Alice in Wonderland is a story with a lot of memorable characters. Even though not all of them appears in the play, there are still a little over twenty characters that are going to enter the stage at some point. Obviously, none of them can do it naked.
That’s where the costume team comes into the picture. Our mission was to find a perfect, or at least acceptable, outfit for every character, from the Queen’s gardeners to the White Rabbit. As I mentioned before, the characters in Alice in Wonderland are extremely memorable. Even people who hasn’t read the book has a picture in their head of what the Mad Hatter looks like (or at least a picture of what Johnny Depp looked like in Disney’s live action film). That means that the audience will expect something from the costume team. They will expect to immediately recognize the main characters. They will expect them to look fabulous, dazzling, out-of-this-world, mad. Thanks, Disney. You sure know how to set the bar. So, what have we really done? We started by listing the characters, choose a color for everyone’s outfit, and dig through the storage after clothes and accessories that wasn’t black or grey, looked extra or mad in some way, and preferably had some glitter or sparkling details. After that followed chaos where we tried to piece together an outfit for every character, check what pieces of clothing we still needed, and not forget any of the around fifteen side characters in the play. Luckily, Thespians has a big storage, and the thrift shops’ a big supply, so the only piece we had to make from scratch was a skirt for the Caterpillar.
Then, we got the cards. And we went mad.
Since playing cards play an essential role in Alice in Wonderland, and not too expensive, we decided to try to put some on the costumes. At first, we talked about making a choker out of cards for the Queen of Hearts, and just put some on the gardeners’ and soldier cards’ costumes. Then each of us took one pack of cards with us home to experiment a little. It turns out, you can be very creative with a pack of playing cards. The king suddenly had a standing collar and the soldier cards’ tunics were covered in cards cut in rhombus shapes and pieced together as a heart with the Queen in the middle. We made a bow tie for the Rabbit and a flower for the Knave. And we didn’t stop there. Due to the fact that the Queen has more power than her husband, we thought she should also have a bigger collar than him. In the end it was almost three times the size of his collar, and heart shaped. At that point the King, the Knave, the soldier cards, the gardeners and even the General had cards somewhere on their outfit. It had become a symbol for their association with the Queen. Naturally, we decided to put cards also on the Executioner’s outfit, since she obeys the Queen. We had already done hearts, flowers, bow ties and a medal, so we talked about putting together something quick and easy, since the Executioner is only on stage in the last scene. Then someone mentioned a skull. A few minutes later I was googling “skull mosaic”. An hour later I was sitting on the floor, trying to make a huge skull out of small, triangular card pieces, and realized that the costume team, me included, was probably as mad as the Hatter. Altogether, we used around 350 cards for the project.
Of course, we did more than just gluing cards. We did normal needlework too. We made and attached ruffles to make a costume look more extraordinary, adjusted two dresses in size 45 so they would fit the actors, who definitely weren’t size 45. We embroidered, attached sequins, and made a bow out of a tie. And, at last, all the costumes were finished, and the actors could try them on for the photo shoot. They may not look like the ones Disney used, but in my opinion, they look just as good, if not better. I mean, Disney didn’t make a skull mosaic out of card pieces.
Photo Credits: Salomon Marttila
Klara Nybäck joined Thespians Anonymous this autumn as a member of the costume team. She has no experience in theater other than sitting in the audience. On the other hand, she has always loved costumes and masquerades, and has made a ridiculous amount of dolls’ clothes; including for example princess dresses, a phoenix costume and a cape inspired by the book series “Ranger’s apprentice”.
Jason Pizzarello’s Alice in Wonderland is Thespians Anonymous’ play for Autumn 2018. Shows are on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th of November, 2018 in Hurjaruuth, Kaapelitehdas, Tallberginkatu 1 A Helsinki. For more information visit Thespians Anonymous’ Facebook page as well as the event page on Facebook.