Casey Ballard on Costuming Richard III

Lingerie, Shirtless Dudes, and Why Footwear is the Bane of My Existence

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It was recently posited that perhaps a blog written by me, the costume designer, might be interesting.

Duh.

My job is fascinating on so many levels. It is ridiculous the amount of awesomeness I get to do. I buy some of the most bizarre things at some of the most bizarre places without batting an eye.

Oh, I need a super padded, trashy/classy bra and a red thong? No big. I bought a couple, to compare. The sales lady very graciously did not look me in the eye.

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I need to figure out what kind of gun holster is most appropriate and what kind of gun goes in it? Let me just scroll through all these images of dudes holding weapons while I wait for my pad kee mao (The waiter did look me in the eye with what I can only assume was a mixture of respect and fear).

Another reason I really enjoy costume design is that it is such a living design element. I like that I get to work so closely with all these amazing actors. I like that I can tell the story of a character and their background based solely on what kind of shirt I put them in. I like that I have the power to make as many men shirtless as possible. I like that I abuse this power sometimes- it’s fun to objectify people. But seriously, costumes tell such a human story. What we wear is a choice. Figuring out what certain characters would wear, and why they wear it, and how they choose to manifest their own emotions and ideas into their outfit, is such a fun challenge. It’s a wonderful mix of anthropology, sociology, and history. It makes me feel really smart, and not bad at all about the whole shirtless dudes thing.

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With “RIII” I found myself once more working with what I like to call “base costumes”- the notion that everyone has one basic outfit, and will add or subtract to signify a character change. I was worried at first that all black in an all black space would be….dark (budum-bum). Then I told myself to stop worrying because I intrinsically trust my fellow designers- they trust me to not do something dumb, so I trust them. And it worked out beautifully. Collaboration was such a huge factor in this play. It was so important, that I am going to reiterate, in all caps: COLLABORATION WAS SO IMPORTANT. I came in to this show knowing I would be dealing with a large cast and a larger character list. I was also brand new to working with this company, therefore, I knew absolutely no one. And yet, when I requested that the actors all bring in black items, especially shoes (shoes are the WORST thing- they cost the most out of anything ever in the world, and are so annoying when they are brand new and half the time feet aren’t really the size you think they are. I thought I was a solid 10 ½- nope. They are now, for no apparent reason, a size 11), every single person willingly brought in something and then some. And they very graciously allowed me to use a bulk of their personal items for the run of this production. The outpouring of collaboration and support and willingness to share and help was overwhelming and calmed my anxious state of mind. I have had an absolute blast working with these guys and I am ever thankful for the opportunity and trust the bestowed on me.

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Now I just have to figure out how to get all actors to be half naked all the time…..

-Casey Ballard, Costumer for Richard III

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