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Hired Costumes. Costumes may be rented from a costuming house by mail, if necessary. The order should mention the play from which the playlet is taken (as The Merchant of Venice), and the measurements of each of the players should be given, designated by the rôle which each is to take in the playlet. It is well to remember in ordering that a deposit is required. State gazeteers or directories list the names of theatrical supply and costuming houses located in the larger cities.
Making Costumes. It would be pleasing indeed if a company which had at its disposal sufficient means and intended to produce only a few plays, could let the public see the costumes that historical accuracy would suggest. The playlet of Bottom is supposed to take place in mythological times before the dawn of Grecian history. Brutus and Cassius belongs to Roman times. Hamlet dates back to the eighth or tenth century in Denmark, and Prince Hal and Falstaff to the fourteen hundreds in England. As You Like It is French; The Taming of the Shrew, Italian. Don Pedro, in Benedick and Beatrice, is a Spaniard — the Prince of Aragon.
The standardization upon two or three simple types for the majority of the costumes will be more satisfactory for a repertory company, and simpler styles should be adopted than those of the costuming house. If one type of costume, for instance, must do for plays of such widely different periods as Twelfth Night and Hamlet, it is better if the costumes are not Elizabethan, but of a conventionalized style which will look well in either play.
Ratine is a good material for such costumes. It can be obtained in a variety of rich colors and is heavy enough to drape well. With somewhat less satisfying results, Canton or outing flannel dyed in bright colors, may be substituted. Dyes can be mixed like water colors into different shades.
The cloaks, especially, should be made of bright colors and should be lined with contrasting or harmonious shades.
Shiny lining is a material much used for the costuming of very young folk. It is very cheap, comes in a great variety of colors, and looks good when the colors are intelligently chosen.
The hose for the men may be purchased from the costumers, under the name of tights, or can be made by sewing long white stockings to misses' short, knitted drawers, with the plackets sewed up at the sides and a draw string run around the waist, or by sewing the feet of socks to long, snugly fitting, knitted underwear, which has had the facings taken out and is sewed up in front. Either sort may be dyed to any color but must consist entirely of one kind of material or else the color will not dye it evenly. Otherwise, long colored stockings may be worn and very short, snug fitting breeches added to the costume.
Minor characters in the company may not wear the heavy, velvet costumes from a costuming house and the rest wear homemade costumes of Canton flannel. The difference between the two kinds of material on the stage is painfully apparent.
Crepe paper can be used to costume a play. The satin crepe paper especially can be purchased in very rich colors, and under artificial light cannot be told from satin cloth. Costumes made from this paper are usually durable enough to last through several performances if the play has not too much action in it. The tights or stockings, however, must be of the ordinary knitted variety, and most of the garments should be sewn upon a base of some cloth garment to keep them from tearing easily.1
Pumps or soft slippers should be worn with all of the foregoing costumes.
The Greek and Roman costumes for Bottom and Brutus and Cassius are best made of cotton crepe.
Further suggestions on individual costumes will be given in the staging notes for each playlet.
Pageant Costumes. Pageant costumes or costumes which only suggest a period in a general way should not be used except on the outdoor stage or in the classroom or simple platform production of a play. Most of such costumes are frankly detectable as being merely suggestive, though some are surprisingly near the realistic.
These costumes are built on over ordinary clothes. To suggest a male Elizabethan costume, the main characteristics to be singled
The Dennison Mfg. Co., Framingham, Mass., issues a small Book of Costumes, which gives the prices on crepe paper products as well as many ideas on making paper dresses, robes, and other costumes.
out should be, probably, the cloak and hose. The cloak will have to be made either of colored cloth or crepe paper. The hose may simulated by winding strips of colored cheesecloth around the legs, after the fashion of puttees, over the form fitting part of riding trousers or scout breeches. Otherwise colored stockings may be worn with knickerbocker trousers. The collar of a soft white shirt may be turned in, and a width of cheesecloth draped loosely across the body from one shoulder and then swung around the waist. The upper part of the trousers may be left showing; however, this approximates the puffed look of that part of the Elizabethan male costume. Small hats, made tam-o'-shanter fashion, may have rolls of paper sewn in them to keep them in shape.
For the women's costumes, simple dresses of white or colored cheesecloth, princess fashion, will sufficiently disguise the modern dresses worn under them. A cut-out pattern of blue paper glued around the bottom of the skirt adds a touch that approximates embroidery. Crepe paper dresses can be worn.
The Greek costumes for Bottom and his crew may consist of just a simple colored slip, falling about the knees and worn over rough trousers not in press and not too long. The trousers should not be cuffed at the bottom. The slip is made by merely doubling a length of cheesecloth, twice as long as from the shoulder to the knee, and cutting a slit in the folded edge, for the head to go through. The sides are sewn up except for the armholes. The neck may be made V shaped, front and back, by slitting the neck of the slip vertically and folding back the corners.
For the other male characters the legs should be bare below the slip, and a white overdrape added for the upper part of the body. For the women's costumes, this overdrape may be worn with a simple white dress. It is made very easily, by laying two 56-inch lengths of cheesecloth side by side and tacking or pinning them together with safety pins at points 3 inches, 20 inches, and 24 inches from both ends. The head goes through the middle opening between the pins, and the drape falls naturally about the body, the first tack or pin imprisoning the arm, the second holding the garment to-, gether on the shoulder, and the third at the neck. The measurements given are for actors of full stature; they must be adapted for younger people and varied somewhat to make the garment drape well on different figures.
The Roman toga may be substituted for the drape described above, or it maybe worn over the other clothes, since it envelopes most of the figure.
The toga may be simulated by throwing one corner of a plain white bed sheet over the left shoulder from behind and fastening it securely with a pin, the remainder of the sheet being then drawn round the body under the right arm and brought up to the left shoulder, where the surplus should be laid in folds, pinned wherever necessary, and the corner thrown over the shoulder to hang down the back. Further pinning down the left side of the costume will be necessary, but it is surprising how few pins such a costume requires. The historical toga was longer than a sheet, and not oblong in form but probably shaped like the segment of a circle. (Encyclopedia Britannica. Look under “Costumes.”] The square corners of the sheet give an angular appearance to the costume, but this can scarcely be detected by an unpracticed eye. A three-inch strip of plain colored calico may be basted as a border along both long edges and one end of the sheet about one and a half inches from the edge.
For the Roman helmets buckram crowns used in making ladies' hats can be purchased very cheaply and coated with aluminum paint. The shields may be made of pasteboard and the swords of wood coated in the same way.
For women's costumes white table cord may be tied diagonally across the body, giving a little more shape to the upper part of the costume.
MUSIC The vocal music with piano accompaniment for most of the plays may be had in separate small volumes, from Samuel French, New York.
Incidental music can usually be derived from the extra songs not sung in the playlet. Instrumental music is high priced. All of the music published is not listed in this book, and some, of course, probably could not be bought, as The Taming of the Shrew, an old opera by Goetz which was sung at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1917 for the celebration of the Shakespeare Tercentennial.
Novello & Co. (represented by H. W. Gray Co., 2 W. 45th Street, New York) publishes much sheet music, besides incidental music for nearly all of the plays. Selected pieces are listed under the notes for the individual plays.
Novello & Co. issues a complete catalog of Shakespearean music in which a great variety of settings for the songs and instrumental music by many different composers is listed.
The tones of a piano can be modified to suggest a harpsichord of the 16th and 17th centuries by laying thin paper upon the strings.
The incidental selections should be miniature in length, and played with a freshness and finish that befits the momentary pauses of a well-knit playlet. The music should sustain the atmosphere of life and expectancy created by the action and not lag or continue long enough to produce a noticeable pause.
The leader of the orchestra must understand as well as the manager of the curtain, the scene shifters, and the actors that in a fortyminute playlet divided into acts and scenes there is no room for loose connections; each must study the play and plan to recognize upon the instant what is expected of him to make the play pulsate with life. If no orchestra is used, the warning for the curtain may.
be sounded on a set of chimes. Small sets are often sold for dinner gongs by dealers in fine household ware or furnishings. The chimes hush the whispering and talking that goes on during intermission time in a wonderfully effective way.
LIGHTING Suggestions on the lighting for the different plays are given in the playing notes for each of them.
Colored lights are produced either by using colored globes, which are controlled by different switches from the rest of the lights, or by placing sheets of colored gelatine over the mouths of boxes of cluster lights. The first system is used for footlights, the second for lighting from the wings.
Clusters of lights for flooding one part of the stage and leaving the rest in shadow are best placed in rather deep boxes, the front