About Colleen Taylor

Posts by Colleen Taylor:

Costume Challenges

With UB’s production of “Urinetown the Musical” came the challenge of building two costumes for the female Twah-lette dancers. The design idea was a corset-type bodice with a tutu. The challenge came with the news that the two dancers would lie down on the floor during their routine, so the shop needed to find a material that would spring back into shape after being flattened.

After a brainstorming session with the costume shop managers and the designer, the idea of fabric covered foam came into being. Three layers of cartridge-pleated foam with confetti dot fabric glued onto it became a flexible tutu.

In order to make the bodice washable, the decorative toilet brushes had Velcro sewn onto the back of them for easy removal.

The Twah-lette costumes are a  rather unique challenge to add to my theatre experience and I am happy to say that they turned out to be just what the designer wanted.

The original mock-up of the foam tutu.

The original mock-up of the foam tutu.

Skirt under layer with first layer of foam tutu.

Skirt under layer with first layer of foam tutu.

All three foam layers with tulle in-between to hide the exposed foam.

All three foam layers with tulle in-between to hide the exposed foam.

Final bodice with green glitter stripes and brushes attached with Velcro.

Final bodice with green glitter stripes and brushes attached with Velcro.

My First Ballet

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Russian National Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake. I had never attended a full ballet before so only the music and the white swan costumes were familiar and expected.

I enjoyed it immensely but would like to just share what I saw as a theatre design student (currently focused on costume). I payed the most attention to how the characters were obviously identified as groups by colors and patterns. In the second act, for example, when the princesses are dancing with their visiting court members, each of the four groups had a separate color palette. The princesses had similar costumes but were distinguished by their bodice designs and Juliet sleeve variations. As for Odette, all she had that distinguished her as the Swan Queen was her tiara and what looked like beading on her bodice. Simple, but effective.

I do have to make a point to mention the costume for Rothbart. What I liked about it was that it was dark, detailed, and it had a cape which really lent itself to how ‘shadowy’ his movements were.

All in all, I thought the performance was great and the costumes were lovely. I liked being able to see the richness of the fabrics and the different colored layers of the tutus enhance the dancers’ movements. I look forward to attending more ballets in the future.

Being Porfolio-Ready

In my high school’s drama club, I constantly took photos. I took photos of the set (in-progress and finished) and of the actors. But they were scrapbook photos and not solely for showing what I worked on.

Now that I am on the track of becoming a professional and have survived my first show design (even as an assistant), I have discovered just how important photos of my work are. There were many times I arrived at the costume shop for the day and later thought “I wish I had my camera”. It is much easier to show progress in photos than in words. Knowing that whatever I do is potentially going in my professional portfolio will definitely be in the back of my mind as I continue my work in theatre…with my camera at my side.

Learning to be an Assistant Costume Designer

To say that I was thrown into the deep end of theater might be an understatement. When I was approached to be the assistant costume designer for “Road to Glory”, I didn’t expect to be attending design class two days later and production meetings two weeks later.

As someone who has never been an official designer or assistant before, the only thing I could do was to just go.

Being a new freshman to UB as well as costume design made finding even the wardrobe a little daunting, but the best thing to do is to ask questions. Asking faculty and upperclassmen is the easiest way to not be completely lost, both literally and figuratively. Showing up in the morning to sew labels and being sent to stain shirts is my experience in a nutshell. Right under “asking questions” is learning to listen. Being able to figure out what notes/tasks are for the costume designer to do versus the costume shop or me is something learned through experience but becomes easier. Separating notes is an organizational skill that has turned into an instinct.

As the weeks have gone by, I now feel comfortable in my ability to help the costume designer in her work. Yes, there is plenty more to learn. But right now, I have figured out the line between waiting for directions and taking initiative so that costumes get labeled, organized and ready for performance while keeping the costume designer as stress-free as possible.