UAlberta Abbedam costume designers blend archaic and modern fashion for Punk-rock Greek tragedy
Modernizing Greek mythology can be as difficult for the costume designer as it is for the playwright. UAlberta Department of Drama student Hayley Moorhouse and co-designer Kathleen Sera can attest to that.
The pair collaborated to create the wardrobe for this year’s Abbedam production – Orestes 2.0 by Charles Mee. It’s a Euripides post-war play set in modern times, which posed some interesting challenges for the designing duo.
Student costume designer Hayley Moorhouse adjusts one of the main character’s accessories in the dressing room.
In terms of characterization, the cast of Orestes 2.0 is complex. Electra – played by Arts student Ashleigh Hicks – is both a contemporary punk-rock chick and a classic Greek heroine.
According to Greek mythology, Electra is a member of the house of Atreus, and the daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra.
Moorhouse dresses Electra – played by Arts student Ashleigh Hicks.
BA Drama major Moorhouse says they considered Electra’s royal bloodline and archaic storyline in Electra’s modern ensemble.
A heavy, chain-link necklace is added to Electra’s costume.
“With her costume, we tried to have these two worlds collide, to see how they would react to each other,” said Moorhouse, adding the dress they pulled for Electra has Grecian elements like draping fabric. “The elegance of her red dress is challenged by her torn leggings and heavy, chain-link jewellery.”
Electra’s full ensemble.
The character of the Tape Mouth Person – an apparent mental hospital patient confined to a wheelchair – is a symbolic and pivotal role in Orestes 2.0. For the character’s costume, Moorhouse says they decided to play on her psychological trauma and dressed student actor Jodie McRobbie in oversized hospital pants and a too-big jacket held shut by duct tape.
Jodie McRobbie plays Tape Mouth Person in the Abbedam production Orestes 2.0.
“We researched prisoners of war, as well as homeless veterans, because her injury is tied to past wartime trauma,” said Moorhouse. “Her look emphasizes her inability to speak up, hence the mental patient costume with muted colours and heavy fabric.”
Moorhouse also pulled a wig from the Department of Drama’s wardrobe and went wild with scissors, creating a messy, jagged head of hair.
Jodie McRobbie (Tape Mouth Person in the Abbedam production Orestes 2.0.) adjusts her wig in the dressing room.
“We just cut it until it felt like it fit the character,” said Moorhouse. “We also wanted the character to feel completely androgynous.”
Taped Mouth Person is an eerie presence on stage in her mental patient garb.
For the two featured soldiers in the production – John, played by Chris Pereira and William, played by Braden Price – the designers knew they wanted an easily identifiable military look. But the characters also needed to appear distressed, dishevelled and traumatized.
Students Braden Price (left) and Chris Pereira (right) play the two soldiers featured in Orestes 2.0.
“We looked at pictures of soldiers from all eras, in action and at rest and [decided] we wanted a mix-and-match of the two for them,” said Moorhouse. “Something similar enough for their relationship to be clear (…) but also to suggest the brutality of war has torn apart the military’s strict adherence to code.”
Chris Pereira gets into the character of John the soldier on stage.
Moorhouse and Sera worked for months on the character’s costumes, pulling garments from the department’s wardrobe, altering clothing and accessorizing outfits.
The papparazzi in Orestes 2.0 are played by (from left to right) Jordy Kieto, Franco Correa, Dale MacDonald and Bryan Lantz.
“Distressing the clothing, modernizing them, adding the wreath elements to make them more Greek, are all important aspects of our design concept,” said Moorhouse.
Now, Moorhouse says she’s excited to see the characters come to life on stage, and believes the outfits, like the set, add to the believability of the production.
The paparazzi cower before Electra in the Abbedam production of Orestes 2.0.
Abeddam is a student-run theatre production company within the Department of Drama at the University of Alberta. Each November, Abbedam produces a large ensemble play, directed by a BA, B Ed or MA student or Drama alumni.
Presenter: ABBEDAM Productions
Event Title: Orestes 2.0
Dates: November 12 to 16, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. There is a preview on Wednesday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. and two matinee performances November 15 and 16 at 2 p.m.
Venue: Second Playing Space at the University of Alberta’s Timms Centre for the Arts (87 Avenue & 112 Street, University of Alberta North Campus).
Tickets: Tickets are $10 for students and seniors ($5 for preview) and $15 for adults ($10 for preview) on-sale through Tix on the Square and at the door.
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