture in Venice, Italy, during my summers off.

True to form, I was ready for another change, and Minnesota called me back home. After assisting many seasoned designers at the Minnesota Opera and the Guthrie Theater, I knew my next step would be to hone my skills as a designer and pursue a freelance career. I studied under Mathew Lefebvre at the University of Minnesota and received my MFA in Design and Technical Theater.

The paths my life has taken me prepared me to work as a creative, a maker and a problem solver. I am grateful for the variety of opportunities I’ve had to get me to this point of my career.

What is your favorite part in the costume design process and why?

I love researching. I look for images as inspiration during all steps of my design and production process. I love how unexpected images I find on Pinterest, in books or my daily life can influence a world I am creating on stage. Research images are my favorite tool to use when discussing a project with my director, design team and actors; they help define what is in my head before I start sketching my designs. 

Is there something that you are working on after Macbeth?

I am designing set and costumes for a new comedy, Lone Star Spirits, at the Jungle Theater. I am also designing costumes for One Man Two Guvnors at Yellow Tree Theater as well as the world premiere of The Boy and Robin Hood at Trademark Theater.

As you shall see on stage, Sarah’s costumes for Macbeth will be stunningly thought-provoking to match all other aspects of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. You can also read more about Sarah Bahr’s work in an upcoming post, “Designing Costumes for the Brutal Period.”

Sarah Bahr with some of her costume designs for Macbeth (Photo by Connie Shaver)

Sarah Bahr with some of her costume designs for Macbeth
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The Latest from Park Square

    tagline-color

Theatre News for you!

Sign up to get the latest Park Square news by email