BLOOD BROTHERS BLOG #3: Costume Designer, Caitlin Cisek
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

BLOOD BROTHERS BLOG #3: Costume Designer, Caitlin Cisek

In some ways my vision is simple. England. Twins. Destiny. Love. Friendship. Family. Nature. Nurture. But really what it’s about is telling the story. Costumes are one of the theater’s tools. As a costume designer, it’s my job to make sure I give the actors and the rest of the creative team the right tools; what they need to transform, to emote, to engage, because they are charged with the task of asking you to go with them to this England, to journey with Mickey and Eddie, Linda, Mrs. Johnstone and the rest of our cast of characters.

Sure, beyond that comes research– fashions in England from 1953 to 1985, for both children and adults, pop culture references, economic advantage or disadvantages. What year did Cuban heels hit England?  When did stockings stop having seams? What does Marilyn Monroe mean to the women of the play and how they dress? What about the Beatles influences our male characters? Who was was wearing Mod?

When designing for characters who could conceivably be alive today, I spend a lot of time researching all the things that would have informed them when they got up on the morning.

How did history play into what’s in their closet? How does history play into what’s in your closet? I’m willing to bet 90 percent of what’s hanging in there right now is from China– go ahead, check the labels. I’m willing to bet you because I know that since 1972 there has been no textile union in this country. So what, you ask? Act Two of Blood Brothers finds us in a moment in English history, the 1970s in fact when unions were striking, when our characters are losing their jobs and living off the dole, so were many Americans. The reality of our closet and theirs starts to come together. The world changes and so do our closets, our clothes, our sense of self. I’m challenged with these costumes to tell each character’s story, and each character is subject to the world around them. Just like each of us.

In some ways asking these questions is impossible, they’re enormous, and no production ever really has the time to go down every rabbit hole. But these rich seemly bottomless questions are the first step to developing any costume design. And for a big ‘ol costume nerd like me, they’re so exciting!

Then comes the meetings, the measurements and the rehearsals, after that, trips to the thrift store and the rental house.  Fittings and re-fittings– re-engineering everyday clothes from the last century to theatrical pieces that can stand up to all the action and activity that Blood Brothers promises to deliver.

Yet ultimately, my goal is for the costumes to almost be unnoticed, to fade seamlessly into the world. If I’ve done my job well, you won’t see them, you’ll experience them. For those audience members who were alive and remember these trends I hope you also get to experience a kind of nostalgia, a flicker of a memory of your own life that allows you to be transported to another time and place, the world of our musical.  Afterwards when you’re at the bar with your family and friends, humming the melodies, reliving the moments, recalling the jokes that make the show what it is, I hope you’ll remember some of them and think “oh that was so 60s” or “oh I remember those” or even better “that moment felt so perfect” because that’s when all of us as a team have done our real job of telling a story. Simple, right?

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