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.
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.
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.