San Jose Youth Shakespeare’s costumes set us apart from other youth theatre groups. We pay attention to the costuming of our leads so that they stand out appropriately. Our director stretches the cast numbers by employing groups of kids as servants, a Greek chorus, the Players, etc. We take advantage of this by costuming these groups cohesively. Once we have decided on the overall look of the current production, we communicate each actor’s costume to his/her family. We pull from our costume collection as appropriate but also sew new costumes. We particularly attend to leads’ costumes, frequently sewing new costumes which increases the scope of our collection. Costumes are “due” at our first rehearsal in the theatre. Each actor dons his/her costume for our Costume Parade. This gives us the opportunity to see associated characters together and to evaluate the overall strength or weakness of the grand scheme. We make adjustments to costumes and accessories during Theatre Week with the goal of costumes being completely in place by the second Dress Rehearsal. We are fortunate to have in San Jose a wholesale fabric shop (Fabric “R” Us) allowing us to take costume thriftiness to a high degree!
“My involvement with costumes for Youth Shakespeare began with our oldest daughter’s first play – As You Like It (2008); I sewed her very typical costume of muslin poet shirt and linen pants. Hannah and I next took on the design, purchasing of fabric, and sewing of a couple of group costumes: Faeries in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2009) and the dancers/singers in Much Ado About Nothing. Adriana and Luciana wore regency gowns in A Comedy of Errors (2011), my main costuming job for that production in addition to the Greek chorus costumes. With these plays, I gained the experience necessary to understand our company’s aim with costuming. For Hamlet(2011), Twelfth Night (2012) and Macbeth (2012) Hannah and I collaborated with Barbara Rumsby for the overall costume design. Now as Costume Mistress, I am in charge of the organization, distribution, collection and communication of all things costume for the company. This frees up Barbara to continue as our head seamstress with her particular talent for the lead costumes. We continue to collaborate on the overall scheme of costumes for each current play.”
Props are typically kept to a minimum. Despite their simplicity, they need to add legitimate character to their scenes. Families are asked to hunt in their garages, special items are borrowed from professional venues such as San Jose Opera, and some unique pieces are constructed by parents and actors. This creative side of things includes the costumers and the carpenters who create large set pieces that are an integral part of the action.
A rising cauldron was designed and created for the the three weird sisters in Macbeth, an imaginative device that gave uniqueness to their scenes. A new wooden-wheeled grave-digger’s cart was created. Twelfth Night successfully incorporated a dark house on wheels – almost a character on its own! Romeo and Juliet enjoyed creation of two towers and hand-made benches used in various ways. Most recently, the two towers were joined by a bridge to represent Venitian architecture in The Merchant of Venice. Did you seeMerchant’s three caskets of gold, silver, and lead? They were beautifully hand-crafted pieces, a collaboration between carpenter and artist.