Friday, January 27, 2012

Costume Drama

Jonathan Nichols and Cassie Beck.
All five of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Costumes are period pieces, but costume designer David Kay Mickelsen says that designing for contemporary pieces is often a greater challenge.

“Everyone has a view about what clothing today says about a person,” he says, whereas historical costuming is often dictated by tradition.

Mickelsen designed the costumes for Elemeno Pea, in which the lifestyles of two sisters—one preppy and one Plain Jane—collide against the wealthy backdrop of modern-day Martha’s Vineyard.  To help home in on each character’s personal style, Mickelsen asked the actors for their input.

Cassie Beck and Katrina Lenk.
Jonathan Nichols, who plays put-upon property caretaker Jos-B, felt that his character would likely wear the type of back support brace gardeners or construction workers wear; adjusting his back brace is now an essential part of Jos-B’s mannerisms.

Cassie Beck, who brings down-to-earth Devon to life, felt that her character played sports in her high school days, but wouldn’t be able to afford expensive sneakers on a social worker’s salary—hence her quirky-retro Chuck Taylors.

But it was Michaela, played by Katrina Lenk, who proved to be the biggest challenge. Mickelsen originally envisioned the trophy wife in simple neutrals, symbolizing her need to fit in to this wealthy world. But the neutral basics fell flat on Lenk, so Mickelsen kept searching until her found her bronze metallic, off-the-shoulder top just days before the show began previews.

“We realized that Michaela needed to be mega-sexy, but not in a skin-tight way. A monied-sexy way,” says Mickelsen of his last-minute find. “Clothing characters like this is based on all of us observing people every day. You just have to keep your eyes open.”


  1. The casting, the costuming, the acting, the whole nine yards were SUPERB!. Absolutely fabulous, and this costume, acting,and casting comment comes right after a week in London where one is continuously exposed to top notch productions. This may very well be the absolutely greatest production of SCR's recent play series.

  2. Agreed. A sharp, witty script coupled with superb, nuanced acting. Perfect timing, subtle expressions filled with meaning, fabulous set design--everything came together and last Saturday's show rocked!