Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Artisans of SCR: Crafting the Rough Edges of "Abundance"

Abundance costume designer Angela Balogh Calin in SCR's Costume Shop. Photo: Ben Horak/SCR.
A pirate, a civil war solider and a grasshopper all have something in common. And it’s not a bad punch line. Their commonality is the mastermind behind their clothes, their style and their looks—all crafted by costume designer Angela Balogh Calin.

Calin has designed for more than 50 productions at South Coast Repertory. The list could go on for days: from last season’s Peter and the Starcatcher to Crimes of the Heart to Noises Off and more than a dozen Theatre for Young audiences productions, she’s gone from contemporary times to the 1800s to fantasy. The one place she hasn’t yet gone with her designs at SCR? The Wild West.

Until now, that is. Her time is currently being filled with fittings and finding the right pieces for costumes that she's designing for Abundance by Beth Henley, with first previews starting Oct. 16. In Abundance, the time is the late 1800s and two mail-order brides head west to the Wyoming territory in hopes of finding a more complete life. Calin couldn’t be more thrilled to be designing a western this time around. They happen to hold a special place in her heart.

“I am very fond of this period and setting for more than one reason,” says Calin. “One of my most vivid memories from growing up in Romania was watching westerns with my father. We were both mesmerized by the scenery, the harshness of life and the resilience of the human spirit. Even now, one of my favorite places to travel to is the Southwest with its amazing colors, views and endless blue skies.”

As she began work months ago for this production, Calin looked for inspiration in many places, including television. Pulling from some of her personal favorites, “Hell on Wheels” and “Deadwood,” she found the beauty of the Wild West in its rough worn edges.

Calin working in SCR's Costume Shop
“Both series were a great source for my research," she explains. "They seem to truthfully convey the harshness of life in the Wild West. At the time, clothes were expensive and ordinary people could not afford more than a few. A hat or a pair of boots would have to last for a very long time, a ribbon or a yard of lace would be a cherished accessory for a young woman.”

Calin has been scouring SCR’s collection of stored costumes to find the perfect pieces. She loves the history that previously created costumes hold. “I always enjoy recycling clothes or costumes because I believe they have a past life and stories to tell. Just like people. Past experiences add a new dimension and excitement to life,” she says.

Outside of SCR’s collections, Calin also has been looking online for companies that specialize in recreating vintage clothing. She’s even been able to find and alter modern clothing to fit the needs of the production. And, of course, she’s had a few pieces created specifically for the show, “This play needs authentic-looking clothes in order to successfully covey the journey of the two couples,” she says. “We only built a few costumes, mainly the ones that we need doubles of and two of the more elegant ones.”

With technical rehearsals starting today and performances just around the corner, Calin keeps in mind what might make a costume design stand out, “Have you noticed those times, when watching an old movie, that the design looks so outdated and it’s almost sad? And then, there are the movies that always are as exciting as the first time you watched them! I think successful costume designs are about creativity, imagination, humor and the courage to speak about the characters they are made for.”

Learn more and buy tickets now.

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