Submitted by Caitlin Quinn, The University of Minnesota Duluth
Productions sometimes call for a “costume magic” moment – a costume requirement that calls for special planning during the design process. This could be an onstage super-fast quick change, a “rigged” costume which changes from one look to another, or a costume designed to drastically change the actor’s body shape (like stilts). Students are assigned “magic” moments within productions and figure out the design and function of the costume.
Length of Activity
- Week Long Project
Area of Technical Theatre
- Costume Design
- Costume Technology
- Students will design a costume that transforms quickly, conceals the actor in a specific way onstage, or drastically alters the actor physically.
- Students will design with construction and application in mind as well as character.
- Students will create technical drawings and renderings to plan how the garment functions.
The goal of this activity is to have students design around a specific costume function. This project comes right after a dance design, so the students have been designing costumes built for specific movement. The Costume Magic project asks the students to develop that specificity of function one step further by designing for an unusual transformation. They have to design a costume that fits the character and concept for the piece, but also is rigged to be removed, altered, or drastically change the actor’s shape onstage in view of the audience.
Students are assigned a costume magic moment from different productions. They receive a prompt which gives them the director’s concept for the production and any limitations (# of actors, amount of time for change, materials available, audience proximity, etc.). Students work within the parameters to fulfill the technical needs to create the onstage magic. This project requires research into how past productions have accomplished the technique AND new methods for the magic. Students act as both a designer and an engineer.
Here is the Project Assignment Sheet:
Due March 19
Productions sometimes call for a “costume magic” moment – a costume requirement that calls for special planning during the design process. This could be an onstage super-fast quick change, a “rigged” costume which changes from one look to another, or a costume designed to drastically change the actor’s body shape (like stilts). You have each been assigned a costume magic moment from a different production. Follow the directions in your prompt to design the costumes to fulfill the technical needs to create the onstage magic. This will require research into how past productions have accomplished the technique AND new methods for the magic. You will need to act as both a designer and an engineer. I recommend getting ideas for materials from scenic or props people, as most of these costumes will incorporate non-traditional materials. You will need to explain CLEARLY how your “magic” works to the class.
You will turn in:
- Complete color renderings of your costumes (including back view, proper labeling, and framing).
- A technical drawing of how your costume is rigged and/or a detailed quick-change list which includes choreography of how the costume will function onstage.
- A materials list of all non-fabric materials used.
Magic Moments Assigned:
- Dot stepping out of her dress in Sunday in the Park with George
- In the song “Sunday in the Park with George”
- Dress must stand up by itself
- Actor must be able to walk onstage in the dress
- Design the dress and the undergarment outfit she dances in – remember the dress is in reality and the dance outfit is in her mind
- Cinderella’s dress transformation for the ball in Cinderella
- Must be done in full view of the audience onstage
- Must include a hair transformation
- Change is controlled by the actress
- Design the “peasant” look and the “ball” look
- The witch’s transformation into her beautiful form in Into the Woods (End of Act 1)
- Must be done on stage. May only be obscured minimally by lights/fog/back to audience. Actor may not leave stage or go behind scenery
- Actor face must be seen in the scene leading up the change
- The old costume must be incorporated into the new costume (can’t simply throw off a cape)
- The outfit she changes out of must have been used in earlier scenes. This shouldn’t be a special outfit just for the change
- Design the “hag” costume and the “beautiful” costume – including hair and makeup as they are an important part of this change
- Janet’s changes in “Show Off” from The Drowsy Chaperone
- Based on the Sutton Foster version. Same times for the changes.
- 5 changes (including straight jacket)
- Elsa’s dress change during “Let it Go” in Frozen
- Can’t be the exact clothing from the Disney movie
- You can be inspired by the Disney costumes but don’t repeat them
- The hair has to change from an updo to a long braid
- St. Aphrodisius statue AND one gargoyle statue in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (musical)
- Must be based off of the real carvings on Notre Dame
- Design the costumes, wigs, makeup and masks (if using masks for either character)
- Grasshopper and Spider from James and the Giant Peach
- All characters must be the same level of abstraction
- The costumes must change the actor’s body shape
- No full animal costumes (like a mascot)
- Actors must have full range of motion for dancing
- Make sure they are interesting for stage (flat black will be flat onstage)
Students had 3 class periods to complete the project. One class period I assigned the project and gave them time to research the show and start reading the script. The next period I answered questions about their particular moments. The next class period was research and work time. I answered questions about materials and parameters for their moment. The third period they presented their projects. Each class period was an hour and 50 mins long. If the project is done over shorter class periods more time should be given.
Students need access to the internet to research their assigned moment. I also chose scripts that could be found online, in our library, or the whole show was available on YouTube.
Students will need access to rendering supplies such as paper and colored art media.
All the changes listed have YouTube videos showing other productions achieving the change.
Other costume magic moments could be used. The best ones were #1-4.
I wanted the students to read the entire script, but when I teach this project again, I will just have them read the scene where the change happens and a synopsis of the plot
The project is scored out of 100 points.
- Complete color rendering(s) of your costumes / 30 points
- A technical drawing of how your costume is rigged and/or a detailed quick-change list which includes choreography /30
- A materials list of all non-fabric materials used /10
- Presentation to class. The student clearly explains the challenge from the script and how the costume solves the challenge to create magic. /30
Students receive oral feedback from me immediately following their presentation. Classmates are given time to ask questions following their presentation. I also provide written feedback when assigning the grade.