Dressing a Musical

By Anne Wharton

For those of you who caught ACC’s “The Wiz” on its opening weekend, one of the great details that really made the show pop was the costumes. I managed to get a hold of the fabulous costume designer, Stephanie Dunbar, and found out a little bit of what goes into costuming a musical.

 

Stephanie Dunbar working on The Wiz at Austin Community College Drama Department.
Stephanie Dunbar working on a costume.

How did you get into costuming?

Dunbar: I went to Southwestern for my undergrad in Performance. I needed a job, and I discovered the technical positions at the school. I don’t do lights, and I didn’t want to deal with saws; so I worked with costumes. I didn’t really know anything about it, but it was great surprise and I loved my professor, Kerry Bechtel.

After undergrad, I went to grad at Cal State Long Beach for costume design. I got totally immersed, and I love teaching it! I think costume design is extremely creative and it allows you to be creative. But you also have to know your stuff and really understand history and fashion.

 

What’s the process like for a big project like “The Wiz”? How do you get started?

Dunbar: Basically, the first important step is meeting with the director – how do they see the show, their aesthetics. Get a feel for whether they want something traditional or maybe something a little different.  For “The Wiz,” we got to make things funky and over the top.

Once I had that conversation with David (the director for “The Wiz”), I started researching and building a color palette. I just started sketching; trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work.

I got a lot of inspiration from first hand research. We are so lucky for this show that we can look at the time period, shows in the 1970s, and we have Soul Train and The Electric Company.

 

Lindsay Scarbrough working on the Scarecrow costume for The Wiz at Austin Community College Drama Department
Lindsay Scarbrough, one of four costume shop assistants, working on the Scarecrow costume.

What’s been the most fun part of the show and what’s been the most challenging?

Dunbar: I think the most fun part is that this show allows us to be super creative. We’ve got Lion and Tin Man – the show is over-the-top funktastic! We’ve taken a ton of different, non-traditional approaches to the characters. David’s been really supportive of how out there these costumes have been. And that’s so great for a designer to have a director like that – to be able to explore all these different ways and challenge the preconceptions that a lot of people tend to have.

And really the most challenging part is that it’s a musical, a big musical. It’s the sheer quantity of costumes. That just happens with musicals because you want a lot of voice onstage.

I really like the show and how everything is coming together, it’s really just the challenge of finishing everything on time.

 

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see Stephanie’s “funktastic” costumes, “The Wiz” is showing on the Mainstage at the Rio Grande Campus this weekend, Feb. 26 – March 1. Show times are at 7:30 pm on Thursday-Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased online.

 

Anne Wharton is a blogger and photographer for the ACC Arts & Humanities Division. She graduated from ACC with an Associate in Dance in 2014 and has performed with the ACC Drama Department.

Finally a Musical!

By Anne Wharton

After almost a decade without a musical hitting the Mainstage at ACC, the drama department is lighting up the Rio Grande campus with song and dance. “The Wiz” opens this week, Feb. 19, on the Rio Grande campus Mainstage theater. Tickets can be purchased online  or at the door.

I spoke with David Yeakle, the director for “The Wiz,” to find out some details behind the musical production.

Cast during a dance number
Cast during a dance number: M’Kenzie Flakes, Rebekka Bryant, Ja’Michael Darnell, Cody Blount. Photo by Anne Wharton.

So why has it been so long since the last musical at ACC?

Yeakle:  Musicals are all around more expensive. You have to get the royalties, rent the music, pay for the choreographer – it’s just more expensive and more challenging. There are more cooks in the kitchen so a big production like this can be more challenging.

How did you land on this musical in particular?

Yeakle: The music is a lot of fun. And it’s a well-known story that’s really appealing. It’s also a show that doesn’t really get done around here a lot. “The Wiz” really works to showcase the diversity of talent in our department too.

You’re using community actors in addition to student actors, right?

Yeakle: Yeah, I think we’re about half-and-half, students to non-students. I think. There were several factors we took into account for the casting. We didn’t want to exclusively cast students, but we wanted to give them an opportunity like we wanted to give an opportunity to the folks in this community.

We ended up with a great balance, and the students are getting to learn from the non-students.

How similar is “The Wiz” to the original story? Are there any surprises for the audience?

Yeakle: It’s the same story: Dorothy is swept away from home in a tornado and ends up in Oz. She encounters unusual beings; some friendly, some threatening. She helps her new friends and gains an appreciation for home.

The audience may be surprised by the departure from the original; there are some more mature moments that will probably go over the heads of younger audience members. It is devoid of crude language, thankfully, but there may be adult-oriented innuendo. For example, we are approaching the wicked witch of the west, Evillene, as a dominatrix. I hope I’m not giving away too much.

 

Catch more of David Yeakle in the video preview below:

Coming soon – find out what goes into creating the costumes for a big musical with the costume designer for “The Wiz,” Stephanie Dunbar.

 

Anne Wharton is a blogger and photographer for the ACC Arts & Humanities Division. She graduated from ACC with an Associate in Dance in 2014 and has performed with the ACC Drama Department.

 

 

 

Welcome!

Welcome to the new ACC Drama blog!

This blog’s your go-to place to learn about upcoming productions, cast members and the wonderful faculty in the ACC Drama Department.

Producing multiple shows every semester, including a musical this spring, ACC offers students and the Austin community a chance to learn and appreciate the theater arts.

From right to left: Taylor Wallace, Tiana Stuart and Mitchell Doerr in Reckless
From right to left: Taylor Wallace, Tiana Stuart and Mitchell Doerr in Reckless

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what does it take to put on productions at ACC? What drives the student actors to spend late nights rehearsing at school? Read on to find out what inspires the actors, crew members and directors at Austin Community College.

Guapa - Joelle Cruz
Joelle Cruz in Guapa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming soon: meet the cast for ACC’s upcoming production of The Wiz!

The Wiz opens Feb. 19 and runs through March 1 at the Rio Grande Campus Gallery Theater.

 

Photos by Anne Wharton.