Otterbein Theatre’s student costume designers continue to be the unsung heroes of the theater department.
The theater department debuts their annual dance concert virtually on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. The show, The Wild Within, is based off the book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. It features several solos, duets and trios that showcase the wild not only within the dancers, but each person that views it.
While the dancers will be the ones to take the stage, there were weeks of work that went in behind the scenes.
Addy Chapman, a sophomore design/technology major, said that Otterbein’s theater department is special because almost everything that goes on stage is student made. For other theaters, a lot of items may be commissioned and sent in, but at Otterbein the students are a large part of building the show from the ground up.
Otterbein gives their theater students the opportunity for change, and for junior design/technology major Anna Kate Reynolds, that was one of the main reasons she was drawn to Otterbein’s theater program in particular.
“When you look at going to school for art, you generally have to pick one and stick with it, and I wasn't ready to make that commitment,” said Reynolds. “So Otterbein gave me the leeway to learn as an overall artist and then hone in on the skills that I came to love more.”
Reynolds commends Otterbein for its flexibility. She says that she went into her freshman year with a stage management focus, but once she was here she realized she wanted to do more.
“I wanted to try props and they just threw me in and were like, ‘okay, 100% in, go try props,’” said Reynolds. “Which is just what I needed as a person was 100% into to try things and then back out and put a hundred percent into exactly what I want to do.”
In terms of this year’s dance concert, both Chapman and Reynolds got to work hands-on with the intricate headpieces all the dancers wore. For Reynolds, it was her first time as a student draper, and her first “big kid” job with the theater, as she put it.
“I was all by myself; my ideas, my process, my mistakes,” said Reynolds. “I really enjoyed that process, like just being independent.”
The headpieces created for the dancers were unlike anything the students had made before. The headpieces were designed to be worn like bike helmets, according to Reynolds. Normally, headpieces are sewn into the hair of the performer, and not strapped on with chin straps because that could hinder the movement needed to properly express their character.
The headpieces are the crown jewel of this particular show. Each headpiece was custom built by the student designer and custom fit to the individual dancer, and took roughly 30 hours to build. The designers were given hand-drawn photos of vague designs for each headpiece, and they got to take their creativity from there.
The designers were given videos of how their particular dancer danced so they could really hone in on the emotion in the piece, and from there they picked a color for the headpiece that represented the emotion in the dance.
“I got told specifically, ‘well, that blue is a little too cheerful. We want more of like a solemn blue, but not a gloomy blue,’” said Reynolds. “And that was something that we were wrestling with because it's like, well, my gloomy and your gloomy are different.”
After conversations like these, all information is sent to the shop manager, Hailey Williams.
“Then you wait, and then you wait, and then you're told, ‘Hey, that went wrong.’ So I do it again,” explained Reynolds. “And then I wait.”
The trouble didn’t stop once the headpieces started being built.
Melissa Knapp, a junior allied health major with a dance minor, was Reynold’s assigned dancer. The first time Reynolds built Knapp’s headpiece, it didn’t fit Knapp at all.
“She was like, ‘I hate to tell you this, cause I know you've worked on it so hard, but it doesn't fit,’” Reynolds recalled. “So, then we had to start completely over and repattern within like three days before the next fitting.”
Each dancer wore their own unique headpiece that acted as the color element, so the dancers weren’t lost on stage.
“The headpiece is just the identifier,” Reynolds said.
The Wild Within premieres Thursday Nov. 19, with other show dates available here. The show will be streaming virtually with tickets costing $15, or free for Otterbein students, faculty and staff.
Streaming theater productions online makes them much more available to be enjoyed by all, especially in the era of COVID-19.
“The theater world is moving in a place where we're making art more accessible. We're putting it on the internet,” Reynolds said. “We're at a place now where more and more art is becoming more and more accessible to different communities. Communities who necessarily are in different economic and monetary standing, which means more people are getting access to art, which means more people can fall in love with art, which means more people can do art.”