While I spend most of my costuming effort on cosplay, I am always excited to create a piece or two for the theater, which is why I nominated (essentially told) Casey that I was going to make the costumes for her production of 10 Minutes in the Forest.
The show is a live action, immersive game/theater experience, it require many words to describe because it doesn’t fit well into any particular category. The essential premise is that audience members/ players are told a brief poem before being let into a space (individually or in a pair). In the space they are greeted by a Firebird who conveys the gist of what they are supposed to be doing through mime and lots of squawking. The players have to make it through the forest, facing off with Baba Yaga to retrieve the Firebird’s eggs and bring them to safety. As a performer and designer in this production the variety of strategies and actions of the players was fascinating. Some bargained with Baba Yaga, some asked Firebird for help, others walked silently, and some were incredibly strategic. Which meant that each 10 minute event felt entirely different from all the others.
From a designer perspective there were some interesting challenges in this production:
- Each character was played by 3 or 4 different performers with different heights and builds
- The performances required quick changes for the characters, there was only a few minutes between each production
- The costumes had to stand up to a significant amount of movement, and especially Baba Yaga’s a reasonable amount of abuse
- The characters needed to be distinct but not cartoonish
- The budgets for both needed to be under $200 (ideally less)
With these challenges in mind, I began designing the costumes.
The first step was considering the main thematic idea for each character, I didn’t want a creepy witch and a person covered in feathers, so that meant simplifying them down into contrasting features. The easiest became using the concept of elements, fire bird was obviously fire and Baba Yaga was earth or the forest. This lead me to color pallets of reds/yellows/oranges for Firebird and browns/greens for Baba Yaga, as well as a contrast between lighter and floatier textures with more heavier denser ones.
The final designs and outcomes:
You can see for Firebird I I did still want to evoke the idea of feathers and wings, by cutting the fabric into feather shapes and layering them, as well as the two panels of fabric hanging from the back. The structure was essentially a shrug made of elastic which made it flexible for a number of different sized people to wear. The materiel was glissnet, it has a very similar hand to chiffon, and is also translucent but doesn’t fray which makes it the best stuff every for cutting out so many feathers.
The main idea behind Baba Yaga was to have her blend into the forest. A circle cloak again is flexible in size for a number of different performers. I distressed/frayed the edges and added on patches of burlap, then painted the cloak with diluted black/brown acrylic to make it darker and dirtier. The downside is this made the cloak much stiffer but that did add a nice contrast between the floatyness of the Firebird and the weight of Baba Yaga. The final touch was adding the fake plants (found at goodwill), I wanted them to seem almost like they were growing on her, so I had the line wrap around the cloak, and stitched them on by hand.
Overall the costumes only needed a few tweaks once we went into performance, I added a tie onto the cloak so it stayed shut better than with just the Velcro closure. The sticks on the Firebird broke so I replaced them with finger loops, though they looked less wing-like it ended up being easier on the performers as their hands were free.