In hopes of documenting my thesis process, I will keep a log of my experience while I work. These entries are by no means a comprehensive look into all I have to say for this topic but I hope these informal summaries and reflections will help me organize my thoughts and clarify what I am doing as I work towards my MFA in Costume Design. For those of you who will be joining me on my journey, please ask questions and I hope this will give you a peek into my creative process.
Third year of grad school at Boston University is thesis year. That's right. A full year of drowning in a project we chose for ourselves (choose your poison amirite?). Our topics and proposals were approved during our second year and my thesis topic focuses on storytelling in the magic and ritual of theatre with His Dark Materials adapted from Philip Pullman by Nicholas Wright as the play of choice
|HDM at the National Theatre 2004|
The requirements for my thesis project are as follows:
-50 fully rendered designs with accompanying accurate swatches of fabric and trim
-1 full construction of a character costume with accessories and craft related items
Full budget breakdown
-Character research packet
-5 full detailed spec sheets
-Plots on character entrances, scene changes, doubling, intermission, and costume changes
-A full paper on the history of the play, analysis, conceptual artistic production of the piece including lighting, scenery, music with style, mood, and time period research.
-In addition to these requirements, detailed research must also be done on story analysis, character, and time period in order to accurately portray and design the piece.
Choosing a piece
Theatre isn’t my forte. My background up until now has been varied and if I were to hazard a guess, plays and theatre only make up about 10% of my general knowledge (though it is expanding). What this meant was that I had no reserves to draw from when it came to choosing a play. Most of my knowledge of story comes from novels of varying genres. All of which I spent my entire life accruing. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but not which particular piece would fit my intent. I had no idea where to start if I wanted to read plays that I could consider, not to mention the looming sense that I never have any time for anything except the hard deadlines of school. I met with some peers and received some suggestions but none had the draw that I wanted.
Initially, my intentions were driven more by practical means than by theoretical. I wanted to explore unconventional materials in costuming and in turn discuss sustainability in theatre. Or I wanted to look into creating costumes using current and developing technology and discuss the creative integration of technology in costuming. The voice in the back of my head would go “you’re studying design, not production” …I should’ve understood this much sooner than I actually did. So I turned my focus on the other path in my process of selecting a piece; story. I was interested in either something really dark…or a coming of age piece, something with some fantastical elements, something that was not limited to a particular audience but one that could include children and adults. I wanted something that advocated humanity.
Throughout my brainstorm process, I always came back to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I told myself I wanted to work on a story like that one, but I was reluctant to choose the stage adaptation for various useless reasons. I suffered through a few months wondering if there was any play that was similar or better until I realized that my ideal story wouldn’t take no for an answer.
My history with His Dark Materials
If I remember correctly, I started reading this series when I was about ten. My aunt and I would always go to the library and I read about 80% of the books she checked out. She introduced me to many stories and authors which are still beloved to me. I would also go on to finish numerous series on which she had given u. The Golden Compass was one such story. Initially, I never thought much of the story itself, it was compelling, it was exciting but it was one of many. I knew after my first reading of each of the three novels that there were plot points and topics that were beyond my understanding at the time. But so were various other stories I read. For some reason though, I would always come back to this particular story year after year, eventually doing the same with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. When I couldn’t afford the time to read any longer, I somehow managed to train myself to love audio-books and consumed the trilogy that way. As I grew past childhood, the story grew with me. As my understanding of human nature grew, so did my understanding of various elements and characters in the story. I also began to understand my love for this story.
This thesis is but another chapter of my growth with this story. As I uncover yet more about myself and about this story, I hope I am able to give it the proper respect through my designs and work.
I look forward to this artistic journey and to what it will become.