Clothes make the character

Let’s talk about costumes shall we? Let’s talk about costumes and their effect on a character. Let’s talk about costumes and their effect on the frazzled actor who is trying to remember roughly a million lines while making an emotional connection to the character standing next to you whose name you have forgotten and is played by a very nice actor whose name you have also forgotten, but you can’t stop the scene to ask them what their name is because you’re in the middle of one of your million lines and that would not be a very good use of rehearsal time.

Clothes make the character.

It becomes especially apparent in period pieces like Death of A Salesman which takes place in a time period that most of the people in the cast only know through books and movies. When creating a character you are supposed to inhabit their entire surroundings; talk like them, act like them, move like them. If your character is, say, a call girl in 1949, but you have no memory before 1990, how can you faithfully inhabit that character? Much of it falls on the actor to do research into the time period and figure out things like walking, talking and whatnot, but sometimes it’s just not coming together the way you would like it to.

That’s when the costumer comes in with the perfect piece or outfit and when you put it on it all. makes. sense. The movements become more natural, the awkward voice or dialect makes sense, and you feel like you have been transported to whatever time period/location/whathaveyou that your character resides in. It’s an incredible feeling.

I bring you this long and probably overly analytical introduction so I can talk to you about Samantha Fromm. She is the costume designer extraordinaire for this upcoming awesome-period-costume-fest-for-the-ages. And she is awesome. The last time we worked together I had to unexpectedly step in during Becky’s New Car and Samantha was just a champ coming in on her off day to fit me into costumes that would make me look like a millionaire socialite. And you know what? She did.

I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that women have a lot of clothes. We have untold numbers of options on color and somehow through all of these options someone like Samantha comes in, assess the scene and the character and finds the perfect outfit complete with shoes and accessories and the correct time period. She puts more thought and effort into one outfit for a show than I have put into anything in my entire life. Ever. And she does this for a dozen or more people per show, and, since she does this for a living over at the world famous Guthrie Theatre, there could be 20 or more shows per year. I’m getting stress-sweats just thinking about it.

So you should come to see Death of A  Salesman if for no other reason than to appreciate how much work Samantha put into every single costume on stage. Also, she put me into this super classy velvet dress for my call girl character and I love it so much I want to never take it off ever! so come to support Sam. And see my awesome dress. But mostly for Sam.