Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spotlight on... Kaidi Williams (Costume Designer)!

Today was our final rehearsal before Tech begins on Saturday. One of the many exciting things happen in the next few days is the introduction of costumes. Speaking of costumes, we sat down with Costume Designer Kaidi Williams to learn more about her background and process.
Pictured: Kaidi Williams (Costume Designer for Some Mother's Son) 
showing off her cartridge pleating skills.

Kaidi Williams

Which designer are you? 

Why designing? I have always loved doing crafts, sewing, and designing clothes.  My high-school notebooks were full of sketches in the margins.  I have also always loved theatre.  I grew up attending countless community theatre and high school performances (mostly musicals- which I adore) as well as enrolling in many summer theatre programs.  Designing costumes for theatre is the perfect meld of these two passions of mine.  I find researching clothing so interesting, and then I welcome the challenge of adapting and choosing what each character should wear on stage.  Costumes can beautifully enhance a character by giving the actor a certain feeling in the clothes and by communicating more information to the audience with simply the initial visual.

How and why did you get involved with Some Mother's Son?
As a senior at Smith, I was hoping to be able to design my own show before leaving.  Kiki Smith, Costume Design Professor and my advisor, asked me if I would be interested in working on this new show.  I was very excited to have the chance to design for a period show, and then when I read the script I was intrigued by the actual content.

Describe your design process. (Where do you start? What do you look to for inspiration? 
I begin by looking for images from the time that convey a feeling or direction that I would like to work towards with my designs.  These images may or may not include specific details that I think I want to include for the play.  After talking with the director I start to identify certain clothing elements that I think would be important to include for each character.  Sears and Roebuck catalogues are one of my favourite things to use for 20th century clothing research.  They give me such a good idea of average styles at the time- more so that documentation of high fashion.

What has surprised, inspired, excited, and/or challenged you most throughout the process thus far?
When I began my research I was surprised to learn that the iconic ‘60s styles that we all know, did not come around until much later in the decade.  The first half of the ‘60s is very much still the styles we think of as being ‘50s.  The next big hurdle was the fact that the play takes place all in one day.  This means that the characters would be wearing the same clothing for the entire performance.  It is hard to pick just one ensemble for each character, especially once you watch the actors filling out so many dimensions in rehearsal.  Think about what one outfit you would choose to represent your entire self: personality, interests, job, friends, hobbies, hometown, hopes, dislikes, etc. etc. etc.  In the end I saw Masha trying to rewind her life to the mid ‘50s when her family was happier, so I have given her three outfits to wear over the course of the show as she dresses for dinner and then has to change when that gets dirty.

What are the joys and/or challenges of designing for Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre?
Hallie is such a wonderful space.  I love that I can use a garment with small detail and the audience will still be able to see the beautiful touches that make so many things, especially in this period, special.  On the flip side, the drawback of Hallie is that you can’t hide anything.  There can’t be any stains or wrinkles because the audience is so close that they will notice everything right away.

How has the decision to set the play in Northampton inspired your designs?
I would say that having a setting of Northampton hasn’t inspired as much as informed my design.  It is very important to know if these people are living in a small town or in Manhattan.  Their surrounds really affect what they would have worn and how “fashionable” they would have been.

Kaidi as "Thomasina" in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia
alongside her brother, Caleb, playing Gus.
What is your favorite color? 

What is your least favorite color?
Avocado Green

What turns you on?

What turns you off?
Rough itchy fabric

What sound or noise do you love?
Loon call

What sound or noise do you hate? 
Long finger nails scratching pantyhose

What is something you want to do during your life?
One thing I really want to do is to raise and train a service Golden Retriever from a puppy.  I love training dogs, and I think that would be a great way to do that while helping people.

Earliest memory of theatre? 
When I was 4 I went to see “Annie” at the local children’s theatre.  I thought it was the greatest thing.  I wished I could be Annie singing those songs up there.  That really started my intense love for musical theatre.

Why is theatre necessary?
Theatre is necessary for my happiness.  There is nothing else that makes me more happy than coming home with that theatre high.  I get it when I go to watch something that is really well done, and when I am working a show backstage.  Outside of just myself, I think theatre is so important because it allows us to explore other worlds and other people outside of ourselves.  You can watch a story about another time and place in a movie, but you can’t connect to actor and the atmosphere as deeply as you can with live theatre.
Kaidi drinking tea with her boyfriend on top of a tor in the Peak District of England.

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