A PLAYful Process

The performance of PLAY opens tomorrow night and that usually means crunch time for all those involved! One of those collaborators is Darolyn Robertson. Darolyn moved back to our community after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. When Darolyn isn’t working on her own projects, or designing for local productions, you can find her at LJ Alleman Middle where she teaches art!

Our Residency @ the Center coordinator, Paige Krause, found a few moments talk with Darolyn about her collaboration and design work for the production of PLAY.

Paige: First off, you were one of the artist-in-residence last season at the AcA. What’s it like to be back working on the program, but now as a collaborator?

Darolyn: Being back at the AcA for this reason feels great. I really felt the residency helped me to push my limits creatively and experience the process of presenting work to an audience. In this case, the collaboration process gives me a new angle in which to see how another artist works to achieve the same goal. The process is different for everyone and I have learned a lot from Theresa’s artistic process to see her vision carried out. To add, an artist is often isolated with the work, so to collaborate in this way allows me to see a different translation of the concept, disseminate ideas with the director and cast, and ultimately critique the designs with another opinion at the table.

Paige: What can you tell us about your costume design work for PLAY?

Darolyn: The costume designs show different stages of PLAY in life. At the beginning, you will see a more adolescent expression of what is worn for the type of PLAY at that point in one’s life. Then, you will see the costumes evolve to exemplify the many other stages we may experience into adulthood. The emergence or departure from one phase to another is shown through the artistic elements used to design each piece. The physicality of the piece motivates the design the most. The dancers must not only look the part of the type of play they are expressing, but have to be able to freely experience it in the costume.

Paige: How closely did you collaborate with Theresa for the costumes of PLAY? Does she give you a concept or ideas? 

Darolyn: Theresa is very lucid in her vision for PLAY. She started off discussing her vision of the concept and that lead to discussions on how that would manifest in the costume designs. We considered the type of movement, set design, music, and what each section of the performance had to say. Just like with any costume designer/director collaboration, I present her with the ideas and then we edit so that it all makes sense for the production.

Paige: Where did you pull inspiration for the costumes and what research did you do while creating?

Darolyn: Like most costume designers, I pull my research from different image sources off of the Internet. However, I have the benefit of watching kids at play when I teach. By observing the children, I learned what was most essential to the playing experience. I created a board of all the pictures I felt really illustrated what people wore to play. In the process, I had to first answer the question, What are play clothes? Like many others, I have heard the words “play clothes” often in my childhood. I really wanted to capture that. Throughout time, there has always been an area of the fashion industry that tailored to the need of clothing to function for the purpose of play, such as children’s rompers, cruise clothing, fetish gear, and cosplay. So in the same way, I used an art + function formula to create the designs.

Paige: What do you think is the most important thing for a costume designer to think about when costuming a show?

Darolyn: I think the most important thing for a costume designer to consider is the story or vision of the production. The designs have to fully support that. The garments can be constructed beautifully and have amazing fabric selection, but if it doesn’t help tell the story then the costumes have lost their purpose.

Paige: Have you ever had any costume mishaps take place in live performance? Any interesting story you can share?

Darolyn: I haven’t had any major mishaps I can think of off hand (fingers crossed). But I have definitely experienced some “nail biting” moments. Once, I was working on a show called “1001”, as a wardrobe supervisor. I was responsible for the upkeep of the clothing, set the costumes, and also the changes within the performance. I had this one actor who played two roles, a human and a monster. The change into the monster costume was something like 90 seconds. In that time frame, he had to run from stage left to stage right (backstage), take off his full suit all while running, which included shirt and tie, put on a monster coat and spats. Those spats! They were so difficult to get on and he didn’t have enough time to take off and put on shoes. We did well with the change mostly, except for one night one of the monster spats did not make it. So he went on stage with a furry spat on one leg, and a dress shoe and and dress sock on another, leg exposed. It happens like that sometimes.

Paige: And last, but not least, how does Darolyn PLAY?

Darolyn: I don’t “play” much in the traditional sense. However, this show has me remembering the strong desire to play everyday as a child. I came from a neighborhood full of kids who shared that desire as well. As I grew older, I recognize “play” in my life as the process of creating art. I really love the playful process that happens when designing a new show and getting the fabrics for the first time. The joy is very similar to playing as child, except I wish it involved the same amount of physical activity.

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