Costume Design

Costumes are essential for any theatrical production. The costume designer is responsible for creating the costume “look” of the show. Working closely with the Director and scenic designer, the Costume Designer uses their knowledge, skills, and experience to bring the Director’s vision to life.

Costumes refer to anything worn by an actor on stage. Shoes, pants, shirts, dresses, hats, socks, and even underwear. Make-up and hair, while part of the overall design, may sometimes be considered a different discipline.


  • Age: age group, time period, taste
  • Gender
  • Social status: economic, social
  • Occupation: where the character fit in society
  • Geographic location: culture
  • Occasion/activity
  • Time of day
  • Season/weather
  • Historical period: when did the character live?
  • Psychological factors/Personality/emotion



Lighting Design Key Terms

Lighting design: The concept that a designer creates to provide light onstage to support the mood or atmosphere of the play.

Light plot: The map that shows where all of your lighting instruments are placed on stage and where they will be lighting.

Lighting grid: Up above the stage, it is the system of bars and electricity that power the lights.

Lighting board: The control panel that powers the lights; when they turn on and off and at what intensity.

Cyclorama: The large white “sheet” at the back of the stage that can be lit or projected on.

Backlight: Lighting from the back.

Sidelight: Lighting from the side.

Top light: Lighting from above.

Front light: Lighting from the front.

Footlight: Lighting that is placed on the floor in the front.

Spotlight: A single source of light focused on a single subject.

Fill light: Lighting source that adds lighting in and around the set/scenery/stage.

Wash: A large group of lighting that can “wash” the stage in light that you bring up at once together.

Lighting angle: The angle of the lighting instrument in relation to the subject; usually 45%.

Gobo (or patter): A pattern (in the olden days it was a circle of metal) that blocks light to give you a shape onstage.

Gel (or color gel): The color that you want the instrument to throw onstage (or light onstage).

Setting A Scene

  1. Create a shipwreck: I would build a broken ship body out of large cardboard and foam boards and many broken scraps (gears, glass, boxes) scattered around the scene.
  2. A spirit character: I would create a light and flowy costume that mimics how a spirit would flow through the air as the actor travels on stage. I would design a pale face and mystical make-up for the actor so they would resemble the appearance of a non-human creature. I would also use ground lights that would shine onto the actors’ feet when they are on stage to mimic the ghostly aura. If a smoke machine is available, it would also work along with the rest of the set design to emphasize the mystical and eerie atmosphere a spirit may bring.
  3. Character imprisoned in a rock: I would build a rocky cave out of styrofoam and spray paint and place it in an isolated location on the stage that emphasizes.

Character Overview – Slash, Slash!!!

WHO AM I: Pippa Vanderway

  • Appearance: Glasses, pigtails, freckles, paint-splattered overall
  • Personality: talks a lot and in a terrible British accent
  • Innocent, energetic
  • Determined to fulfill her mother’s death bed wish by becoming a horror movie-style serial killer, however, despite her effort, Pippa…
  • Fails at everything, including becoming a horror movie serial killer
  • Pippa has poor self-esteem that can easily be hurt
  • Pippa enjoys naps but is not a fan of blood or death
  • Likes to skip instead of walk
  • Has a rare genetic disorder of throwing anything in her hands when she is scared
  • Doesn’t actually want to kill people

WHAT TIME IS IT: Summer night-time, most likely a summer holiday.

WHERE AM I: A campsite at an old summer camp that has been closed for years after “accident.”

WHAT SURROUNDS ME: Woods, trees, camping gears. Sarcastic, egotistical, narcissistic, and sassy teenagers. And soon to be dead bodies of teenagers who Pippa killed accidentally.

GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES/RELATIONSHIPS: Pippa’s father left the family when Pippa was young, leaving Pippa with her mother, who loved breakfast cereal (especially corn flakes). Pippa’s mother died the morning of the day the play is occurring, leaving her daughter a letter and a gurgly sentence that Pippa assumed to be a wish for her daughter to become a horror movie-style serial killer. Hence Pippa set out a goal to fulfill her mother’s death bed wish and came to murder teenagers with her bedazzled machete. However, Pippa fails at purposely killing her victims. Instead, three teenagers die accidentally during their interaction with Pippa.

WHAT DO I WANT: To impress and not fail mother, also to fulfill her deathbed wish by becoming a horror movie-style serial killer.

WHAT IS IN MY WAY: Pippa’s clumsiness, accidentally causing people to die and Pippa’s inability to intentionally and purposefully kill people horror movie style.

WHAT DO I DO TO GET WHAT I WANT: Marvin and Sasha attempted to teach Pippa how to kill people like a horror movie serial killer. Pippa read the letter that her mother gave her and realizes she does not want her to become a serial killer.

PROPS: Bedazzled machete, stick, letter


Constantine Stanislavski was born in Moscow, Russia in 1863 (died 1938). He was an actor and eventually moved on to become a director and teacher. He developed a new approach to acting. It took him years of experimenting to get to what is now known as the Stanislavski System. Most acting that we see now has its roots in the Stanislavski system. Before the invention of the Stanislavski System, acting looked more like a comedy play on stage. Melodrama asks actors to practice the movements, gestures, and voices to create the characters = Outside to the inside. Stan “the man” wanted actors to work on characters from the inside and thus create more of a “true” or “real” (ie. not artificial) performance.

  1. Relaxation: learning to relax the muscles and eliminate physical tension while performing
  2. Concentration: learning to think like an actor and to respond to one’s own imagination

  3. Observation: Discovering the sensory base of the work: learning to memorize and recall sensations often called “sense memory” and/or “affective memory”; learning to work from a small sensation and expand it, a technique Stanislavski called “spheres of attention.”
  4. Communication: Developing the ability to interact with other performers spontaneously, and with an audience, without violating the world of the play.
  5. Imagination:
    1. the more fertile the actor’s imagination, the more interesting would be the choices made in terms of objective, physical action, and creating the given circumstances around the character.
    2. There is no such thing as ‘actually’ on stage. Art is a product of the imagination, as the work of a dramatist should be. The aim of the actor should be to use his technique to turn the play into a theatrical reality. In this process, imagination plays by far the greatest part.


My earliest Theatre Memory

My definition of my first theater experience is the first time I ever stepped on a stage and performed in front of an audience.

It happened in my last year of elementary school. I have just transferred from a Chinese local school to the first international community I’ve ever known, The British School of Beijing, Shunyi. As a born introvert who has never spoken English in conversations or classes, I was extremely self-conscious and nervous. In my memory, Chinese local schools barely had any drama clubs or theatrical plays. The only shows at school assemblies were collective dances and singing.

When my homeroom teacher announced that we were to perform a song in the weekly assembly, my first reaction was fear. I have never stepped on a stage and never wanted to be the center of attention in any social event. And my imperfect English only made the situation worse. I was given one line, something about this nonprofit organization called Girl Rising. I quite literally had “one job.” I remember standing under the spotlight during rehearsal, everyone is staring at me, I’m staring at the script… the word…


I have NO IDEA how to pronounce the word, is it rEsing? rAIsing? rEEsing???

In a panic, the words “Girl Racing” slipped through my mouth. To this day, I can still hear the sound of my classmates’ muffled giggles and that one annoying kid mocking me for my mistake whenever I think back on it.

“rīziNG.” The teacher hushed my classmates’ inappropriate reaction to my pronunciation and kindly corrected me.

After this incident, we rehearsed the song multiple times before the assembly, but it wasn’t after a few trials before I finally learned the correct pronunciation. The assembly eventually ended successfully, but I will never be able to forget the embarrassing experience during the rehearsal.


Qualities of An Effective Ensemble Member

  1. To be a risk-taker: willing to be open-minded to new things/ideas
  2. Positive and Energetic: have a good attitude towards everything
  3. Aware and in control: observe how your actions impact other people
  4. Focused: concentrate on what you’re doing
  5. Active listener: find out how you can cooperate with other people’s ideas into yours
  6. Cooperative and collaborative: work alongside your peers
  7. Efficient: use your time wisely
  8. Leaders & followers: know when it is your turn to step up or step back
  9. Positively critical and able to act on that criticism: constructive criticism/ positive feedback

My challenges:

For me, the two most challenging qualities are being a risk-taker and being positive and energetic.

I enjoy being quiet and being in my comfort zone. They’re some of the main contributing factors to my personality. As a visual artist, these factors often come off as beneficial; they allow me to stay focused on my artwork and be an independent learner. I am fearful of failure and embarrassment. Being quiet put me in a position that avoids public attention and I feel safe. The only times where I feel inclined to experiment and be dramatic is in front of intimate friends or family. I hope through taking this course, I can become more willing to challenge myself and be brave enough to take risks and be expressive.

It is easy for me to fall into the pit of harsh self criticism, frustration and eventually give up on a difficult task. This happens all the time when I am creating artworks. I want to do everything as best as I can and push my limits to reaching perfection. But like any normal human, I often fail. When it happens, I am keen to giving up and starting something new altogether. It is an unproductive habit that I’ve developed due to my fear of failure. At the end, I am left with a pile of unfinished work and a heap of negative emotions risen from self doubt. I am respectful of others, but dislike myself. I recognize the harm this causes to my mental wellness, and I am motivated to become more confident about my talents and allow myself to stumble over mistakes.