For the last 40 years, directors have been re-imagining the setting and characters for Godspell. As a story about a modern community, the visual style of productions have shifted from decade to decade. The show presents an interesting challenge: to create characters that are clearly living in the present moment and to create a costume element or elements that provides a dramatic moment in which each characters joins the community of followers. The most difficult challenge, as Stephen Schwartz describes below, is to create the illusion of everyday characters that could have walked in off the street but with very specific choices that illuminate character personalities and their individual dramatic arc.
The concept Don Scardino used in the Lamb's Theatre revival, which was somewhat more relevant during the 80's in New York City than it is now, was to start with the eight disciples as homeless people. So their garb continued the idea of "found clothing", as if they selected items they found discarded or lying around. (Nevertheless, of course, these were actually carefully designed to reflect their characters, in the same way that the costumes the characters in CHORUS LINE wear, while appearing to be what they threw on to come to a dance call, are actually carefully designed from a characterization standpoint.) The point of the costumes in GODSPELL, whatever their style, should be that these eight people are replacing their daily clothes with something hastily put together which sets them apart from society and becomes an outward manifestation of their decision to follow the Jesus character. In the original production, the characters were never intended to be hippies, but rather to have chosen to put on bright, more colorful and slapdash raiment to match the sort of "contemporary clown" look that Jesus had.