Monday, May 18, 2015

From Mermaids to Pirates: Costuming "Peter and the Starcatcher"

The cast of Peter and the Starcatcher in costumes by Angela Balogh Calin.
Smee costume rendering by Angela Balogh Calin.
She’s often found in the Costume Shop at South Coast Repertory—checking in and working on costumes for an upcoming show. Costume designer Angela Balogh Calin has worked on nearly 50 productions at SCR through the years—including set and costume design—and has earned accolades and honors for her work here and elsewhere.

To wrap up SCR’s 2014-15 season, Calin has designed the costumes for the Segerstrom Stage production of Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice (through June 7). It is a production that, according to director Art Manke, invites the audience to use its imagination. In designing the costumes—that are changed at lightning speed—Calin’s work ranges from street clothes to whimsical designs. We caught up with her just as the production moved from the rehearsal hall to the stage.

Do you remember the first play that you saw? Why did it have such a lasting impression?
When I was very little, my parents used to take me to the Children’s Theatre in Bucharest on a regular basis. Later on, as a teenager—I was 12 or 13 years old—I remember two productions that had a lasting impression: Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill and Rameau’s Nephew by Denis Diderot. Both of them taught me about the emotional impact that theatre can have on people

O’Neill’s play saddened me deeply. I was too young to understand in-depth the family conflict, but I could sense the anxiety, tension and desperation. Diderot’s play made me realize that two exceptional actors on a minimalist set can create magic with words and gestures. I learned then how a mirror and a shear can create an environment for events to unfold. And how sometimes less is more.

Mollusk costume rendering by Angela Balogh Calin.
Who has been a mentor in your career? 

My first mentors were my parents: my mom, Angela, is a graphic artist, and my father, Peter, is a sculptor. They inspired me to follow my dreams and my path, and never to wander too far from the artistic milieu I grew up in.

What originally attracted you to become a costume design?
I studied graphic art at the Fine Arts High school in Bucharest, Romania, and then decided to continue my higher education at the university in theatre design. I knew from an early age that my life will be spent in the theatre. I can’t think of a more magical, creative, exciting environment to work in.

Why is SCR such a special place for you?
Because it has been very good to me! I consider myself very lucky to have been part of this prestigious theatre for so long. I have felt valued and welcomed and I was given so many opportunities to collaborate with unique, talented, artists on a variety of productions over the years.

How did you approach the designs for Peter and the Starcatcher?
I’m trying to tell the story by introducing the actors in street clothes with a hint of the Victorian era and then gradually bringing in the whimsical world of mollusks, mermaids and pirates. One of my favorite times is the research phase of the design. For this project, I drew inspiration from a variety of sources—from street wear to the Victorian fashion, from nature photography to tribal art.

My job as a costume designer is to turn the story from the written word into 3D images on stage and to help actors define their characters.

Mermaid costume rendering by Angela Balogh Calin.
And how do they support other design elements in the production?
At times, the costumes and the other design elements work in perfect unison and harmony; and at other times, the costume designs support other design elements with contrasting and juxtaposing styles. Ultimately, the approach is the decision of our director, Art Manke.

How many costumes/costume pieces are you designing?
This show has about 80 partial and full costumes.

What’s been the most challenging part of the costume designs for this production?
The most challenging aspect is making sure the actors are able to make the quick changes required by the show and to keep them safe.

What’s been the most fun?
Designing the mermaids, mollusks and pirate costumes!

What kind of materials did you use?

We have used textiles and fabric, foam, plastic flowers and plants, yarn, raffia, fur, leather, feathers, beads, wire and paint. We’ve probably used many hundreds of yards of fabric in creating these costumes.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about your costume work or the play itself?
Yes, it’s been a wonderful ride and I’m looking forward to opening night.

Learn more and buy tickets.

No comments:

Post a Comment