Technical Theatre

Without the Idea, You’re Lost

Written by Lindsay Price

Came across this lovely article about costumer Jane Greenwood over at the TDF Stages website. She has been designing costumes since 1963 with multiple Tony nominations under her belt. She’s in the middle of designing the costumes for the upcoming Broadway production of Rebecca.

Here’s what I took away from this article. First, the amount of prep work that goes into Greenwood’s process before she even meets with the production team. She is “immersed” in the world of the play. She knows everything there is to know about what the characters might wear.

The show won’t begin performances until October 30 or even start rehearsals until next month, but Greenwood is already making choices that will shape its future. For instance, she has filled several large binders with sketches and ‘inspirational photographs’ for every character.

Second, that she’s prepared to throw away that prep work if it doesn’t jive with the direction of production. She wants the costuming to be a part of the team and because theatre is a living entity, things change.

Things change. If you are an actor, an artist, a writer, a dancer, that is the core of the creative process.

Things change. If you are so married to your idea that you’re not willing to alter it when need be you’re not getting the most out of your creative process. This is not to say that you have to throw everything out the window on someone elses say so. But if the idea needs to change to make it the best work possible then you need to be able to make that change.

Things change. But in order for things to change you need a start. You can’t change in a vacuum. You need a starting point, you need that idea. And you just can’t come up with something frivolous and slight. “What’s the point in putting work into my idea if it’s just going to change anyway.” No. I meet so many young writers who don’t want to put the work into an idea, they just want to jump into the deep end of the pool. And then they’re upset when the play starts to fall apart in the middle. The idea is as valuable a part of the process as the finished product. As Greenwood states: “Without the idea, you’re lost, so you have to have that. But then you have to take the idea and channel it through so many different areas.”

Are your students flexible enough to go with the flow when change is suggested for a scene?
Click here to download an exercise that helps students explore ideas and changing ideas

About the author

Lindsay Price