HSDC Behind the Scenes: Rebecca Shouse, Wardrobe Supervisor
HSDC Wardrobe Supervisor Rebecca Shouse working on the costumes for Alejandro Cerrudo’s Malditos. Staff photo.
(Clockwise from upper L) HSDC Wardrobe Supervisor Rebecca Shouse, Nathan Rohrer, Branimira Ivanova and Carol Miller. Staff photo.
It takes many talented people to produce a Hubbard Street performance—and one of them is Wardrobe Supervisor Rebecca Shouse, who joined HSDC in 2004. A Kentucky native, she holds a B.A. in theatre from Morehead State University, an M.F.A. in acting from Western Illinois University and an M.F.A. in costume design from Purdue University. Prior to joining HSDC, she was the Joffrey’s wardrobe supervisor beginning in 1997, and she also has worked for The Goodman Theatre, The Lyric Opera, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Stage One: The Louisville Children’s Theatre and as resident designer at Horse Cave Theatre in Kentucky. She also worked with Robert Altman on the film The Company.
As Rebecca knows, it takes more than skill with a needle to create the stunning costumes that Hubbard dancers wear. Here she shares some tidbits from "behind the scenes."
We often hear from choreographers about their creative process. What is your creative process?
It always starts with the choreographer, trying to get a sense of their vision of the piece. As a designer, your job is to support and bring out the choreographer's vision. Of course, it's always a better experience if you can work as collaborators to enhance and enrich the choreographer’s vision—that brings a richer end product. But there are times when you are just "translating into fabric." The most important thing in a choreographer/ designer relationship is the ability to communicate with each other.
Every piece has a different process, depending on what the choreographer needs and how they want to work. Usually, the next step is searching for images or actual pictures of clothes that reflect what you think will further the idea of the piece. Sometimes it's very concrete—a picture from a magazine of a pant style; sometimes it's a painting that you think reflects the spirit of what the piece will be. You just need to make sure that you are "on the same page" as the choreographer.
The next step depends on the type of show you are costuming. There are two types of costumes: "costumes" and "clothing." In a "clothing" piece, the next step is shopping. In a "costume" show, it's sketches.
What part of the creative process do you enjoy most?
The dress rehearsal, when you finally see the costumes on the bodies, moving in space. That is the true art; many people think it is the rendering of the costumes. That is just a working drawing.
Have there been any costuming projects that have been especially challenging?
The most challenging was what we called the Burqua box that Ana Lopez wore in OneOnOne. Second is the boat for Harold & the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure [receiving its Midwest premiere in December, see related story].
What costuming projects are you particularly proud of?
In my theatre work, The Tempest and Macbeth. At the Joffrey, Julia Adam's Crossing and Laura Dean’s Creative Force (it also is in the movie). At HSDC, Jonathan Fredrickson's Luna Sea for HS2 and Victor Quijada's PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS [premiered by the main company in October], mostly because he was so great to work with.
What is your typical Hubbard day like--or is there a typical day?
There isn't one. Just trying to keep all of the deadlines straight and the work on track.
Do you go on tour with the company? What is that like?
This is the first season I am not touring full time; I'm enjoying the opportunity to do more design work. I still go out when we are teching a new piece; I'm about to go to Cleveland for the Malditos tech [prior to its Midwest premiere in December, see related story]. Touring is usually really hard, but always interesting. You just have to have a "Zen" attitude, don't get upset and just make it work!
What was one of your worst costuming disasters?
The disasters that I feel the worst about are usually the ones I can't do anything about, like when the pleating fell out of the 27'52" costumes and I sent women on stage in shirts that had exploded and were eight inches too big. In contrast, the time I had forgotten to pack the Minus 16 undies, I discovered it early enough so that [then-Company Manager] Anne Grove and I went shopping (and only had to go to three stores to get all of the right sizes), came back, and I fit and altered all of it in time to get it on stage that night.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I want to give a large measure of credit to my staff. Even though they are not full-time employees, they are extremely dedicated. Branimira Ivanova and Carol Miller are my cutter/drapers. They make the patterns for the garments and cut them out of the fabrics. Brani also designs many pieces for HSDC. Nathan Rohrer is my stitcher extraordinaire. Sally Murray and Nellie Kurz are craft persons, who spend lots of time dyeing and painting; Sally made the boat costume for Harold and the Purple Crayon. Amy Sobotta helps me pack and organize.