Where Fantasy Becomes Reality: London Memories in Costume
by Jonathan Knipscher
The summer after my freshmen year, I participated in the London Summer Arts Program sponsored by Southwestern University. At that point in my career as a theater practitioner, I was not fully aware of my desires in this field of study. I spent the first two years of my degree trying everything from Acting to Directing. After the next few semesters, I discovered the joy I received in designing for the stage and began working on my skills whole-heartedly. In the middle of my junior year, I realized that my passion for theater is costume design. For the first semester of my senior year, I lived, learned and worked in London, England. The program is similar to the London Summer Arts program with the exception of the length of the stay. This time around I was able to totally submerse myself into the diversity and beauty of the British culture.
The idea for my proposal to the King Creativity Fund was born out of the desire to fulfill a requirement in order to graduate with honors. Kerry Bechtel, resident costume designer and my mentor here at Southwestern, suggested that I look into producing a Costume Cavalcade to showcase my work over the past four years. This is an event that large theater companies sometimes have to show all of the costumes used that season for the shows in a manner similar to a fashion show. This idea was presented to me at the end of my junior year, but did not really begin to form itself as a project until the semester I spent in London.
The first time I made the trip, I only took eight rolls of film with me. After looking a the photos, I was disappointed in the lack of pictures that had been taken. This time around I decided I would not make the same mistake. After receiving a nice camera as a gift and something like thirty-two rolls of film, I headed off to England. When I thought about this project, I entertained the idea of designing something specifically for the project to showcase at the end of the cavalcade. The problem is how to make the designs correlate to one another and to the show as a whole. I answered the first problem by designing five fantasy creature costumes – Gorgon, Unicorn, Phoenix, Dryad, Fairy – and using experiences from London as my inspiration. After completing the designs and the excitement of having the opportunity to build these costumes, I decided that the answer to the second problem was to focus completely on these five costumes. The evolution of the costume cavalcade resulted in a showcase of five extremely elaborate and thrilling fantasy creature costumes.,