In the months leading up to our 2010 Main Stage season, we’ll be profiling the creative minds behind the season’s productions—John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing—in our e-newsletters. For the second installment, I spoke to Associate Artist Meg Neville, who designed costumes for our productions of Happy Days, An Ideal Husband, and King Lear, among others, and who will costume the first two Cal Shakes plays of 2010, John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven and Mrs. Warren’s Profession. What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Meg. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.
What’s the first piece of clothing you designed and/or made? (This includes clothes for dolls and pets, of course.)
Aside from designing on paper countless academy awards gowns as a child, my first actualized design was for my eighth-grade graduation from St. Paul’s Grade School in Scranton, PA. It involved two kinds of white lace and a bright pink lining. I haven’t worn lace since.
If you could have designed costumes for any play in history, what do you wish it could have been?
I would like to have designed anything in Paris where riots followed an opening production (including Mrs. Warren’s Profession), and Auntie Mame and The Women remain on my list of productions I am waiting to design for Cal Shakes.
Who are your favorite costumers? Fashion designers?
My favorite costume designer in film is, hands down, Sandy Powell (Wings of the Dove, Orlando, Shakespeare in Love), Arianne Phillips ‘ work in A Single Man (designing for Tom Ford takes talent and courage and she is supposed to be a very nice person); I love the costume work in the films of the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze. In theater, my teacher at YSD, Jane Greenwood, remains a great inspiration for her knowledge of period clothing, her skill with actors, her longevity, her being a mom, and her English accent.
What inspires you right now? Any particular music, current events, people, et cetera?
Inspiring these days? I love looking at The Sartorialist online and all the street photos that are everywhere. It is fun to see how people under 30, which I no longer am, interpret the past. My kids have a way with color and pattern. I saw Fela! in NYC and was blown away by the production, and have been listening to the music every day. In case Prince reads this, I should mention that he remains my number one person-to -please in all things aesthetic. You don’t have to love him like I do, but you have to admire the totality of his vision, his talent, and his Purpleness.
Can you share any early thoughts on the costuming for Pastures of Heaven and/or Mrs. Warren’s Profession?
In our first design meeting we talked about ‘poetic simplicity’—I think the costumes should feel very real and worn-in, and there will be a simplicity to them since each actor will play five or six characters. Character changes will happen with one element—a hat, a coat, et cetera— over a base costume. I can’t say a lot about Mrs. Warren’s Profession, except that Mrs. Warren will outglam the English countryside.
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