Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cleopatra Rules

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane Photography
Antony and Cleopatra ruled in the ancient world and for several weeks the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's production of Antony and Cleopatra ruled my life as I designed, sourced and created the costumes for the show.

CSC has a history of minimal sets and props so the costumes become the main reference clue for the audience to recognize the time, place and season for the script and to define a character's personality and social status.

The challenge was to help Ralph Cohn (our Guest Director) achieve his vision of a relaxed and Caribbean look and feel without becoming "Margaritaville", all while keeping Cleopatra (Guest Artist Isabelle Anderson) regal and sexy, as Antony (Guest Artist Matt Davies) bounced between the laid back atmosphere of Cleopatra's Court and the spit and polish of Caesar's Roman Army.
Layered in with that challenge are the other 15 actors in the ensemble playing the other 37 parts involving cross dressing, quick changes, color coding and layering...all while keeping in mind the outdoor performance venue and Maryland's heat and humidity.  Not an easy challenge!

Antony's army and an Egyptian
Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
Antony and Ceasar square off
Photo credit: Teresa Castracane 
Early on in the design process Ralph gave me some parameters for his vision.  He saw several groups within the cast; first and foremost Cleopatra and her Court in bright colors and relaxed style lines followed by Antony and his troops who are Roman soldiers but after months surrounded by Cleopatra's Court have become almost as laid back as the Egyptians.  Caesar and his troops are true spit and polish in the British Empire mold in sharp khakis and (Ralph said) as "Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean" as you want to go for Pompey and his pirates.  Bring on the bucket boots and swashbuckle there!!

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
According to history, after the death of Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Lepidus and Octavius Caesar ruled the Roman Empire as a Triumvirate.  Their uniforms were designed to show their elevated rank as leaders of the Roman world. In theory, each was equal to the other but to "show sides" within the troops, I gave each of them a different colored shoulder cord which then tied into the colors of the bags and caps for their Messengers (a LOT of Messengers!)
Caesar's Roman troops follow regulation in their uniforms staying sharp and crisp while Antony's troops add unregulated sashes and bandannas to theirs.

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
In the battle scenes near the end, armor is called for and Ralph wanted to use Camouflage Vests.  I spent a lot of time sourcing vests that didn't look like surplus from recent wars and had an "old-timey" look and feel to them.  I think I succeeded with the Desert Camouflage Rack Vests the soldiers are wearing.  All the strapping on them became a bonus for a charming scene where Cleopatra helps Antony gird for battle and gets all the straps mixed up.

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
Bandoliers became an issue for the troops when, after calling the manufacturer to confirm the length of them to be sure they would fit my cast, they arrived half that length and looked child sized.  My studio went into bandolier mass production to get the right size, although we did have to leave off the cartridge tape so they don't look quite as battle-ready as I would have liked.

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
Pompey and his Pirates were fun to dress and I did go a little "Depp-y" with them.  They wear traditional pirate shirts, boots and sashes, some heads wrapped in scarves and a few with thigh high boots.  Pompey sports a Cavalier hat and a few have gaudy vests to complete their ensembles.

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
I loved dressing my girls, but oh! so few of them!  Cleopatra flames across the stage in long, orangey-red, jeweled gowns while her ladies Charmian and Iras flit around her in shades of mauve, pink and lavender.  Their dresses are shorter to show their somewhat lower rank but the empire waists of their dresses imitate the Queen's and show them to be her Ladies in Waiting.

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
The pure Octavia, sister to Caesar, is of course dressed in purest white with a trim of imperial purple.  This follows tradition as well as defining her character as cold and distant (the white) and part of the imperial family (the purple).  It's hard to tell who doomed that marriage more, cold Octavia or hot-blooded Antony...or was it the erotic, evocative and enigmatic Cleopatra?

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane
As Designer, I had to take all sorts of factors, preferences and visions into account and meld it all into something cohesive, appropriate and within budget.  And deliver it all on time.  That became an issue I was afraid I would fail on as one shipment of army uniform parts after another was delayed. 
The reality of the tornados in Moore, OK and the floods in Texas were brought home to Antony and Caesar when I was told all truck shipping across the mid-West was disrupted as it dealt with the damage.  The Memorial Day weekend didn't help with my deadlines, either.  But I'm happy to say, it all got here just in the nick of time and is now on stage.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's Antony and Cleopatra will continue in repertoire with Taming of the Shrew until July 14th at the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, MD.  (after that, Shrew will continue on its own till August 4th)  For show times and ticket prices, check out their website!

Photo credit: Teresa Castracane

Etsy 10% discount code for the week (ending July 7): CLEOPATRA

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Marilyn!

Today is our Fearless Leader's birthday!!  Around the studio, we're all constantly talking but it always seems like Marilyn has the best one-liners.  In honor of her birthday, we've collected our favorite Marilyn quotes, some in context and some not so much...

"The coffee doesn't look right...  Nope, I can't even drink this." (After accidentally making a new pot with the old grinds)

"Made in China... As I suspected."

Us: "Marilyn, I have a question about ((ANYTHING))" Marilyn: "Have you checked the wall yet?" (And there it is)

"Do we have coffee yet?"
"I need coffee."
"Thank you to whoever made the coffee!"

"Now ladies, we need to keep the toilet seat down!"

"You won't lose anything on prom night!!" (Talking about the beads on a client's dress ;))

"Where are all of the pencils??"
"Where are all of the scissors??"

"The dress forms' names are Judith, Rachel, and Molly."

"He looks like a Trevor."
"She looks like a Suzie Q."
"She looks like a Natalie."  (all about our new mannequins)

"What is the dress telling you?"
"The dress doesn't want to do that..."

Us: "Marilyn, we have a shark costume???" Marilyn: "And there's a matching hood upstairs."

"Have you SEEN ((fill in the blank show that only airs at 3 AM))????"

"Who left the lid open on the cookies?? Don't you know I can't walk by now and NOT eat a cookie??"

"The other day I was craving junk food so I ran right out and bought a can of cashews!"

Us: "Marilyn, do we have ((fill in the blank any off-the-wall thing))?" Marilyn: "Of course, it's over here"

"As soon as we get rid of it, you know someone is going to walk through the door asking for it!"

"That's why everything is on wheels!"

(every day, arriving at work) "Well, now my entire house is clean."

And the most fitting for today,
"There are no calories in foods consumed on birthdays and holidays!"

Thank you Marilyn for all of your help, support, and encouragement that no question is a stupid question.  We love you and hope you have a fantastic birthday!!

-The Girls

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Meghan!

This past Tuesday was Meghan's birthday, and we celebrated by only eating foods with sprinkles.

colorful noms

birthday girl!!
Since Meghan is our resident tweeter, we are also celebrating with a few favorite silly tweets and hashtags from our Hashtag Queen.

And we'll close with a sincere one, but it's true :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

#WhatsUpToday May

May was a colorful and crazy month for us in the Studio: we brought in some new over hires to help us get through prom and bridal season, and to assist on our two really big projects: Sight & Sound's "Moses," for which we are contracted to built over 200 costume pieces, and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's "Antony & Cleopatra," which Marilyn is costume designing.   "Moses" will open in March of 2014 to run all year, and "Antony & Cleopatra" opened June 7 to run all summer.  As always, we've been detailing our adventures in picture form all month, and without much further ado, a retrospective in one-a-day photos.