“Little woman,” the Broadway musical, will be performed at Van Meter Hall from April 1-3 as a co-production between the WKU Theater and Dance Department and the WKU Music Department.
The show tells the story of the four March sisters, centered on Jo, the writer, illustrating how they came to be in post-Civil War America while maintaining their family connection. The show switches between the present and flashback scenes, which creates the need for costumes to differentiate not only characters, but also time periods.
The musical is set in the 1860s, and as a springtime musical, the show will feature a great cast – two things that made for a difficult but rewarding task for the costume designers.
Shura Pollatsek, Professor of Costume Design and Technology, spoke about her experience so far working on the show and where costume design and development are heading into production.
“Some of our shows are set in a specific time period, and some things are more objective and some things can be based on a time period, but realism is not that important,” Pollatsek said. “A show like Little Women is based on a real historical person who lived in the 1860s. so neither sets nor costumes can do that. We are not portraying the story realistically, but we want to suggest a realistic depiction of the story.
Pollatsek worked professionally as a costume designer in New York for 12 years and has worked at WKU for 15 years as a teacher. She was involved in designing WKU theater and dance productions throughout her time on the Hill and saw slight differences in working on “Little Women” from her multitude of other shows.
“For this show, it’s about a subtle, realistic flavor,” Pollatsek said. “People may notice the costumes because of the hoop skirts or this or that, but it’s not the kind of show where people are sitting there thinking about the costumes. There are other shows where the costumes are a more overt part of the show, where they’re a bit more front and center.
Because Little Women has such a large cast, not all of the costumes are made from scratch, and the designs come from modifications on costumes they already have, as well as rented costumes from larger storage areas. Pollatsek explained how this aspect of this show was one of the toughest.
“The biggest challenge for this show is honestly getting enough stuff and keeping track of everything,” Pollatsek said. “Now we’re at the preliminary level of the outline, basically we just put clothes on people’s bodies and then we come back with a second layer and fill in the details. It’s actually a skill that the costume designers have to acquire – it’s not just about making a leader stand out, it’s also about making a band look like a band.
I hope to connect with the director’s vision of the story and that it can take it to another level with the costumes. I want the audience to not be like, ‘Oh, that was an amazing costume’, but rather, ‘I love how every element of the design, the set, the lighting, the costumes, the sound, they s ‘all fit together. .'”
The costumes in this show serve several purposes. Two of these are in basic storytelling and character development, as Pollatsek gave a specific example of demonstrating a change in maturity through clothing.
“Some of them are just storytelling to help the audience follow the story, and in general the costumes help us see the passage of time,” Pollatsek said. “Some of them just show the different characters – for example, we see Amy growing up, so there’s the difference when we first see her versus later when she’s a more mature woman. We want to see that she looks very different.
Pollatsek also explained the more subtle purpose of costumes in the show – to build on the bonds between characters by using costume tones and colors.
“I think the other thing is a little more subtle — the story is about how close the March sisters are, and that’s really a direct line,” Pollatsek said. “We see them going about their business and then towards the end, Jo, becoming a writer, realizes that what matters to her is her family and her sisters. So showing the closeness and warmth of the March family is really important. Especially with the costumes, we decided to use subtle warm tones and colors as an overall feeling for the March family. [The audience] should get that kind of comfort and warmth from those scenes.
Sophomore Atlas Mendoza, Assistant Costume Designer, spoke about her experience with discovering her passion for costumes.
“…being able to participate in the making of this performance and this work of art, I fell in love with it,” Mendoza said. “I liked how the clothes specifically make a performance and can tell you a lot about the person, the character and the piece in general. Of all the things I love about theatre, costumes are what excites me the most.
This is Mendoza’s first production as a costume designer, but he has done WKU shows in the past with roles in stage management. He explained the different work environment that comes with the suits.
“You get more freedom and more ‘let’s see if it can work,’ instead of just following the director’s instructions,” Mendoza said. “Especially with the director of ‘Little Women’, he gave the costume team a lot of creative freedom and accepted all of our ideas, which we really appreciate. It’s really fun to see it all come together.
He agreed that there were challenges with the costumes in “Little Women,” especially within the time frame of the show as well as the large cast.
“I think because it’s a period piece, it’s very hard to find things that are particularly 1860s, so in costume storage you can only get so much out of it. limited or you can only modify a costume to make it look like it fits in the period,” Mendoza said. “I think it’s less about designing the costumes and more about adapting them. It’s also a very big show, it’s like more than 100 costumes that we have to put together.
Mendoza’s goal with the costumes is not just to help the show feel complete and to help better understand the symbolic message of the story, but to connect with all aspects of theatrical design.
“I’m hoping to connect with the director’s vision of the story and that it can go to another level with the costumes,” Mendoza said. “I want the audience to not be like, ‘oh, that was an amazing costume,’ but more, ‘I love how every element of the design, the set, the lighting, the costumes, the sound , they all just fit together.'”
Journalist Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected].