Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lifetime Tony Award For A Costume Designer

The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced on Tuesday that this year’s Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre will be presented to costume designer Jane Greenwood. The award will be presented to her at the 2014 Tony Awards June 8. Jane Greenwood has designed costumes for over 125 productions on Broadway since  Ballad of the Sad Café in 1963, including Master Class, Passion, Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Scarlet Pimpernel. She has also worked extensively at Lincoln Center Theater and in the worlds of opera, dance and film. She is a professor at Yale School of Drama. In an interview she gave a few years ago she said: "When you're a costume designer, you're not making things up necessarily. You don't have to be the "second coming for the next millennium" of what fashion is going to be like. You're always investigating the truth of people's characters visually. When you work on a period piece a long way away, such as the 1790's, you have limited resources. There are paintings but there aren't too many photographs. It's more limited. The rich were painted more than the poor so it's harder to find research for the lower classes. The further back you go, the lower down in the painting you have to look to find the variation for character of different people. But, really the training you need is to have a very wonderful background of a well-rounded education. You need to be a good historian. You need to be able to read a play and be able to understand it, and understand who those people are. Very often I will have students who will read a restoration play and they will say, "I didn't like that play very much. I didn't really find it very exciting, or very interesting." I'll say to them, "It's wonderful language and it's very funny." "Funny?" they'll say, and I'll say, "Let's all read it. You play so and so, you play this one..." and before you know where you are, you've got a group of people involved in trying to understand the language, make it sound interesting, and they begin to be involved. I think it's terribly important to understand the script. So, to be able to do that you need that good background of English literature and a good understanding of plays. Then, you have to be interested in people. You have to be a people watcher. You're always going to be involved in what people wear. For me, it's infinitely fascinating. People will say, "It was ghastly! We were held over in the airport for five hours." You know, I can find a way to entertain myself for five hours without even trying. I look at all the people selling the various things in these little counters and what they wear. When you go to the beautician's counter, there are all sorts of people with the nails and the beautifully done make-up and the beautiful hair. The people who are serving the food and the people who are cleaning up around the airport - all the different levels of society that you see, and who all those people are. I love it when you see people sitting around and jockeying for position to get to the desk, to talk about what's going to happen with the plane, and I wonder, "What do they do?" "What does that man do? What business is he in? Why is he so pushy?" Look at his clothes. When you first look at him he looks pretty smart, but then you look and you see that his suit really needs to go to the cleaners and his shoes are a little down at heel. He doesn't really care."

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