Local Theatre Costumers are Criminally Underappreciated

  • Anthony J. Piccione

We all know the most central creative roles in any theatrical production. There is the playwright, who is the prime artist responsible for creating a show to produce. There is the director, who – after reading the script and interpreting it – creates his or her own unique vision for the show, and then is responsible for executing it. Finally, there are the actors, who bring the show to life through the characters – some of which may be vastly different from their real-life personas – that they each portray during the performance.

All of these are significant and notable artistic roles, which require a great deal of creativity and deserve our respect. The people who assist them by working in the tech crew deserve just as much respect, both from their fellow thespians and from the audience. However, there is one particular role in the tech crew that I do not feel gets enough credit outside of the theatre community, and even among some people who are in the theatre community.

For the past month or so, I’ve been involved in a production in my school’s theatre department where I have been playing a number of minor roles. So naturally, there are quite a few costume changes that I go through over the course of the show. Thankfully, as we kept going from one tech rehearsal to the next, I realized that this particular production would actually end up being one of the more smoothly ran shows that I’ve been involved in, as far as costume changes go. For that, words cannot describe just how grateful I am.

To be clear, I’ve always had a special appreciation for everyone working behind the scenes to help the actors and the director make the show come to life. Working in tech theatre requires a lot of hard work, and I’ve always felt that the people in that field do not get nearly the amount of credit that they deserve for their contributions to our art. Having said that, it was during this show that I began to realize just how important not only costumes are, but also the people responsible for providing them, really are when it comes to potentially making or breaking a production.

We all know that the costumes themselves are among the most important elements of any show. If the actors involved did not have costumes to wear during a show, they would not be going onstage as their character. They would be going on as themselves. By extension, it could be said that it would also mean that they would not be putting on a show, but speaking the lines in a show as themselves. If you ask me, something like this should go without saying.

This one fact on its own ought to be enough reason to feel that costume designers deserve more credit for their contributions to the shows. When you factor in some other considerations – such as how many costumes there are in the show that need to be kept track of throughout the duration of a production, or just how many quick costume changes there can be for many actors in a certain show – you can see how the role is even more important, and how without it, the actors would be lost.

On that note, let me leave you with these two things: If you are an actor in a show that is opening at some point in the near future, just remember that without your costumes, you cannot truly succeed in becoming the character that you are playing in your upcoming show. So be thankful that you have a costume designer to make that success happen. On that same token, if you are an audience member at one of those shows, be sure to remember that without the costume designer, the show would visually be a far less pleasurable experience to watch. It is for this reason why I believe that costume designers are underrated, and why I hope they will start to receive more recognition for their work, as more people realize this…

Photo: San Juan Community Theatre