Into the Woods costumes weave stories through design

Kellie Nock

As Kent State’s School of Theatre prepares for “Into the Woods” — which opens Friday — the costume crew has worked hard to ensure that the show looks as good as it sounds.

Costume designer and theater studies graduate student Brittney Harrell knew that preparations would begin for the pay at the end of last year, and started working on designs for the show starting in the summer. When she returned for the fall semester, the crew began to work on the pieces together with the costume shop.

“We knew the direction that the director wanted to go, which was a very parish, painting-type world with a balance of reality versus fantasy,” Harrell said. “The point being that the story grows into the fantasy and then deteriorates the fantasy as reality seeps in … so I knew that very, very early on.”

Harrell and the other students have been working in the costume shop since the beginning of the semester, tweaking pieces to look perfect for the show. With latex masks, actual chainmail, 3-D-printed bird bones and real fur ethically acquired from zoos and wildlife foundations, the costumes in “Into the Woods” are craft-heavy.

One of the actors in the show — the Wolf, played by junior theatre studies major Zach Stark — even wears a real coyote head for his role. The coyote cap ties around his head like a baseball cap. Stark also plays Cinderella’s Prince, a character surprisingly similar to his other, more villainous, role.

“It’s almost like the Wolf is a shell of the Prince,” Stark said. “It was interesting because the Wolf and Prince have a lot of common characteristics, and I started to like try and see into those and I realized that the Wolf is more aggression and he’s like everything the Prince wants without the sophistication of everything.”

Harrell was relieved the actor playing the Wolf wasn’t squeamish.

“It’s really cool because it’s real fur,” Stark said. “At first I was ‘ooh I’m wearing a real animal,’ but then I kind of I got used to it. And then I kind of found out how to embrace it and it kind of made me feel a little more animalistic wearing a real animal… it kind of makes me feel in-tune with the Wolf wearing wolf’s fur.”

The show’s message is to be careful what one wishes for and contains themes that everyone may not expect from a typical fairy tale.

“I feel like there’s so many morals in this story that anyone can find something to connect to,” Stark said. “And there’s so many specific characters that go through real problems even though it’s kind of disguised as a fairy tale that someone could walk out and be like ‘whoa that’s crazy I’ve been in that situation’ … the second act gets so real and that’s when all the real issues happen and it gets a little deep and it kind of makes people uncomfortable at times.”

Harrell worked to tell this story through the design across the semester.

“The show is really about being careful what you wish for and realizing that what you have is sometimes enough and we forget that as human beings,” Harrell said. “So I think if that message comes across then we’ve all done our jobs. You gotta get enveloped into the world so if the world enveloped you then all of the designers did their job.”

“Into the Woods” opens Friday, and will run through until its last show on Sunday, Nov. 13. Tickets can be purchased online, at the box office, or over the phone at 330-672-2787.

Contact Kellie Nock at [email protected].