As I begin to create my website and portfolio for the real world… I have had the opportunity to scan through my past productions and analyze the way my approach to theatre has changed. Through each production, my understanding of each show has continuously grown and developed… and this has dramatically impacted my experience as a costume designer. At the beginning of my journey I was so focused on simply putting clothing on a person but then one of my professors caused me to view the whole experience in a completely different way,
“We are not costume designers and scenic designers and lighting designer and costume designers… We are all theatre artists”.
That resonated with me. My scope was limited. I was missing the big picture. Blood Knot began to open my eyes to the whole artistic theatre experience. I was a theatre artist. I had to engage myself in every single aspect of the production in order to fulfill my design process to the fullest extent.
When beginning my journey with Blood Knot I needed to realize that it wasn’t just about what I needed to put these characters in… it was about WHO these characters are. WHY they are in this position. WHAT makes them put on certain things. HOW do these items reflect their lives and atmosphere. This is a process that I truly began to realize during my experience with the Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP) at Boston University. As summarized on Wikipedia,
There are only two characters in the play, a pair of brothers named Morris and Zachariah. Both were raised by the same black mother, but had different fathers, and Morris is much more fair-skinned than Zachariah. Morris can pass for white, and has done so in the past, but now he has returned to live with Zachariah in a small, miserable shack in the “colored” section of Port Elizabeth. Morris keeps the house, while Zachariah works to support them both. They’re saving money in hopes of buying a farm of their own some day. Both Morris and Zachariah have rich imaginations, and have taken part in role-playing games together since they were small boys.
These men had such complicated lives… they were in the midst of the Apartheid in South Africa… they were blood brothers… and one was born of two african parents and one of an african mother and a white south african father. So you would never think that one major issue I had within the production was whether or not the brothers wore socks… and if they did, which one? And why? You may laugh but the small detail of the white brother wearing socks and the black brother not wearing socks shows what the society was at that time. It reflects the dynamic of the play. It shows that not matter what conditions the white brother was living in, he was still white… and Zachariah was still black… and that was never going to change. The socks were a sign of the white man. That tiny detail making them more reserved, more put together. That’s what being an artist in design means to me. Giving the actors those little tokens that enable them to more fully become their characters. Each action benefits every aspect of the piece of work that is being performed. We are not just standing for our individual position… we are all theatre artists… and we are working together.