Costuming for “An Enemy of the People” started with a unique idea from director Kin-Yan Szeto. Actors and actresses will undergo over four costume changes during the play, and each costume will alter dramatically in color scale throughout.
“Our director started our meetings with the concept of going from black to white television,” costume designer Martha Marking said. “And it was the concept of having everyone to be in color and then gray by the end. I thought the audience would lose focus with all gray, and so now it’s like going from black and white to a color television. Only certain actors will have color by the end.”
Marking said the costumes will undergo a slow progression from “lighter gray, to darker gray then charcoal or black,” through changes in suits and smaller details like ties.
The modernized version of the original 1860s play will now take place in the 1950s, a time period applicable to students, Marking said.
“I did a lot of research with our students, and we talked about doing the ’80s and ’90s, and the phenomenon of Mad Men. I think people are very used to the ’50s look then they have been in previous decades, and it was easier to find clothing for the play,” she said.
Male students received haircuts to match the ’50s theme from associate professor Gordon Hensley. There are 37 costumes overall, and three brand new dresses. Markings pulled from her own wardrobe for inspiration.
“Almost all of the costumes are black and green and white,” Markings said. “The student playing Petra is wearing my mother-in-law’s sweater from the ’50s. It is in my personal wardrobe now, but I decided to let her use it. It’s black and gray and fits the theme.”
Working with a gray set called for creative problem solving for lighting, she said.
“The set is also gray, so the lighting designer is going to do backlight and pull the actors away from the background so the actors don’t bled into the background,” she said. “The lights will also change intensity and color as we go. The set designer and I have worked really hard at looking at the different grays to make sure they don’t blend in anymore then they have to.”
Freshman theater education major Calvin Noble plays Hovstad, a newspaper editor.
“I have four costume changes in suits,” he said, “and I’m not a suit guy. I’ll be wearing a flower tie at the beginning to and then I lose this in Act 3 and turn into more grayscale as my character changes. It’s very cool that they have us in black and white and 1950s television
Story by: Kelsey Hamm, A&E Editor