Southern Illinois University - Fall 2013
Director: Tim Fink; Scenic Design: Logan Reagan; Costume Design: Elise Kulovany; Lighting Design: Mark Varns Photos by: Robert Holcombe
Ragtime, a Quilt of Humanity
Ragtime documents the beginning of a century in America where life is full of new possibilities– a time when immigrants are pouring into “the promised land” and the culture and face of American society is changing daily. This musical grips at the heart and soul of the audience because of the messages it instills about hope, possibility, and change at a time when almost anything seems possible. It centers on the lives of one White Anglo Saxon family, the courtship of a high class African American man and his fiancee who dies in the pursuit of justice, and the struggle of a socialist immigrant who wants to make a life suitable for his daughter and himself. I chose to reflect the differences among or across these three groups of people to heighten the message presented in the script by utilizing color, texture, silhouette, and the intricacies of the detail in the costumes. Having both historical and fictional characters appear in different times from 1902-1912, Ragtime needed costumes which were reminiscent of this time period without pointing to a specific date. Each group needed to be unique while still being united to create the silhouette of the new America that came about after this explosive era. Ragtime is a story about America coming together, its ragged history; it is a quilt of stories and experiences that are uniquely American and stand the test of time.
I wanted the costumes in Ragtime to reflect the three different groups while also staying true to the time period and the script.
The People of Harlem, The People of New Rochelle and The Immigrants of America
Detail elements and pastel colors united the People of New Rochelle to give them an air of richness and exclusiveness
Haitian Immigrants, Jewish Immigrants and Italian Immigrants unified by layers and richer, deeper colors to display cultural differences
Keeping the silhouette of 1900-1910 while having textures and brighter, more intense colors to both contrast and unite with the other groups
Like a quilt of Humanity, the entire ensemble is united through silhouette to create a diverse, yet unified image
Immigrants take off a layer to be incorporated into American society and move in syncopation to mimic an assembly line
Coalhouse brings new music into the house on the hill in New Rochelle
After weeks of courting Sarah, she finally agrees to see Coalhouse
The Firemen don't allow Coalhouse to pass
Coalhouse won't marry Sarah until he receives justice
Father becomes overwhelmed with the fallout from Coalhouse's destructive path
Father notes the differences in baseball from when he was in school
Lawrence Massachusetts strike
Coalhouse "dances" with Sarah as he plots his next move
Booker T. Washington pleads with Coalhouse to give up in his destructive fight
Coalhouse pleads with his gang to go out and tell their story and make the people hear of the injustice he has received before becoming a martyr for his cause
The ensemble becomes united through silhouette at the end of the ever-changing decade
As the newly formed mixed family joins history, the era of ragtime comes to a close as an impending war approaches
Evelyn Nesbit depicting her famous "Girl On The Swing", framed by her chorines and the Sob Sisters reporting on the story
Presenting the idea of an idealistic place of escape, Atlantic city is represented by rich, white, fabrics and intricate lace detailing with minimal pastel colors
Bringing the changing music into the picture, the ragtime band represents that times are changing even in Atlantic City
To accommodate the large amount of character changes with minimal actors while also making costume changes feasible, I worked with the director to create these character breakdowns early in the process.
Once fittings have progressed, I create a visual for actors so they can see what to change into when. For a show as complex as this, information like this is vital to a successful dress rehearsal and run.
Once stock and other resources were fully sourced for available costumes, the remaining costumes needed to be constructed in house within budget. This list was a working list of what needed to be built with a line for budget and supplies.
An example of my running paperwork for the show so that I stayed within budget and also new when I had extra money, should the need arise for a last minute costume addition, the director changing his mind or another contingency.