PCS Blog

Weaving a Dream

Posted by Kinsley Suer | 07 November 2012

To celebrate our 25th anniversary season, Portland Center Stage invited the fabulous and talented costume designer Deborah Dryden to design the costumes for our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Deborah also designed the costumes for Heartbreak House, our very first production in our very first season.

Both Deborah and Director Penny Metropulos wanted to create a production that captured the magic of Shakespeare's most whimsical play. The resulting costume designs can only be described as stunning, and we can't wait for you to see them onstage!

But before beginning to design the actual costumes, Deborah first found inspiration by looking through thousands of photographs and paintings (especially watercolors). She shared some of her favorites with PCS on the first day of rehearsal, and left them up in the rehearsal hall to inspire the cast and creative team throughout the rehearsal process.



The renderings below are of Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons) and Theseus (the King of Athens) at the beginning of the play. Theseus has conquered the Amazons and brought Hippolyta back to be his bride.




For the "mechanicals" (a group of Athenian craftsmen who have been chosen to perform a play at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta), Deborah was inspired by a collection of images by the famed photographer Irving Penn called Small Trades. Here's a description of the Small Trades series from The J. Paul Getty Museum:

Working in Paris, London, and New York in the early 1950s, photographer Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009) created masterful representations of skilled tradespeople dressed in work clothes and carrying the tools of their occupations. A neutral backdrop and natural light provided the stage on which his subjects could present themselves with dignity and pride. Penn revisited his Small Trades series over many decades, producing evermore-exacting prints, including platinum/palladium enlargements.





When the troupe finally does put on their play (within a play), near the end of the prodution, Egeus (one of the "mechanicals") dresses up as a lion. Note that you can still make out his original costume, which is shown in the rendering above.



The rederings below are essentially "before" and "after" shots of Helena and Hermia. They look clean, polished and put-together at the top of the show, before they have entered the Athenian woods. But after after a night of sleeping in the foliage they have been "transformed" into something else entirely!




To prepare for the production, the costume shop will create two different versions of each costume (one clean and one "transformed") that the actors playing Helena and Hermia will change in and out of between scenes.




A Midsummer Night's Dream runs November 13 - December 23 on the Main Stage.


Comments (3)

But this is fantastic!
..and that’s apparently not a typo. disregard.

  • Jane
  • 13 Nov 12 10:25

Typo: Egeus is Hermia’s father, not one of the mechanicals. Snug is the lion.

  • Kristina
  • 13 Nov 12 10:35

How ‘bout a snake bracelet for Helena? (Before the chase through the woods?)

  • Joel Applegate
  • Spanish Fork, UT (formerly PDX)
  • 13 Nov 12 04:51

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