Director: John Cameron Scenic Design: Nic Wilson Costume Design: Lindsey LaRissa Kuhn Lighting Design: Bryon Winn Sound Design: Bri Atwood Stage Manager: AJ Near
E.C. Mabie Theatre
Budget for this Design Area
Comments by the Designer
Fun Home is a 2015 Tony Award-winning musical adapted from Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name grapples with themes of the author’s sexuality, upbringing, and specifically her relationship to her deeply closeted gay father. The musical encompasses almost 30 years of Bechdel’s life, fluidly following her journey at three distinct ages by three different actors, representing Bechdel at ages nine (1969), nineteen (1979), and in her forties (2003) as she reflects on her upbringing and how it shaped her relationship with the world as a lesbian.
As the costume designer for Fun Home, my primary focus was to capture Bechdel’s development throughout these three distinct times in her life and to capture the family dynamics which were critical to the shaping of her story. It was important to not only stay true to Bechdel’s visual identity as a masculine presenting lesbian, but to also represent her process of coming out and her acceptance of her identity as described in the text. I connected the three Alison’s costumes through color, and also related them directly to visuals from the graphic novel, which were present on stage in the form of projections in our production. Having the direct parallel between comic panel and the stage action helped the audience understand the character relationships, and reinforced the autobiographical nature of both the musical and the memoir for which it is named.
In order to capture the essence of family dynamics in the Bechdel home, I relied heavily on research of both the Bechdel family themselves through family photos and the representations in Alison’s memoir, but also in researching photos of middle-class Americans in the 1960’s, 70’s and the 80’s. Alison’s relationship to her father was also critical, which I highlighted by drawing parallels between the two with both colors and patterns. The adult Alison is connected to her father through stripes and dark navy-blue color of both her trousers and his sport coat and sweaters. However, Small Alison contrasts with her father, as the two clash because of their differences—on one side, a young woman growing into her sexual identity and on the other side an adult man in denial of his own.
In addition to identity issues, there are fantastical elements in Fun Home with upbeat songs about working in the family business, the family funeral home (lovingly dubbed the Fun Home), and an homage to the Partridge Family and 70’s Television pop culture. During the song Raincoat of Love, a pseudo-David Cassidy character literally hops out of Small Alison’s television screen to serenade her. To achieve the upbeat and nostalgic feel of this moment, I utilized research of the Partridge family and various family bands to create the matching green, gold and orange suits for the boys in the band and the complimentary striped jumpers for the women in the number.
To design Fun Home, I had a budget of $3935 to create over 30 costume looks. Of the 30 looks in the show, 6 costumes were built in the University of Iowa Costume Shop. The rest of the costumes were either purchased for the production or came from stock. In designing Fun Home, I used color and pattern to explore the connection between family members and the development of a person over time. This musical provides a unique opportunity to look at a character at different points in time side-by-side and examine what that time does to their identity indicated by their costumes.
Copyright 2017 Lindsey LaRissa Kuhn