Julius Caesar - Rice University
Going into this show, I had a much more ‘classic’ interpretation of Julius Caesar in mind. I was expecting togas and robes and sandals. When the lights came on to a stage full of people in much more modern business-looking attire, I was very much caught by surprise. I’ll admit that at first I found it strange, but as the show progressed I became more and more used to the mix of Shakespearian language and contemporary dress.
One of the first things I noticed was how all of the costumes did a good job of expressing relative rank; I thought it was pretty easy to tell who outranked who simply by seeing the way they were outfitted. I heard someone in our class mentioning that as soon as the actors had begun practicing in costume they all began to act much more official, standing up straight and commanding more respect. I can’t speak to the improvement, but the ultimate effect was quite impressive. I know many of the actors outside of the show, and I can attest that they carried themselves completely differently as soldiers and members of the Senate.
The overall feeling of the show was very dark, with most of the actors clad in grays and olive tones. I thought this very appropriate considering the serious subject matter. Of course, this made Julius Caesar himself stand out immensely in his white jacket. Not only did the white make him easy to spot, but it also did a fantastic job of showing off all of the fake blood from the multiple stab wounds he received at the hands of the Senate. I thought all the smeared blood and the showing off of Julius Caesar’s bloodied jacket really drove home that feeling of betrayal and deceit. It was brilliantly executed.
Other than Julius Caesar’s jacket, I don’t recall any other costume articles that really stood out to me. I’m more into fantastical costuming than historical fashion, so I don’t think I’m as attuned to the sorts of design and fashion differences that more knowledgeable people might have picked up on. Along those lines, I don’t think any of the costume choices detracted from my understanding of the characters. I never felt like their costumes didn’t match their actions or personality.
I didn’t notice any costumes interfering with any of the action sequences, like the fight scenes and such. I’m guessing that was a high priority, considering how intense the last fight was, with all of the running and jumping and stabbing.
Thinking back on it, all of the costumes were very well-fitted. Ill-fitting costumes is definitely one of those things that can make costumes stand out in a very bad way, and I don’t recall noticing any instances of it. I’m usually pretty quick to frown upon those sorts of things because they’re not cost prohibitive and therefore shouldn’t be a reason to have the actors looking less than their best. In fact, I once worked on a show in high school after seeing the previous show in which most of the actors looked like they were playing dress-up in their parents’ closet. Being one of the few people working on the costumes with any sewing experience, I made it my personal goal to make sure people’s clothes at least looked like they somewhat fit them. And although, to some extent, this sort of thing comes more naturally with increasing production value, I really appreciate it when fitting is seen as more of a priority than a last minute activity done with safety pins.
As my one kind of negative note, I will say that the set design and the costumes felt a little incongruous. They both looked nice, but the scenery looked distinctly less modern than the costumes, more traditionally Roman, in my opinion. This also might be because I had a chance to see the stage before the costumes, and since I was already coming into the show expecting more traditional Roman garb, I projected that kind of feel onto it before the actors even had a chance to come onto the stage.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Alley Theater
This was a very interesting show, to say the least. It was my first time seeing a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’ve been told by others who have seen other productions of the show that this one was very ‘out there’. I found it to be a lot of fun, even if it was a little strange at times.
As I mentioned in my review of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare shows make me think of more old-timey fashion, so I was a little taken by surprise by the more modern clothing. I don’t know if the modernization of Shakespearian shows is common practice, since most of the Shakespeare I’ve seen has been done by high schools.
The fairy costumes were definitely my favorites, being the more colorful and sparkly of the bunch. The stark contrast between the feel of the humans’ outfits and the fairies’ outfits helped make it a very obvious transition to and from the land of magic. I think the choice to make the dancing fairies’ costumes be more like active wear than the Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen fairies, really worked in this case, as it allowed for a large range of movement which the actors took full advantage of. Puck in particular had a lot of very active scenes, running in circles, jumping all over the stage, and even sliding around on his knees. I hope his big furry pants and codpiece set hid some kneepads, because I can only imagine that all that sliding would become painful after even just one show.
Titania also had a costume change that I theorize was in order to improve mobility for some of the scene she had in act 2. She initially had on a beautiful silver skirt that looked like some kind of brocade fabric. Then, at some point during the show, it became a much simpler silver sheath skirt with a slit up the side. I don’t think most people noticed this change, and I think it was meant to go unnoticed, but I was so in love with that first skirt that I spotted the change almost immediately. Another element I thought was very well done for the change between Titania and Hippolyta, which were both played by the same actress, was the swapping out of two almost identical-looking wigs between the roles. As Titania, Queen of the fairies, there were shimmering strands in the black bob she wore, and as Hippolyta, the shimmer was replaced with an entirely black wig.
Along those lines, I thought the wigs in general were wonderfully done. I was confused by how quickly the actors were able to change their hair (in particular Helena), but then I was told that those crazy changes were a full change of hair. Having worn my fair share of wigs, I know that I struggle to make them look natural and not like some kind of creature that decided to nap on my head, and this just makes me more impressed at the speed and precision of these changes.
As for the humans’ outfits, the only element I didn’t really feel like fit was Demetrius’ extremely gaudy jacket at the end of the show. After speaking about it to others, I believe he was supposed to be more gaudy than the rest of the humans throughout the show, having worn a deep purple/maroon shirt at the top of the show, but it didn’t read that way to me, and so the jacket at the end seemed very out of the blue.
And of course, no review of this show’s costumes would be complete without mentioning the amazing use of costumes in “the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.” The entirety of that scene was a hoot, from the sticks designating the moon to the fearsome mane of the lion. However, by far the best was Thisbe’s incredible, intentional wardrobe malfunctions. I cannot remember the last time I’d laughed as hard as when his breasts started popping. That whole show-within-the-show was brilliant, and the costuming really drove home the ‘bumbling crew of idiots’ vibe.
Overall, I thought the costumes all contributed positively to my understanding and enjoyment of the show as a whole.
THEA101 Production Reviews