About the Costumes
How did you become involved in this project?
My involvement with FUSE as an organization began in the Fall of 2019 when I was asked to become one of their costume design partners for their first production, Lion King, Jr. Throughout that process, I was continually impressed with the company’s artistic vision and dedication to creating meaningful work that exceeded expectations and delivered truly sensational experiences to their young cast. I joined the Board in the Spring of 2020. When the opportunity was offered to design A MIdsummer Night's Dream -- and as a musical no less-- I was thrilled. This concept and the creativity involved with making it a reality was just too exciting to turn down!
What was your specific contribution to the conceptual aspect of the show as a whole?
Those familiar with my costume and wardrobe work I think would definitely agree that the phrase “Go Big or Go Home!” would be a rather prominently understated evaluation of my approach to design and conceptual creativity, and what I create as a result. I’m immensely inspired by and connected to historical influences and period fashions, especially those that have high levels of drama, immaculate embellishments and imagination, as well as larger-than-life elements or aesthetics. Shakespeare is really exciting for me as his works tend to have some if not all of those traits.
As this production is set in the [very] current time period, and is presented through a “rewired” modern and technology-based concept, I would like to think that I was able to create a balance between the world the Bard first conceived and the world in which our updated characters found themselves. It was important to me that our characters were dressed in ways that held connection to both time periods and their respective imagery. I’d like to think I was successful in that endeavor.
What inspirations/influences did you focus on in the early stages of your process of creation/design/writing/conceptualizing your contribution to this project?
In Conversation with
Jake Egan O'Hara
For me, the creation and design of wardrobe for characters begins with the author’s text and the visceral or emotional reaction I respond with. That reaction can come from a multitude of textual offers. A single line, a character’s entire arch, or simply the emotional response i sense from the manner in which a character is written. I focus on thematic and arching questions. Are they directly themselves (i.e are they truly who they present themselves to be? Are they outwardly one way but internally another, etc?)
For ‘Midsummer”, I narrowed those research questions and thoughts down to representing through wardrobe, the concept of “presentation vs. representation”— particularly through the lens of the Mechanicals’ mode of “play within a play”/presenting oneself as wished to be vs showing oneself as one really is.
For the Fairy court, I focused my view through animal traits; for the lovers I saw them through the creation of color palettes; what internal colors and moods they wished to show others while publicly displaying a fashion sense that played to their external roles in society and their own lives. Obviously, we were in this modern techno/gizmo environment, so it also became a game of matching characters to their “social media” or web-based environments. For example, Lydia’s compositions for Helena gave me a very old school “LiveJournal” vibe; she was complex, emotionally textured. Helena was layered; a mix of eras and deep colored thoughts and dwelling emotions— often a bit conflicted at heart but tied together in emotion. Oberon, on the other hand, became all about status and the vital complexity of a successfully written “status update”— I based my vision for him on the animal ego instinct matched with attention-grabbing focal interest. Basically, he’s a social media Peacock. Showing off the great things, the successes, the status of popular opinion, glamour and intrigue; he’s the walking importance of self and experience/accomplishment. Everything about is showy, grand, luxurious. With each step, he gets 1,000 “likes”. He’s your typical #honoredandblessed Facebook status: exclaiming his power; hiding his insecurity and all about the show.
What were your greatest challenges throughout the process?
I think the greatest challenge of this project was creating designs that could sustain the critical eye of those audience members most adept and in tune with the culture and media in which the show is set, while holding true to the visual archetypes most familiar with less techno savvy audiences. It’s a tough question, you know? “How do you keep Puck the Shakespearean clown while also allowing for modern punk accessibility and also making the costume a style that is modern, timeless, historical and equally understandable for every demographic?” Or actually all of the magical characters— Keeping the techno/gizmo theme while showcasing the idea that that very same techno mystery of how the internet or wireless technology works is the sand mystery that “baseless magic” felt like to the foolish mortals of Shakespeare’s audiences? You know? You don’t— you can’t force one theme or or focus down someone’s throat, not only because that’s just not kind, but also because it puts another demographic out of balance or connection to the story. It has to be equal parts, and that can be really hard.
Has any aspect of this project surprised you? If so, what was it and why?
I think the best and most surprising nature or I guess result for me of this show has also been the piece I was expecting and excited me the most from the start. Due to the pandemic, obviously so much of this show, the performances and the aesthetics have been crafted and built through distance, limited interpersonal exchange, and have relied on collective faith and trust in and of the work others are doing, based solely on sort of shared imagining and descriptive sharing. I’m in Boston, our editor is in CT; some actors are here, others are there; I’m building and designing costumes based on songs that actors have yet to learn— and learn and interpret via ZOOM- rehearsals are sometimes one-on-one, sometimes via video groups and sometimes in person in small groups. We’re basically 17 different departments functioning totally out of order but simultaneously. I mean, welcome to COVID, right? But what’s incredible is that it’s worked. And it’s not like we created this incredible and unique and trademarked communication style or formula. We just knew when and how to trust collectively or when to just go with our own instincts and direction without a formula— and the nature and cohesive adaptability of the group made it all work. One would push forward as one pulled back, or vice versa. For a very theatre oriented and educated group intent on a singular goal, we functioned naturally like a multi-international film project. Costumes were in Australia 18 hours ahead while Scenic was in Canada 12 hours behind, Camera was in real time wherever the actors were between their time constraints, and Choreography/Movement was up 24/7, adapting to whatever insanity ( 37lb skirt) I had just built and shipped for Titania!! That kind of fluidity— it’s rare. But it’s amazing when it happens.
If you could choose one aspect of your contribution that you are most satisfied with/proud of, what would it be and why?
This is kinda unusual for me. Normally, there is “The One”, but I don’t see a particular coup. Each design and finished costume represents a true part of this crazy journey. If I’m forced to say the one thing I’m most proud of? It’s that despite the huge disconnection from interpersonal connect that we in theatre most rely upon, the show is “of one”— the costumes make sense next to each other; they tell a continuous narrative. They’re a connection each actor has been able to rely on in telling their own story, and that they’ve been able to access collectively and extensively in thought, theory, effort and creativity. When working in film, your closest audience is no longer 20’ away— they’re as close as their screen and HD status allows. With this show, and the product, I’m good with that, ya know? Pull up your 1080 lens, 225” screens— you’ll love it!
What has it been like working with the FUSE Team on 'A Midsummer Night's Dream- The Rewired Musical'?
Invigorating. Excruciating. Terrifying. Growing. Beautiful. Rewarding.