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Behind the Scenes: Costume Designer Laurin Kelsey

When were you first introduced to The Sound of Music?

I don’t recall the first time I saw The Sound of Music as a child, but I do remember being fascinated immediately by the costumes, the story, and especially by the music. Growing up I had a childhood friend who adored the film and called it ‘Maria’ instead of The Sound of Music, so in my mind since then I’ve always fondly thought of it as ‘Maria’.

What drew you to want to design the costumes for The Sound of Music?

There’s something so nostalgic about working on a show that you’ve grown up with and always admired. For me I think I have a list of about 25 films or shows that inspired me to enter such a creative career and The Sound of Music was definitely one of them. Because of that, it always holds a special place in your heart and to work on a show like that as a professional is so special, every design reminds you of that magical feeling you had when you were younger watching and experiencing the show for the first time.

The Sound of Music is a very widely known classic – was it challenging to come up with your own costume designs?

Certainly it’s always a challenge to design costumes for a show that’s so popular and well-known. There’s an expectation from fans of the show to see some of the iconic favourites from the film – costumes like the dress that Maria wears in the opening sequence of the film in The Hills are Alive is so iconic that doing anything other than her dress and smock look feels intuitively wrong for that moment. In the case of a classic like The Sound of Music I think it’s about finding a balance between bringing your own fresh perspective to the film while paying tribute and honouring some of the favourite designs established by Dorthy Jeakins in the 1965 film.

Can you tell us a bit about your design process?

My design process always begins with the script and with conversations with the Director, who has the overall vision and approach to the show in mind. Based on the script and those initial conversations, I begin to brainstorm and develop a concept for the costumes that will work within the overall vision that Director has. The first step to developing that concept is to dive into a great deal of research, both historical and visual – by that I mean that I’m looking for images and information regarding the exact country and time period that the show takes place in, while also looking for images, colours, textures and fabrics that inspire me and provide me with a ‘feeling’ of the show. Instinctively I like to think about the overall feeling of the costumes first, before diving into each character and their personality. Once I have some ideas in mind, there are more conversations and discussions with the Director, as well as some interactions with the Set Designer in order to see the world that they’re creating as that’s the same world my designs need to live in. From there it’s time to delve into character-specific studies and ask myself and other members of the creative team detailed questions about the characters and where they fit in this world and how that can be expressed through their costumes. From there I create collages for each character or look with my research and any colours or images that evoke the feeling I’m going for. These are the preliminary designs, which then go to the Director and the Head of Wardrobe for review and discussion. Once approved, we work together to suss out any details or specific challenges or costume needs, such as how long an actor has to actually get changed between scenes or if a particular actor needs some additional make-up to change their age to match their characters, then I begin sketching the final renderings. The renderings can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours each to complete, so it’s a lengthy process to render costumes for such a large show, but it’s an important part of the process as this is when I develop the details for each character, and it gives me the ability to see all the costumes together on paper before they become a reality. Once the renderings are done, they go back to the Theatre for review and when they’re approved we move forward into realizing the costumes that will then appear on stage.

What research goes into designing costumes? 

For a show like The Sound of Music, there’s several layers to the research because you’re telling a period-specific story that’s based on both real characters as well as a real event in time, the Anschluss. Not only that, but I think it would be impossible to ignore the 1965 film and first production of the musical, which means looking at the costumes and world created through the goggles of the creators in the 1960s. I find these types of projects to be the most interesting because each of these layers adds something to the costumes and to the overall feeling of the “world” we’re creating as a creative team.

Is it easier or harder to design costumes for a different era?

I think from my perspective it’s actually a similar level of difficulty – the challenge with designing costumes for another era is that you weren’t necessarily there to witness it firsthand, so you’re basing all of your work off of your interpretation of historical research and your knowledge of that time period. Depending on the period, it might also be that some of your audience members have lived in that period, so you have to be very specific and knowledgeable about what you’re putting on stage. On the other hand, I find designing modern costumes equally challenging because everyone in the audience knows what costumes should look like in a modern show, they’re living in that time period, it’s so easy to separate the audience from the characters if you’re not accurate. If you see a modern show in 2018 and someone is wearing a hat that’s from the 1980s (and not currently in fashion), audience members will likely see that error and it can distract or separate them from relating to the story.

The Sound of Music has a large cast – do you find it difficult to create different costumes and styles for all of the different character personalities?

Absolutely, the show contains over 90 costumes for 26 characters so it’s a large amount to design, create, and manage. One thing that always helps me is to remember that although each character is unique and has their own personality, they still have to fit in the world that we’re creating and by setting the rules of that world, it helps to narrow down the looks of the show and the ways in which we express each character’s personality. It’s also good to remember that not every personality is expressed overtly through their costumes, sometimes costumes play only a minor supporting role to the physicality, movement and voice that an actor or actress gives to their character and if the costumes are over-designed, it can take away from their performance or ability to perform.

Which character was your favourite to design for?

I think the children have been my favourite characters to design for, despite the fact that their looks are some of the most iconic of the show and have less room for flexibility/creativity. What I love about them though is that you can truly show the transformation of the children throughout the show, from their strict grey-blue sailor uniforms at the top of the show, to the exuberant and fun curtain-made play clothes and then their more individualized looks as they blossom for the concert performance under Maria’s care and love. By the end of the show I think that the children have this overall unified family look, but each costume has individualized details and we see a rainbow of colours and personalities expressed within their wardrobe.

Is there any particular feature of your designs that you want the audience to know about?

One of the simplest yet most effective elements to my designs is the colour story I create with the characters. Each character undergoes some sort of transformation in the show, told partially through the use of colour. An example would be Maria, who starts out generic in her black postulant costume, where she’s living limited by the rules of the Abbey, but once she goes to the Von Trapp family home, we see her in the colours of the natural environment that she loves, the Alps. I tried to bring in lots of golden yellows, warm whites, rich grassy greens and sky blues. In a similar way, the Von Trapp’s wear greys and dull blues, the costumes are uniform and lifeless. Once Maria arrives, I wanted to spread her warmth and natural colours to the children and Captain Von Trapp, which you’ll see in their slow but steady transformation to their end look. Other colours you’ll notice play prominently are the stark red, white, and black of the Nazi flag, which creates a strong and intentional contrast and sense of oppression against Maria and the children.

What’s the biggest challenge about designing costumes for this show?

I think the biggest challenge for a show like The Sound of Music is finding the balance between meeting high audience expectations while bringing something new and interesting to the table. No one wants to see The Sound of Music and not recognize their favourite characters and moments, for most people seeing The Sound of Music will be nostalgic and reminiscent of their childhood or the time that they first saw The Sound of Music and I want to honour that feeling.

Do you have a favourite costume?

I would have to say that my favourite costume in the show is the wedding dress for Maria. When I began my research, I was positive that the dress worn by Julie Andrews in the film was completely wrong for the time period, the tiny waist and full skirt came off as very 1950s, however, once I delved in deeper I found that it was actually very similar to a lot of dresses I saw in my research of the time period. In the end, the design I’ve come up with is intended to have less fullness in the skirt and a slightly softer fabric to lean more towards the looks of the 1930s, but I’ve opted to keep a lot of the features from the film, like the higher neckline and simple fabric with no lace or frills. I’ve recently been shopping for my own wedding dress so I had a special place in my heart for designing Maria’s.

How are your costume designs bringing something new to this show?

I think that every time we design a show, we put on these goggles that contain all of our life experiences, where we come from, who we knew, all of our history and the way we view the world and that it’s impossible not to put our own touch on what we design because we’re viewing the show through these goggles. Despite sticking to so much of the historically accurate and original looks of the show, I know that each costume has my stamp on it, whether it’s the style of trim on the concert skirts that I picked based on memories I have of being in Austria and Germany a few years ago, or the fabric that Maria twirls through the hills in during the first scene, selected because it reminds me of a dress I had when I was younger, I think those details and subtle choices are the way that I bring something new and unique to the show, even when the overall looks are so iconic and recognizable.

By |February 14th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Glorious Granny

If you’ve watched the hit ABC TV show Once Upon A Time, you will already be well familiar with the multi-talented leading lady of our upcoming Glorious. 

Beverley Elliott, also known as Granny in the modern fairy tale, is well known for her comedic hilarity as much as she is for her musical expertise and theatrical charisma. This is what makes her perfect to play our magnificently funny and charming Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in the world who believed she was a virtuoso!

Beverly is a recording artist with music CD’s of her own, and performs her music at concert festivals. Her comedic bent is along the lines of comedy legend Carol Burnett and she has performed in a wide variety of roles on the stages of theatres across Canada. Her warmth and charisma, it can be said, is her trademark, and we are excited to see how that will inform her portrayal of Florence Foster Jenkins.

Florence, for her part, was the quirky amateur singer and flamboyant socialite known as the First Lady of the Sliding Scale, the squeaky soprano du jour, who sang her way into the hearts of New York society. She counted among her admirers composer Cole Porter, operatic tenor Enrico Caruso, and English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.

We look forward to seeing Beverley portray this “extraordinary woman who had the guts to follow her dream,” (Peter Brown, London Theatre Guide) and hope you will join us for the heartwarming hilarity sure to ensue!

Book your tickets online now or call our box office at 1-800-565-7738.

 

 

By |July 18th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Grease in Chemainus

Julie and Barbara take a quick break during Grease rehearsals on the (in-progress) set.

Thank you to Barbara Tomasic and Julie Tomaino, the Director and Choreographer of our upcoming production of Grease for answering a few questions!

  1. This is the 40th Anniversary of Grease! What is it about this show that has stood the test of time?

Barb: I think the spirit of being a teenager, trying to figure out who they are, is still the same.

Julie: I think there are so many popular fifties songs in this show that are still widely listened to now.

  1. Do you have a favourite memory of watching this show? Either a stage production or a movie?

Barb: When I was in grade 7 I watched the movie 8 times in one night at a sleepover. I remember thinking it was such a risqué movie, and marvelling at the freedom and joy of the teenagers.

  1. This show is so popular and well-known, what creative touches are you planning to bring to the production at Chemainus Theatre Festival?

Julie: there is such iconic choreography in Grease, and of course I’m going to pay homage to the original, but with a twist. I like to challenge myself as a choreographer with movement that tells the same story in the style of the show but with my stamp on it.

  1. The 50’s are such a fun part of Grease, how is the creative team working together to bring this decade to life on stage?

Barb: our set designer Lauchlin has based the set on a photo of Sandra Dee that I chose. I think this photo is a strong representation of the colour palette and style of the time period. We’re also using images from advertising from the fifties and of course the costumes.

  1. Be honest, do you constantly have the soundtrack going through your head? Any songs in particular?

Julie: yes. Because I need to know all the accents and orchestrations so well I had ALL the songs running through my head for over a month. Today, it’s We Go Together.

Barb: Freddy My Love is the one I’ve had over and over in my mind.

We’re both happy to back in Chemainus, a town we hold close to our heart.

 

Spring Shopping Guide

Spring has arrived on Vancouver Island and a stop at the Chemainus Theatre Gallery Gift Shop is well worth it, for a peek at the season’s must-haves!
 
Nothing gives us a spring in our step more than bright colours and breezy fabrics. We have dresses and blouses to fit all styles and shapes. Ask one of our knowledgeable staff members or volunteers to help you find the look which most compliments you. We have a fabulous assortment of accessories too – purses, scarfs, and hats to protect you from the sun and the rain. Don’t forget to finish with a new piece of artisanal jewelry  – from sea glass to enamel we will complete your look, on trend.
 
With the sun shining and a new season – it is a great time to give your home a freshening up! Our line of whimsical clocks add a touch of fun or you could bring home a bright painting or print to liven things up for the season. We have blown glass bulbs which will add sparkle in your windows or choose from our unique sea glass and wire ornaments that look lovely indoors or out.
 
Pop in and see us before your next baby shower or wedding. We have everything from locally made baby shoes to pottery. These pottery wall vases compliment any home with a sprig of freshly picked flowers!
 
We look forward to seeing you soon!
By |April 5th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|1 Comment

Highlights of Chemainus

Chemainus is a highlight of many tourists’ holidays on Vancouver Island. It has wonderful shopping, great food, historic homes, and colourful murals providing a beloved ambiance. With the arrival of Spring Break and sunny days it is easy to see there are so many things to do in our little town. To make your trip here extra memorable we want to share with you our top 5 things to do before or after a show at Chemainus Theatre:

  1. If the weather is cooperating (or you have a good umbrella and boots) go for a walk and enjoy one (or two) of Chemainus’ many parks, trails, beaches and lakes – Stocking Creek and Chemainus Lake boast beautiful walks through scenic West Coast forests, Kin Beach is a perfect place to have a picnic or sit on a bench and enjoy the panoramic views of local islands and sometimes Mt. Baker on a clear day.
  2. Chemainus boasts many delicious eateries to satisfy all tastes. For a satisfying lunch try Chemainus Theatre supporters Owl’s Nest or Willow Street, they are right across the street from each other and you are guaranteed yummy food while you eavesdrop on local gossip. If you are craving something more exotic try Odika Café for good food and great service. There are also great Thai, Japanese, bakeries, and pub-style options in town. Our biggest tip for any lunch in town – don’t eat too much so you still have room for dinner at the incredible Playbill Dining Room right before your show.
  3. Discover the history of Chemainus – check out the museum next to the visitor information centre to learn about what makes Chemainus special, walk amongst the murals to see the history larger-than-life, or take a horse-drawn wagon tour for a laid-back, delightful experience.
  4. It’s easy to treat yourself in Chemainus. Locals are lucky to live here and often comment on how we don’t have far to go for great boutique shopping. Get a new outfit or a quality pair of shoes at a store like ‘Beyond the Usual’ or Kinney Clothing. You can find opulent handmade soaps, beautiful gifts, and maybe even a spa treatment. If you are in the market for antiques you will definitely be able to find something special in Chemainus.
  5. Chemainus is a unique town, full of unique experiences. Many visitors who have been here before have enjoyed listening to live music in Waterwheel Park, right in the middle of town. Even if there isn’t a concert during your visit grab a hot chocolate or ice cream cone (depending on the time of year) and walk the park’s newly installed labyrinth for a meditative experience.

We hope you enjoy your next visit to Chemainus. We encourage you to take your time and stay a while to soak up that slow, small-town charm. The Best Western Plus offers great deals on your next stay – you can even book when you call the Chemainus Theatre Festival box office to get a great package deal. Drop in and say hello to the friendly folks at the Chemainus Visitor Centre while you are here too – they can give you more information about self-guided walking tours, dining and shopping option, local parks and more!

 

Emma Slipp as Henrietta Leavitt

The basic plot of Silent Sky is fascinating – a true story of a plucky, brilliant young woman who defies odds and persists as a female astronomer in the early 1900s at Harvard. But the story that is brought to life is a rich tale of family, love, and friendship. It is fiercely funny and touching and as audiences leave the theatre you can feel the energy of the shared experience of seeing this beautiful tale brought to life.

A night at the Chemainus Theatre is an experience the moment you walk in the door. If you have decided to indulge in the buffet dinner in the Playbill Dining Room make sure you try the Salmon with Mango Pineapple Salsa, but leave room for the Boston Cream Pie – for a 3-course luncheon starting at $23 you will be happy you did!

 

 

Emma Slipp, who plays lead character Henrietta Swan Leavitt, took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions and provide some insight into this rich show.

 

 

Welcome back to Chemainus. What do you enjoy about being back here when you are not in rehearsals?

I always enjoy my time here and get to push a reset button away from all the demands of my city life. I am able to focus on the show only.
The community is so welcoming and supportive. I love going for walks and visiting the shops.

For you, what is this show about and why should audiences come see it?

This show is telling a story that wasn’t honoured in its day. The script alone is beautiful, but married with all the design elements I think it’s quite stunning. The set, costumes and lights along with original music composition and projections all blend together with imagination.  It’s witty, poetic and thought provoking, but also heart bursting and satisfying.

What drew you to the character of Henrietta as portrayed in this depiction of her life? Was there anything that surprised you as you began to explore this role?

I connected with her drive and commitment to her chosen career path and understand the sacrifices she had to make. I am excited to share her story because I know there are so many unsung heroines who’s contributions have been skipped over. I feel this is an opportunity to celebrate a group of woman that paved the way for future generations.   

Unlike Henrietta , I am unskilled in math and science and it has been a true challenge to understand and then convey some complex thoughts and revelations. It’s been a great brain workout!

Is there a significant line or special moment that stands out for you?

The script has so many beautiful moments, but I think my favourite line is one the Peter says to Henrietta

” I feared combusting if I didn’t tell you that you’ve been the brightest object in my day since we met. And we work with stars.”

After exploring this role what message do you think Henrietta would have for young women starting out in their careers?

Don’t take no for an answer. Stay passionate, determined and do all you can to create your own space in your chosen field.

If you haven’t seen it yet get your tickets today, you won’t be disappointed. Silent Sky has a shorter run than some of our other shows so get your tickets today and don’t miss out. Even though this is the final dramatic production for our 25th season at Chemainus Theatre Festival you will laugh, be inspired and perhaps shed a tear. The reviews have started to come in and we hope they will convince you to come see the show. (LINK TO: http://www.lakecowichangazette.com/entertainment/review-chemains-theatres-silent-sky-a-brilliant-star-in-the-heavens/)

 

 

 

 

By |October 17th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Now Playing: Silent Sky

Silent Sky at Chemainus Theatre

Cosmic Love Story

Henrietta Leavitt sees greatness in the stars – if only others saw the brilliance in her. While many earthly complications stand in her way, her astonishing discoveries of astronomy, family, and love will change everyone’s (outer) worldly perspective.

Silent Sky is a startling, entertaining true story of a brilliant, history-making woman.” – AtlantaInTown.com

Book Your Tickets Now

By |October 14th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|1 Comment

Meet Philip Mix

Philip Mix

The Chemainus Theatre would like to welcome local artist Philip Mix as our featured artist during our run of Silent Sky. Philip has a prolific career both as an artist and an art conservation professional. His work is featured all over Canada and he works to seek the ‘elegance of simplicity’.

Philip’s artist statement is that his paintings are intentionally spare and dispassionate. “My desire is to produce an artwork that is beautiful for its singleness of purity and purpose: the elegance of simplicity. I choose subjects whose form or function lends itself to the discovery of some intrinsic beauty; a beauty that becomes intriguing once the inherent grace of its form has been recognized and captured.”

Philip Mix was born in Edmonton Alberta in 1955. He received his Bachelor of Arts in painting from the Alberta College of Art, Calgary in1980. His paintings have shown in several Canadian galleries and abroad including London, Israel and Cyprus. He operated a conservation studio, Fine Art Restoration, in Victoria B.C. from 1986 to 2011. During that time he was a member of the Pacific Conservation Group, and Canadian Conservation Associates. Now retired from paintings conservation, he lives in Chemainus, BC and devotes all his energy to his family, his studio, and an uncooperative garden.

We are thrilled to feature his work in the Chemainus Theatre and we invite you to attend an Artist Meet and Greet on October 14th between 5 and 6 pm. For more information on Philip you can visit his website at www.philipmix.com.

By |October 4th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Escape with a madcap tale!

Declan O'Reilly, Kirk Smith, Colin A Doyle

Declan O’Reilly, Kirk Smith, Colin A Doyle in Jeeves Takes a Bow, Chemainus Theatre Festival, 2017. Photo by Cim MacDonald

On Vancouver Island, as everywhere, small talk always leads to the weather. As gardens are prepared for the winter, rainproof coats are pulled out of storage, and woodstoves are fired up we prepare for a change in the sky and in lifestyle. But we can all agree that it is wonderful to escape somewhere warm and cozy and be taken away to another world and time – the theatre is the perfect solution.

The Chemainus Theatre Festival is currently halfway through our run of “Jeeves Takes a Bow” and theatregoers are enjoying this show in droves! There is nothing better than a laugh shared with a big group of strangers. Adapted by Margaret Raether the stories of the hero-butler Jeeves and the charming and feckless Bernie Wooster were originally written by P.G. Wodehouse (1975). Wodehouse is considered a master of the serial novel, king of the magazine story, and supremely skilled in comedic writing. In this tale, Wooster and Jeeves have escaped their upper-class Edwardian frivolity and landed in the Big Apple, Manhattan, NY. How will they cope? Amusingly well! The ‘Traveling Islanders’ blog says “You definitely won’t want to miss Jeeves Takes A Bow.” We hope you will escape with us as we once again spend an afternoon or evening with a madcap tale told by a talented crew of actors! What could be better?

By |September 22nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Let yourself fall for Talley’s Folly

Love is the perfect theme for this summer feature, Talley’s Folly, playing August 16th to 26th. The Pulitzer Prize-winning and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award as best play of the season, the romantic comedy, by Lanford Wilson, follows unlikely sweethearts, Matt and Sally, as they try to (once and for all) settle their feelings for each other.

The scene is the ornate, deserted Victorian boathouse on the Talley place in Lebanon, Missouri; the time 1944. Matt Friedman (played by Matthew Payne), has arrived to plead his love to Sally Talley (Heather Pattengale), the susceptible but uncertain daughter of the family. Bookish, erudite, totally honest, and delightfully funny, Matt refuses to accept Sally’s rebuffs and her fears that her family would never approve of their marriage. Charming and indomitable, he gradually overcomes her defenses, telling his innermost secrets to his loved one and, in return, learning hers as well. Gradually he awakens Sally to the possibilities of a life together.

“Everything is beautiful ruined in this play,” says director, Amiel Gladstone. “The old crumbling boathouse, post-War America, and two characters struggling with who they are and who they can be together. It’s an honour to come to Chemainus for the first time to direct the first play the company every produced.”

Talley’s Folly is a special presentation for The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s 25th Anniversary Season. Tickets are available for matinee and evening shows for two weeks only, August 16th to 26th. Call the Box Office at 1-800-565-7738, or visit chemainustheatre.ca.

By |August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments