Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Cultural Interlude

Last weekend, Liz and I went to Staunton, Virginia to see the Mary Baldwin College production of Medea. This show was Rachael's second senior project, the first being last year's evening of one-act plays that she directed.* For Medea, Rachael designed and created all the costumes and was in charge of the hairstyling and makeup.

First, a little bit about the play. Medea is the re-telling of a common folk story by the Greek playwright Euripides. The title character is the granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and she's been wronged by her ex-husband Jason (of "the Argonauts" fame). The play is pure tragedy, and there's not much in the way of relief from the unrelenting rage, doom and despair. Interestingly, when Euripides first wrote Medea, it was universally hated. In every previous version, Medea's children die, but Euripides was the first to add the twist that Medea murders her own children as part of her revenge.

The play is powerful, intense, and relentless. You might not enjoy it, but you will be moved.

Rachael worked for several months on the costumes for this play. All total, there were (I believe) three male characters, the two kids, two servants, eight chorus members (remember, this is Greek theater), and of course, Medea. After coming up with the proposed concepts, she had to render them as figures and select fabric samples for each. Every step of the way, the director has to approve. One of the interesting things Rachael said was that the key thing was that even if her concepts were poor, as long as the final costumes looked like her original designs then it was a good thing. Her original designs were not poor, and the final results were stunning.

I'm still waiting for actual photographs from Rachael, but for now, here's the original rendering of Medea's costume.

Note the fabric swatches up top. The wraparound panel skirt is bordered by alternating squares of red and black, and embroidered suns were added in gold. The midriff was crocheted of metallic gold thread and was amazing to behold (done by Rachael's roomie, Shea). The back of the bodice was fastened by leather laces. In all, the costume consisted of 80 different pieces of fabric, done completely by Rachael.

Rachael had several stitchers helping with the construction of the rest of the costumes. The chorus members were in gowns of blues and greens, and the servants were in earth tones. Men and the children wore cream and royal purple. Like I mentioned, I'm waiting for Rachael to send pictures. (hint, hint)

From what I hear, there were two different Q&A sessions after performances, where she got applause for her costumes. She's also been asked to give a lecture to one professor's class about the costumes and the process she went through from concept to final result.

To quote one of her professors, Rachael went out with a bang.

* Two majors, two senior projects. She did last year's senior project as a junior and got distinction, meaning she did professional quality work.


Pratt Hobbies said...

Wow. Congrats to your brilliant artistic daughter!

Sal said...

That is stunning. You have a right to be extremely proud.
More photos please.
I loved the part about how the major criteria was that she couldn't change the initial sketch.
I ask myself why I even do initial sketches, since the actual costume is usually miles away from the first idea.
Not a pro- just a school and community theater volunteer.