As always when I design a play, I started my work on Venus with the script - reading, rereading, and going over all the costume pieces mentioned. After figuring that out, I started my research. For this, I researched each piece of it - the modern, the period, and the exotic - to find a look for each character that could flow seamlessly between time periods and genres. I made tearsheets of my research, and met with Cristina (and the rest of the design team) to share thoughts and ideas. Once we decided the direction we wanted to go, I started actually looking for the costume pieces.
Shopping for Venus was like no other show that I have worked on. The diversity of the things I was looking for was staggering - leather corsets, dog collars, an 1870s dress, a frock coat, servant's livery, as well as modern clothes. Looking for corsets and dog collars, I discovered a different side of Amazon and Etsy - one I never knew existed. Finding the right collar proved to be especially tricky. We wanted a collar that would be sexy enough for the S&M, but still simple enough not to be jarring in the 1870 sections. After days of searching online and in local clothing and exotic stores, I finally went to PetSmart, where I found several actual dog collars that met our needs. As I was checking out, the cashier asked me how many dogs I had. I told her none - I was a costume designer and the collar would be worn by humans. It's not every day you get to say that.
Once the pieces were collected, it was time to have fittings with the actors to put together each look and see how they would flow into the next. Options are always good things to have at fittings - no matter how carefully you choose a costume piece, sometimes things just don't look right when they are on the actor all together. It's always good to have multiple ideas for everything just in case. Through our fittings, we found looks we were very happy with for each character - and their transformations.
Every play presents its own set of unique costume challenges beyond finding the right pieces of clothing. Unlike most plays, although there are many costume changes throughout Venus, the actors do not leave the stage. This presented its own set of challenges - how do the costumes arrive onstage? Do the actors take anything off in order to put on the new pieces or do they layer? What sort of closures are needed on the costumes so the actors can change themselves onstage without help? These are things that we continued to work on and tweak up though our tech rehearsals until we ironed out the kinks in the details of the costume pieces and the changes felt comfortable for the actors.
When you watch Venus in Fur, the characters should look comfortable in their clothing - like it belongs to them. But also watch for the moments when the costumes make themselves known, the theatrical moments where they do stand out - not that you have to look very carefully - they are hard to miss.