The Rappaccini Variations: Dressing the Part

Amelia Feiner

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The costume shop is filled with actors searching for their given outfits amidst hundreds in the crowded room. A loud buzz fills the air, and students crowd around Wendy Kahn, one of the heads of the costume department, asking questions and fixing their ensembles.

This buzz continues as Wendy Kahn is asked questions about her work on the costumes for “The Rappaccini Variations,” the school’s fall play that opened Thursday in Black Box Theatre.

The show, written by theatre teacher Joseph Timko, spans several time periods and styles of theatre. “Each scene is from a different historical time, so we had to do something that evokes the look of that period in some kind of silhouette,” Wendy Kahn said of her goals for the show’s costume design.

To make sure that scenes are pulled together, Wendy Kahn assigned an individual color to each of the main characters. Their outfits change throughout the show, but they are always in the same hue.  The rest of the students wear neutral colors in every scene.

“In this radio scene that I’m doing I don’t talk for that long. I talk for an announcer part at the beginning and at the end so it makes sense why I am wearing more gray colors,” said Spencer Kahn (10). He played the role of a 1930’s radio announcer in one scene. He only speaks at the beginning and end of the scene, which correlates to his neutral-colored slacks, collared shirt, bowtie, and dress shoes, he said.

Sarah Acocelli (10) plays Bagalioni in a puppet scene in the show. Acocelli is supposed to be one of the main characters in the scene, so she wears a lime green suit and tights underneath and knee-length pants. Black jazz shoes, a lime green vest, and an oversized hunter green coat complete her ensemble.

According to Wendy Kahn, the shop does its best to adhere to the styles of the time periods that they are trying to represent, but they are not always one hundred percent accurate.

“I have an idea about what defines time periods, but it’s still good to be reminded even of distinctions between 1950’s and 1930’s,” she said of the research that she had to do to prepare for the show.

The costume shop gets some of their historically accurate costumes from the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) Costume Collection. According to TDF’s website, they “house over 80,000 costumes and accessories donated from Broadway, Off Broadway, Opera, Film, and regional productions.”