I was hosting a workshop on basic costume design; from reading the play to working with the director to developing a costume plot and creating the designs and costumes for the show. I was at a high school theatre conference. After the workshop, a student approached to discuss her personal situation. She was the costume chair for her schools production of The Diary of Anne Frank, and she wanted help. I began to tell her that this was such an important piece of theatre, based on a true story and for her to follow the basic steps we had outlined. She stopped me, and explained her concerns. Her director had decided to set this piece in contemporary times, in New York City. That pretty much left me speechless as well. There is a reverence that I felt needed to apply to this story. But that is my opinion; in this situation my opinion doesn't count. The director's vision is what the creative team must follow. I explained that she needed to go back to the director and ask more detailed questions regarding the message he was intending to share. How did he interpret the "Nazi's" in this play, are they still Nazi's or are they some other 'military' group, or political group, or religious group.
Directors will continue to be creative with the staging and story telling of theatrical pieces. As costume designers, it is our job to navigate through those tweaks made to theatrical pieces. Sometimes their vision is very definite. Sometimes a director will give room for artistic creativity from the production team.
I love the opportunity to become creative with productions, and often time feel underwhelmed when I am told to costume a show "just like the movie," or "just like Broadway did it." The idea of being a replicator, rather than a designer just isn't stimulating. With that said, there are certain costumes that are iconic to a show. Joseph's coat is now Iconic to the Donny Osmond revival. White Christmas has iconic finale costumes. Eliza Doolittle is expected to wear the white lace with black and white striped ribbons to the Ascot. Dolly is expected to wear a red sequinned gown to Harmonia Gardens. Yet I have worked with brave directors that like to take a fresh approach. We have costumed Dolly in purple, and Eliza in pink. It is fun to sometimes break the mold!!!
When is it ok to break that mold? When does it cross the line, or become disrespectful? Have you upended a show with a new twist or concept? We would love to hear your thoughts and have your share your stories.