Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Costume Designer

An important factor to any production that gives credibility and integrity to the script and aids the actors in forming their characters is costuming. For PICNIC, the person in charge of the costumes is Louella Powell. While her progression to costuming has not been direct, she had always worked with and around clothes before making costuming her profession, currently at UW-Milwaukee where she is on the faculty.

Louella's history in costuming began when she started dressing her cats up at age 7. Later, she earned a degree in Psychology and worked as a manager for a clothing store. She credits her interest and study of psychology to be a boon in figuring out the personalities of the characters that she clothes, particularly in PICNIC where the characters need to be believable as real people. Later, she became fascinated with costumes and began to make them for the Ice Follies in Anchorage, Alaska, leading her to earn a second degree in Theater and Design. She went on to work for Caspar College and the Utah Shakespeare Festival before moving to Milwaukee and working for the Milwaukee Rep and later UW-Milwaukee.

Her role in the production process starts with reading the script and doing research on the particular period and location that the play takes place in. Then she begins to gather all possibilities of clothing, hats, gloves, shoes, aprons, and any other clothing accessories that she might need, and she begins the long process of fitting costumes to the particular characters who will wear them. This is followed by alterations and repair to make the costumes suitable for the run of the production as well as guidance with hair and make-up.

Louella has particularly enjoyed her work on PICNIC due to her fondness for the time period, the 1950s, in which it takes place. She has been challenged by working with such a large cast of characters that needed very particular 'looks' depending on their social classes and interests, but the process has given her a chance to include her students at UWM, giving them a hands-on vantage point of the realities of life in the theater. This type of insight is not easy to come by, and her students will have the opportunity to view a final dress rehearsal to see all of the fruits of her labor in action on the stage. What they will see is the result of a strong commitment to the integrity of the time period that will delight audiences with authenticity and style.

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