Monday, March 21, 2016

Crafting Reality and Sci-Fi: Costume Designer Melissa Trn

The cast of Future Thinking, (L to R) Jud Williford, Heidi Dippold, Virginia Vale, Arye Gross and Enver Gjokaj.

Costume deisgner, Melissa Trn
“I love the psychology of clothing. The 'why' of what we wear,” says Future Thinking costume designer Melissa Trn.

And with the mix bag of characters—including a spoiled starlet, her “momager,” an obsessed fan—Trn has plenty of opportunity to dive into the psychology of these offbeat characters.

“I like to begin with what they are going through,” continues Trn. “What is happening to them? And the answers to those questions inspire their clothing.”

In Future Thinking, Peter, pet photographer and middle-aged super fan, finds himself in a makeshift interrogation room with Comic Con security—the result of violating a restraining order placed against him by his favorite television starlet, Chiara. Despite this setback, Peter is determined to fulfill his destiny—fantasies of a dream world, where he and Chiara happily live together forever. The only thing Chiara cares about is how to ditch her stage mom, her bodyguard and the demands that come with being a rising sci-fi star.

Trn will be making her SCR design debut, but she has designed at other theatres across the country including Brooklyn Academy of Music, SITI Company, Yale Repertory Theatre and Getty Villa. To top it off, Trn is well-versed in the Comic Con phenomenon and the effects of fandom—she’s married to actor Brett Dalton who is on Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Actor Brett Dalton and designer Melissa Trn
“What really appealed to me about the story of Future Thinking was that I loved the character of Peter,” says Trn. “I see him in many of the fan interactions and experiences at the Cons. Marvel fans are so excited, and they have so much love for the characters they watch on TV shows and in films. They invest so much and care deeply. It’s a real reminder about the power of storytelling.”

And just like the fans, Trn’s love and care extends into each character’s costume design. While creating the looks, she had to think of two designs for the production: reality and the fictional world of “Odyssey,” the TV show Chiara stars in.

“In talking with our director, Lila Neugebauer, I discovered that we both had a love of the Temple of Dendur exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum and a fascination with Egyptian art,” says Trn. “I think we see a lot of medieval or Asian influences in sci-fi. I thought that using Egypt as a jumping off point would be different—plus it gives me a chance to use some research I've been hoarding.”

As for the “real world” within the play, Trn is taking a nuanced approach to it. She’s hoping to draw out more than just the obvious looks people may initially think of when it comes to celebrity and Hollywood.

“I think what is interesting in Hollywood is the real versus the facade. It can be easy with Chiara to make her seem one sided: a Hollywood starlet, sexy and TMZ bait. But, I’m hoping to go beyond an US Weekly image and give her clothing with some dimension that is personal to her.”

Striding a balance between reality and fantasy, Trn has plenty to work with in her group of funny and interesting characters as she finds the “whys” of their clothing and continues to craft her design for Future Thinking.

Buy tickets for Future Thinking
Discover more about Future Thinking

Trn's design for Trojan Women (After Euripides)
Future (and Past) Thinking with Melissa Trn

What first drew you to costume design?
I always have been a lover of history and clothes. Costume design is the obvious marriage of those things. As I studied design, I really began to love the collaborative process and seeing a big bunch of ideas coming together to make something new.

What design do you hold close to your heart?
I designed The Trojan Women (After Euripides) at Brooklyn Academy of Music for SITI Company in New York City. Designing at BAM was a dream of mine that came to fruition working on a piece that was beautifully made by Anne Bogart and SITI. Anne is such an inspiration to me as an artist. She also trusts her designers and asks questions that challenge you as a person, as well as an artist.

Is there a show you’re dying to design?
I love opera and haven't really gotten a chance to design any yet. I worked for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis doing wardrobe and then as the design assistant before graduate school. It always has been my dream to come back and design St. Louis is my hometown.

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