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Much Ado About Costuming Open Access

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Of all the possible requests a student could make regarding their thesis, the one that I made was that the assigned production be anything but Shakespeare. Naturally, I was then assigned Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing as my Costume Design thesis production. Originally, this terrified me. Not only was I presented a large show to design, on which my candidacy would be decided, but this was Shakespeare! A great deal of weight comes with that name, as well as responsibility. Audiences come to the theatre with certain expectations. Our design team would have to work hard to impress them. It had been made clear from the start that we would be placing this production in another time period than Shakespeare's original. When Alan Wade, the director, presented me with the concept of "between the wars," referring to the timeframe between World War I and World War II, I realized I not only had to design the show, but had to take a piece of seventeenth century literature, full of references to Elizabethan society and times, and craft a world in which Shakespeare's words would still ring true and meaningful to a modern audience. Dramaturgical research became very important for the preparations of this show--now set in the early twentieth century, with its new, world-wide political tensions, shifting gender roles, and changing moral standards.Throughout the process it was necessary to assess where the costumes currently were, and to make sure they still made sense with our updated setting and concept, as well as with Shakespeare's text. As with any production there were ups and downs trying to make this happen. We had to strike a balance of give and take between the text and the aesthetic in order for the costumes to register with a modern audience in a logical and consumable format. In the end, the production team was able to create a successful, thriving, post-World War I world that addressed key societal issues of the twenties while at the same time accurately portraying the themes and story from Shakespeare's Elizabethan text, written three hundred years earlier...

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