Carol MacVey, Molly Winstead
Director: Carol MacVey
Stage Manager: Meg Sugden
Scenic Designer: Nic Wilson
Costume Designer: Chelsea June Regan
Lighting Designer: Courtney Gaston
Sound Designer: Marc Bruckner
E.C. Mabie Theatre
Budget for this Design Area
Comments by the Designer
Northanger Abbey debuted as part of the 2018/2019 Mainstage Season. Written by Carol MacVey and Molly Winstead, Northanger Abbey, is a stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. The show is set in Regency Era England and follows a young girl, Catherine, as she travels from the country to the city, falls in love, and learns the difference between the world of stories we imagine in our heads, and the truth that lays in front of us.
The costume design of this production focuses on the connections we form with others and the difference between imagination and reality in the world. To emphasis these connections being formed, I focused on color. To weave a connection between the main characters Catherine and her love interest, Henry, that represented the reality and the ensemble that represented the imaginary, I drew inspiration from the few existing portraits of Jane Austen and used the color blue that she is featured in to connect the duality in the show. Jane Austen, was a character in the play was in a cornflower blue dress, that most directly related to her portraits, while other characters had varied hues and shades of blue. The intent of this beyond connecting the reality and imagination was also to connect the characters to Austen as they were all a part of her experience and expression of the world. Other characters with speaking roles fleshed out the world in additional colors to create a dynamic and more varied color story within the production.
To emphasis the differences between the represented reality in the principal characters and the imaginary aspects of the ensemble, I focused on texture and historical silhouettes. The principal characters wore silhouettes that were strongly routed in the Regency Era and evoke the familiar feeling of other popular Jane Austen adaptations. They also feature a much more dynamic textural palette, with layers of lace, wool, silks, embroidered patterns, trims, and buttons that recall to the detail and fancifulness of the era. To juxtapose these lush textures and silhouettes, the ensemble wore garments that had printed flat graphic patterns on them and fabrics that did not have any dimension. The silhouettes of the ensemble were loosely based in history with the aim to contemporize the period fashion and allow it to exist in a more imaginary space.
This production had a cast of twenty actors, each with a single costume, totaling in over 100 pieces. For these twenty costumes, I had a budget of $6,250. There four full builds in this show, several altered pieces, and many bought garments. The biggest challenges during this production, were with alteration of bought items. Originally, there had been a hope to dye down many of the ensembles’ garments, however, the items were made from synthetic materials and would not take dye. On stage these items, were reading a lot brighter than desired, and without the time, money, or manpower to build or buy new pieces, a different solution had to come to fruition. This solution was to speak to my lighting designer, Courtney Gaston, and she was able to adjust the light levels, so these items did not read so brightly. Once her adjustment was made the entire team was much happier with the overall stage picture, and I had the opportunity to collaborate with my fellow designer to find a solution.
Overall, my designs for Northanger Abbey relied heavily on research images from the Regency Era. I looked at small details like trims, embroidery and lace patterns, and buttons to ground the principals in the Regency Era. I chose color, fabrics, and garments to establish a sense of what is real and what is imaginary in the world Jane Austen created.
Copyright 2020 Chelsea June