Dec 10, 2019

Crafting costumes for the stage

Aubree Walker, a theatre arts design tech major, works on the costume for Angus, a character in Fresno State’s production of Macbeth. The costumes for the show, which opens Friday, were produced by the students in the advanced theatre craft class. Each costume took about 50 hours to make. “It was really, really intense,� student Dana Cooper said.
Juan Villa / The Collegian

Nestled in the back of the Speech Arts building is a small but spacious classroom that serves as a costume workshop.

Fabric and clothing are strewn about and there is enough clothing material to dress an entire play production — and that’s just what the students working in the shop do.

Drama 134B, also known advanced theatre craft, is a course that teaches the basics behind costume design and the production process. In this class, drawings of costumes on paper are brought to life under the direction of Annaliese Baker, an assistant professor of theatre.

The class is designed to give students a greater understanding of the time and skill it takes to create a garmet for the stage, Baker said.

“It is fast paced,� said student Rhiannon Fernandez. “We each had to learn the basics of how to make shirts with measurements and learning how to do different hand stitches with sewing machines. We learned different ways to make clothing and for example, how to manipulate a sleeve.�

This semester, Fernandez and her classmates are in charge of making costumes for “Macbeth,� which starts May 4 and runs through May 6 and also May 8-12 and is put on by the theatre arts department.

For a play that deals with witchcraft, power and magic, costumes to fit that mystique were a necessity.

Dana Cooper, another student in the class, made the costume for the character of Malcolm and said it was not the clothing that was the hardest to construct, but the shoes.

“It was really, really intense,� Cooper said. “It was so hard because we had to make it out of leather and then the actors had to try them on.�

Cooper said that after the actor tried on the shoes, additional adjustments had to be made, which meant more work.

For about five weeks, the students in Drama 134B took the skills they learned at the beginning of the semester to make their costumes come to fruition.

Fernandez said Baker drew out renderings of the “Macbeth� costumes and each student got to pick one character to make a costume for. Fernandez, who made the costume for Macbeth, said it takes a lot of time and perseverance to make a costume.

“We were given our own hours and two weeks to do it,� she said. “We are given class time as well, but it takes a good couple of weeks to get it done. It takes a lot of time and it takes well over 45-50 hours.�

To construct the costume of Macbeth, Fernandez had to use several different materials, including pleather for the armor, silk for the undercoat, leather for the shoes and different fabrics such as velvet and cotton for everything else.

Fernandez, a junior theatre arts major, said she chose the character of Macbeth because it had a certain artistic element that she enjoyed. “The armor and tunic had an element of painting that I liked,� she said.

Samantha Watson, on the other hand, chose her character, Macduff, because the person who plays him is a good friend of hers. To make his costume, Watson used a variety of materials to construct three different pieces.

The materials included a top made out of a vinyl material, the coat made out of a cotton blend and the pants made out of linen.

Watson said this class would not be possible without the help and support of Baker. “She really cares about her students,� Watson said, adding that Baker always prepares her students to take that next step in costume design.

Fernandez echoed that sentiment by saying Baker taught her how to budget time and how to schedule and prioritize tasks.

Come opening night, all three students said they will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment to see their work on the actors and that the time they spent making the costumes will be well worth it in the end.

“It’s crazy,� Cooper said. “But it’s nice because at the end of the day, we can say we made these costumes. I get to see the costume on stage and say ‘Yay! I totally made that by scratch!’�

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