It's been 17 years since I last worked on costumes for a theater or dance production. I've never been the actual designer, just the maker. This time I have the opportunity to be both. I'm designing and making costumes for the amazing Felicia Holman, Abra Johnson & Meida McNeal and their world premiere of Ladies Ring Shout, running August 4-6 at Defibrillator, 1136 N. Milwaukee in Chicago.
Critics are raving about their recent performance of "A Suspect Politic," a sketch from Ladies Ring Shout at Collaboraction's Sketchbook XI Festival: Evolution. Timeout and the Chicago Tribune are just two of numerous local journals shining the light.
And of course, I'm freaking out. I want these costumes to be perfect. Their performance is so funny, poignant, and thought provoking that not one stitch may be allowed to detract.
My inspiration is the work of Natalie Chainin and her company Alabama Chainin. I love her emphasis on the hand stitch and her early use of recycled t-shirts. Though I'm machine stitching the seams, all embellishment is being done by hand. Appliqué motifs are based on the textile traditions of the Kuba people, in particular the squares woven of raffia commonly known as Kuba cloth.
With each costume taking approximate 16 hours to complete, I am grateful for the assistance of Jeanne Medina, the production's co-set designer and one of my former students. ***Hum "It's a Small World."***
Our long Saturday work sessions have been a gratifying fringe benefit. She's inspired me to reconsider options I had long ago considered impossible, once again proving that the teacher often learns more from the student than the student possibly learns from the teacher.