The Role of Costume Design in Musical Theater

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Courtney Cox 5-4-10 THEA 1334 Final Paper Costume Design THE ROLE OF COSTUME DESIGN IN MUSICAL THEATER Imagine a classic Shakespearian play or Italian opera performed in hip-hugging jeans or baggy t-shirts; or imagine the period musical 1776, produced by the wonderful Stuart Ostrow, performed in the groovy attire of the 1970s. These performances would seem completely out of place and confusing. One would not be able to grasp the completeness of the story or have any understanding of the time period, geographical location, or the character’s lifestyles and/or social statuses. As a result, the audience would fail to see certain emotions or feelings portrayed, character personalities, and would find it very difficult be connected to…show more content…
Defining each character separately allowing the audience the ability to follow a storyline with a conceptualized look defined prior to a performance was, and is needed as part of preproduction preparations. Early performers were generally male, therefore costuming was needed for gender disguise so as to create the illusion of the opposite sex. In Asia, the men would dress up as women. Young men also played women in the plays during the 1500s and 1600s. Many of these young teenage boys were very sickly and often died at a very young age. This was a direct result of skin-eating diseases caused by the white, led-based face paint they were forced to wear during performances; a very sad and gruesome ending to such a short life. Costuming also helps create other character building imagery such as age. The leading characters will always have more detail and design to make them stand out and relate a sense of trust to the audience. Styles and technique have changed significantly over the centuries but have maintained basic principles of clothing design yet geared towards pushing the out the character’s personality and traits in its appearance. Many people simply show up to musicals and often take the costumes for granted and concentrate only the performance of the actors. Many people don’t realize the
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