At some point, I find myself wondering how we can make the design experience more effective, more… je ne sais pas.
I’m tired of having actors bitch in the dressing room or to the director during notes, and expressing things about the costume that they won’t tell me.
They tell the director that they don’t feel right in the costume, because it doesn’t feel like the character. Or they complain to wardrobe that none of their costumes fit (when in truth they just don’t fit like modern clothes). Or I get a message from stage management that there have been “discussions in the dressing rooms about the wigs…”(a nice ambiguous note that is entirely useless to me in terms of fixing any actual problems).
Sometimes it feels like they are trying to design their character for me. This is extremely frustrating.
But I have heard from a number of actors now that they feel that they can’t say anything in the fitting room. Either because this is what they were taught in school (shut up and wear what you are told), or they have said things in the past to designers, and the designer burst into tears, or got angry, or otherwise behaved poorly.
So I have been trying to figure out how this could be improved.
How can we as designers engage actors in an appropriate dialogue about character, when we have already created a design with the director? How do we encourage them to share and collaborate, without overriding the design choices we have already made? How can we create WITH actors (who don’t fully finalize a character until well into the rehearsal process … and for many, until they put on that costume we’ve designed for them.)?
I do think it is, in part, education. If actors are taught to just shut up and wear what the designer gives them,then of course they have no outlet if something just feels “off,” then where else can they express that but behind the back of the designer. So they need to be taught appropriate ways to communicate during a fitting. (This includes realizing that they are not the designer, and that the designer has made choices for specific reasons. Questions work much better than demands or petulant, “That’s ugly” commentary.)
But it would help if designers knew how to approach actors, and how to take that criticism as well. Yes we are told to grow a thick skin when it comes to our designs, but it seems that we do that in relation to the director only. We must remember that actors have opinions too.
I don’t have solutions here. Only mutterings, musings, and questions.
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