Behind the scenes of the university theatre: costume designer Laura Parker | Culture


Walking into Thompson Hall’s costume design room is overwhelming at first. It looks like a wrong move and the room will crumble into a pile of fabrics and colors. Fabric swatches are stacked wherever there is room while costumes in various stages of completion hang on movable clothes racks. In this case, large 3D crab claws are carefully balanced on tables so that the wet red paint can dry.

Like any costume design room, there are sketches of costume ideas pinned to the walls, but the ones in Thompson Hall are different. Typical fashion thumbnails display incredibly tall and thin-waisted models, but Laura Parker, costume shop manager and associate designer at NC State, takes a more realistic approach.

“I deliberately draw my renders like real people,” Parker said. “We all want our actors to feel good and confident in what they’re wearing.”

This trust is built at every stage of the costume design process, starting with the idea phase. Parker’s sketches are body positive because confidence is body positive.

After the elaboration of the first sketches, each actor intervenes for the first measures, approximately 20 to 25 different measures per person. Then the costume is made and the actors return for their first fitting to decide if any adjustments are needed. The costume is made when the actor has confidence in him.

“You can tell, it’s a body language thing,” Parker said. “When someone feels good about what they’re wearing, their face lights up, they stand up straight, you know, they come out and they get a little bouncy.”

This trust is so important because costumes are more than clothes, they’re an essential part of storytelling.

Before Parker and his team even touch the fabric, they need to speak with the director and get a feel for the production as a whole.

“So we know that if the director wants the show to be light or cheerful or bubbly, we’re going to go for certain elements that convey more vibrant colors, rounder shapes, bolder lines,” Parker said. “We sort of agreed with each other on the general idea that those brighter colors tend to be happier and darker colors tend to be sad.”

This explanation of the basics of design theory was especially helpful in NC State’s upcoming production, “The SpongeBob Musical.”

“In this show, we do a lot of very big, very cheerful primary colors and something like SpongeBob comes with its own color palette,” Parker said. “Patrick is green and pink. SpongeBob is yellow and Sandy Cheeks is white with blue and red stripes.

Parker’s passion is evident when she speaks. It’s clear that in addition to a passion for clothing, she has a passion for self-expression.

“We are all unique human beings and we present ourselves that way,” Parker said. “The study of how clothes are presented to the world and how we present ourselves through what we wear is truly fascinating. What we put on our bodies is how we show ourselves to the world. ‘between us, we’re all people who work, live, or study at NC State in 2022, and we all have access to the same clothes, the same stores, and yet we all dress differently because we all present ourselves in very different ways. different.

Come see the costumes of Parker and his team on display during “The SpongeBob SquarePants Musical” at the Titmus Theater in Thompson Hall. This production will be broadcast from March 31 to April 10, and tickets are available now with reduced prices for NC State students.

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