‘Fabulously Fun’ Glam Rock Theater-Ready Costume: NewsCenter


February 23, 2022

Jack Bell ’22, ’23 (T5) in full make-up as the lead in the International Theater Program’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” production. (Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

A behind-the-scenes photo gallery shows the international theater program preparing for Hedwig and the Angry Thumb.

Costumes and make-up take center stage in the International Theater Programthe production of Hedwig and the Angry Thumbwhich will run from February 25 to March 5, 2022 at the Sloan Performing Arts Center on the River Campus of the University of Rochester.

The Obie-winning off-Broadway rock musical follows an aspiring genderqueer musician — living with a botched gender reassignment surgery — embarking on a journey of self-discovery while following her love for the rock star across the country.

“It’s a fabulously fun show,” says Nigel Butter, artistic director of Russell and Ruth Peck for the International Theater Program. “He has an extravagant outlook and gives students the opportunity to dress up in extraordinary costumes and explore gender identities across the spectrum.”

Students take on more production roles than in previous International Theater Program productions, which have tended to rely on professionals from outside the University. The musical director is Jacob Rose ’24, a business student with minors in music and audio and musical engineering who recently spent his winter break researching American musical icon, Leonard Bernstein.

The role of lighting designer also falls to a student, Michael Wizorek ’22, a double major in audio and music engineering and theater. “It’s a lot of pressure and I’m very honored,” says Wizorek, who has worked on several productions, in direction, stage management, musical direction and acting.

Diptych depicting an illustration of a Hedwig costume next to a person wearing the finished costume.

Artwork by Jeremy Tjhung. (Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

INDEMNITY: Jack Bell ’22, ’23 (T5) (right) shows Hedwig’s finished costume inspired by the rendering (left) of Jeremy Tjhung, a Rochester-area designer and activist who spent many years working in the fashion world in New York and was a costume designer for the production. Tjhung died in July 2021 from lymphoma. “In a way, this exhibition is a tribute to his work,” says Maister.

“Tjhung’s attention to detail was insane,” says director Christian Couture. For example, the show calls for wigs to be worn by multiple people, and since regular wigs are usually made for women’s sizes, Tjhung consulted online tutorials to create their own. Tjhung and Couture then drew inspiration from Willam, a drag queen made famous on the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, to create a handmade hairpiece that called for a sheer mesh bucket hat and bundles of hair tied in ponytails and using hot glue. “You will see it in the show. It’s gigantic. And wonderful,” Couture says.

A student in a Hedwig costume looks off camera in the costume shop at Sloan Center.

(Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

GLAMOUR : “The costume design process is unlike anything I’ve done,” says Bell, an electrical and computer engineering student from San Francisco, who will spend the 2022-2023 academic year as a Take Five Fellow pursuing a program in philosophy and government. “It was cool to see the vision come to life from the beginning.”

Maister says, “The [costume] the designs are handmade with repurposed low-fi elements using intensive artisanal methods. For example, zip ties become fringe, or a shower curtain becomes a cape.

Various sewing materials and threads on the wall of a theatrical costume shop.

(Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

NEW TOPICS: The Sloan Performing Arts Center includes a costume shop, in addition to a prop shop, stage shop, fitness room, and locker rooms. In the Costume Shop, located on the lower level of the room, students have access to new sewing machines and tables, a pin-up wall, mannequins, and cutting tables to create and conceptualize character costumes.

“The new costume shop is beautiful,” says microbiology student Sophia Chima ’22, ’23 (T5). “He is cheated with everything I can imagine. We had new tables, a new cabinet, and a pod system for storage, and when I walked into the space, it was clean and clear. I felt more creative and it was easier to show people the collection we have.

The student in the mask works on a costume wig while looking in the mirror.

(Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

CALL MODE: Chima is working on a wig in the costume shop. She has been in the theater program since her freshman year in Rochester and began working with Tjhung on the Hedwig production last summer.

“It was fantastic to learn about the setbacks of the costume for Hedwig because it was very different from the shows we had done before,” says Chima, a Take Five scholar who will spend a tuition-free fifth year at the University in 2022-2023 to explore entrepreneurship and fashion.

Actor in full glam rock costume poses for the photo with their reflection in the mirror behind them.

(Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

THE LOOK: “The costumes are crazy,” says Cooper Orio ’23, ’24 (T5), impersonating Hedwig in the costume shop at Sloan Performing Arts Center.

The New Hampshire native and double major in physics and math steps into one of Hedwig’s three roles on the show. “Hedwig wears polychrome boots and extravagant wigs without giving too much away for show. It’s very flashy and over the top, but tastefully done,” he says.

The role sometimes required Orio to step out of his comfort zone. “At one point I was wearing five-inch heels, and that was the hardest thing to acclimate myself to,” he says. Orio, a Take Five scholar, will spend a tuition-free fifth year in college studying language cognition.

The backstage team adjusts a performer's costumes backstage.

(Photo University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster)

THE FINISHING TOUCH: Orio gets some final touches from wig designer Kristina Scalone (left), costume associate Samantha Miller (center), and Couture in the costume room.

Couture, the current director of the University’s theater program costume shop, began his career working at the legendary designer’s Broadway costume company Barbara Matera.

In his role as production manager, he says, “These are simple, repetitive things that you can teach students, watching them absorb, and then very quickly they pick it up. They have such a great sense of accomplishment when the character stands up in that scene.

If you go to the show…

Dressing in drag is encouraged. There are shows at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Plus, University of Rochester students can get in for free (while supplies last) by showing their student ID at the box office the night of the show.

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Key words: Arts and Sciences, International Theater Program, Nigel Maister, Performing Arts, Take Five Scholars Program

Category: In Pictures

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