Costumes can make or break a Broadway musical. They provide context for the show, like time period and location, they help establish characters’ personalities and circumstances, and they support the style and aesthetic of the production. Imagine The Lion King without masks or Les Misérables with everyone dressed in jeans.
In high school musical theatre, it’s no different. That’s precisely why there is an Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design category for the annual Bobby G Awards.
The Bobby G Awards is a regional high school musical theatre awards ceremony that celebrates educators and students from all over Colorado. The event will take place on Thursday, May 26 at 7:00p.m. in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. General admission tickets are available now for only $10 each.
Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design Nominees
The Addams Family
Arvada West High School
Molly Arndt, Jaden Dionido & Natalie Martinez
Guys and Dolls
Castle View High School
Jennifer Barclay, Jolene Brumm & Taryn Mitchell
Beauty and the Beast
Elizabeth High School
Xyla Daugele, Maddie Piatz & Jada Sherrill
The Wizard of OZ
Ponderosa High School
Joy Lopez, Anyeli Gonzalez Parra, Willow Stephenson, Grace Secora & Paloma Tapia
Pueblo County High School
There’s fine line for these costume designers to balance. Audiences should recognize these characters from previous iterations of the show (or movies in some cases) but designers also want to put their own unique twist on the costumes. At Castle View High School, the costume crew took inspiration from the 1955 movie version of Guys and Dolls. They explained, “We thought the costumes were really playful and that they meshed well together in a sense of organized chaos. We tried to keep that playful chaos and combine it with the city grunge and city elegance expected in 1929 New York.” The crew consisted of Molly Arndt, Jaden Dionido, and Natalie Martinez.
It’s even more difficult for some costume designers, especially in high school, with limited resources and budget. At Ponderosa High School, the costume crew takes trips to thrift stores to search for usable items while still making the best use of their time. “Sometimes the whole crew goes, or we split up, so half the team can stay at school to work on projects,” said the costume crew for The Wizard of Oz, consisting of Xyla Daugele, Maddie Piatz, and Jada Sherrill.
Often times, the costume crew will dig through their costume closets, where pieces from previous productions are stored. In Elizabeth High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast, Mrs. Pott’s dress is a perfect example of recycling and revitalizing. “Mrs. Pott’s dress was originally a plain blue dress that had been used in Little Women a few years before,” explained Jennifer Barclay, “We added the floral parts, apron, cap and lace, gold trim, as well as a bum roll to give it the signature look.” Barclay is a Theatre Arts teacher at Elizabeth High School. She directed Beauty and the Beast and led the costume crew, supported by Jolene Brumm and Taryn Mitchell.
Time constraints can also impact how many items are made from scratch. At Pueblo County High School, the costume crew for Zombie Prom only had two months to pull everything together. “We only made six things from scratch since we had to have each actor in at least two outfits,” said Joy Lopez, the head of costuming for Zombie Prom. Lopez was supported by Anyeli Gonzalez Parra, Willow Stephenson, Grace Secora, and Paloma Tapia.
As if time and budget constraints weren’t enough, these designers also must consider how costumes will impact the actors’ ease of movement, whether the colors will clash with the set, and how lighting might best amplify the costumes. Phew!
Keeping the actors in mind was vital for The Wizard of Oz. For roles like the scarecrow, the tinman, and the lion, ease of movement couldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of a costume. “They must have enough mobility, and the costume itself must be as light as possible so they can perform their best,” explained the costume crew, “They are onstage for so long singing and dancing.”
At Arvada West High School, the costume crew for The Addams Family also had to consider how the setting would impact their characters’ costumes. “The ancestors are dead and crawling out of their graves in the show so we knew their costumes couldn’t be pristine or have bright colors,” said costume lead Payton Berland, “So we dyed all of our ancestor costume pieces various shades of light gray and tore them up to make it look like they’re crawling out of their crypt.”
For Zombie Prom, the costume crew played with contrasting colors and fluorescent lights to bring the idea of a “nuclear town” to life. “Talking with the lights crew about how we can make a light-up jacket seem even more lit-up onstage was such a fun thing,” said Joy Lopez, “One of our techies told me about the combination of yellow and green. Without that input, the jacket wouldn’t have been as cohesive.”
In some cases, costumes need to work seamlessly with props. Jennifer Barclay said the most exciting part of the design process was creating the puppets for Beauty and the Beast. “Once we decided to forgo making the actors themselves giant objects and use puppets, it was really exciting to plan each outfit to work harmoniously with the puppet.”
Once the costumes are created, it’s a rewarding experience to see them in action. Molly Arndt, a costumer for Guys and Dolls, explained that she was responsible for one of the final quick changes – Adelaide’s wedding dress. “That was my big project,” said Arndt, “I saw that dress from the first design to closing night and it felt so good to see something you’ve worked on onstage.” Natalie Martinez added, “I was excited to see our designs come to life, and I would do this whole show again in a heartbeat.”
Student costume designers come to understand the importance of commitment, cooperation, and revisions. They aren’t just honing their costume design techniques, they’re given the freedom to explore their creativity.
Working on the costumes for The Addams Family was an inspirational experience for Payton Berland. “The costume crew is unbelievably lucky we have a director who lets us take the reins and put together the costumes with only slight guidelines,” she explained, “It lets us take ownership of the design process and the final product. That’s the reason I fell in love with it, I felt so proud and accomplished seeing my work on stage and knowing that it was my vision and idea, not someone else’s.”
Join the DCPA in celebrating these costume designers at The Bobby G Awards at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on May 26. The red carpet for participating students begins at 6pm and the awards ceremony begins at 7pm. Tickets are on sale now for $10 each.