Outfits ready for the week-long tech rehearsals for Triad Stage’s Masquerade. (photo by Devender Sellars)
To celebrate the end of Triad Stage’s 10 th year, Artistic Director Preston Lane brought home Masquerade, a Danish delicacy. To modernize the play for his American audience, Lane relied not just on his own adaptation, but also on his design team, including costume designer Kelsey Hunt. Lane discovered Ludvig Holberg’s Masquerade during a trip to Norway a few years ago. Born there in 1684, Holberg, referred to as “the Moliere of the North,” is one of Denmark’s greatest playwrights. “I was surprised to see Holberg’s name engraved next to Ibsen’s above the doors to the National Theater,” Lane said. “I had no idea who he was, but the question of why he deserved his place next to Ibsen became clear when I actually discovered his work in a brilliant production of Masquerade.” A farcical comedy, Masquerade showcases an 18th century ball where the young and hip go wild. Two fathers arrange the marriage of their children, but things go wrong when the kids, hidden behind masks, fall in love with someone they think they’ve never met. “Masquerades turned the world upside down,” Lane said. “In the very restricted world of 18th century society, they allowed people to engage with each other behind the safety — and equality — of a mask. As a result, masquerades were radical and dangerous to the status quo.” ““When we started this process about a month ago, [all of the designers] had a lot of questions about how to find a sense of modernity in doing a period piece,” Hunt said. Afterward, she said they arose at the idea of using textures as a way to create a sense of “moderness.” “At one point, I was really into paper and was I going to use paper wigs,” Hunt said.
The idea was inspired by an institute of fashion that uses paper wigs on its mannequins. “It creates this sort of blank canvas that makes it seem very modern. So I went on this whole tiff about how I was going to do these paper costumes, and then I found out that that wasn’t really going to work out so well.”
Her final inspiration came from scenic designer Fred Kinney, whose furniture designs had a flat texture, giving them the same look as paper.
“I realized that the reason why I was being drawn to paper was because of that sort of flatness and texture and uniformity, rather than the actual material itself,” Hunt said.
When the design came together the result was an all-white set sans furniture, allowing the characters and their colorful costumes to pop. Each is dressed from head to toe in one color; none share the same hue.
There are 13 characters. Each dress contains 20 yards of polyester satin and, including a matching mask, took about 40 hours to create “The women’s costumes just take a lot of work, and then it’s a comedy, so Preston has them crawling around on the floor and then falling down on their bums,” Hunt said. “Sometimes getting the actors to understand the limitations of the costume or the way it’s going to get in their way is really difficult, so we had to get a lot prepared in advance so they can use it in rehearsal.
“What I like about it is that it’s a very bold, sort of strong design choice,” she said. “In a farcical period show I think it would be easy to just do it general period style and have it sort of coming out like Shakespeare Festival costumes. “This is definitely a new direction, a new level of design, which is some- thing that Preston wanted to do with the last show of the 10 th season, and I definitely think that we got that.”
Masquerade is Hunt’s last show with Triad stage after seven years. “It’s kind of interesting that we started with an all-white show and now we’re ending with an all-color show,” Hunt said. The first show of the season was Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and all of the characters were dressed in white.
Preston Lane’s adaption of Masquerade runs at Triad Stage at The Pyrle Theatre, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, June 10-26. June 10 opening includes a post-show party with the cast and staff. Tickets are $10- 44. For tickets or more information visit www.triadstage.org or call 336.272.0160. Production contains adult language and themes.