Designing Stage Costumes : Behind the Scenes


Mari Contreras Riva

Costumes on which ITPA’s crew members have been working on for over 3 months

Mari Contreras Riva, Junior Staff Writer

          Independence Theater and Performing Arts held their opening night on Friday, Nov. 11 for the long-awaited Alice in Wonderland play, but the marvelous live performance hides behind its scenes a crucial part, happening both before the production is mounted and during its run.

          After working on the play for over three months, a key member of the crew tells us about how she participated in taking the show from sketch to stage.

          As soon as the show is cast, the theater crew holds tech interviews and members start brainstorming. Costume-maker Sophia Encarnacion (11) talks about how before the opening night, she would often stay after school for hours, working on the ensembles. 

          “We had so many ideas and interpretations on each character. We had a slow start, but eventually we were rushing and stressed to meet deadlines.” In the end, most costume-makers collaborated on designs and worked on each other’s costumes to finish in time. “Things felt really unorganized and unprepared,” says Encarnacion. 

          In addition to working on costumes, she was also cast as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Juggling between the two roles made her feel really stressed both behind the scenes and on stage, where she admits she often missed notes. 

          The part she considers to be the most challenging is opening night: “I was fixing holes or broken costumes while I was heading to mic check, when people playing the Marionettes came in to have tutus added to their costumes right before their scene. I didn’t have time to eat nor rest until after we finished.” During the rest, dealing with the performance was easier to do, but costumers didn’t stop fixing outfits or adding certain pieces to the ensembles. 

          Sophia also tells us that being all crammed in one room with multiple projects going on allowed her to become really close with the team. She says the Queen of Hearts might have been the costume that took the most imagination. The red dress the costumers received looked way too similar to the one they would be using for the Red Chess Queen, since both were red. Sophia had the idea to add gold and black trims as well as 2 black mesh panels on the sides of the dress, to not only make it appear more individual, but also to match it to the colors of the Card Deck from which she took this idea.

          Right now, Sophia is working on the costumes for their next play, The Little Mermaid. She says the play she was most excited to work for was Disenchanted, a musical about Disney princesses and the hard truth hidden behind all of their stories. At the time, she was the only person on the costume team. She is very thankful for the help she received from Allie Harris (11), a friend who gave her a hand with designs and colors. Sophia felt most excited as she wanted to work with bright colors, textures and sparkles: “Disenchanted was also based on more modern ideas, and we tried to reflect that in the costumes with short poofy skirts, pants and new takes on the original designs.”

          When asked about her overall opinion on Alice in Wonderland, Sophia said that while things would often get chaotic, she considers it a really good experience in which she got to make new friends, many of whom she will be working with for The Little Mermaid.  

          Regarding the upcoming production, she wishes things run smoother and hopes people notice the costumes they worked on. “I definitely plan to make things more organized with deadlines, final ideas and overall communication,” she announced.