Thursday, August 2, 2012

Costume Research

Our costume designer, Sara Ossana, has forwarded us her research regarding the costumes for our production. She is looking to anchor the piece with a unit costume modeled after the concept of the Campesino(a) - this represents the peasant / farmer / working class in Central and South America. There are still large populations of Campesinos across Latin America and it is a fairly universal identity throughout those regions. You will find people who identify as Campesinos or Campesinas from Mexico to Peru and Colombia; they tend to come from the "mountains" or more rural regions of these countries but they are really everywhere. As these are the peasants or working class, many of these people are closer descendants of the indigenous cultures throughout Latin America. They also tend to have darker complexions and fall towards the "Indian" end of the mestizo spectrum. There is racism in Latin America, typically the darker the skin (more Indian) the more marginalized the person. This is still very strong even today.

The overall look of the Campesino has not changed much for the past 100 years. They are characterized by a cotton or a cotton blend shirt and pants, although jeans have become affordable enough that they sometimes replace the typical cotton pant. There is also a signature hat, although the silhouette varies depending on the country. In Mexico, El Salvador etc., the hat is more of a traditional "cowboy" hat; as you move further south it is a variation on a fedora with a very small brim. The hats are worn by both men and women.

They also wear either work boots or more traditionally a huarache or sandal, typically made using old tires for the sole and leather strapping tied around the ankle. This footwear was made famous by the Tarahumara who run 200 mile races in handmade huaraches.

Other implements that a Campesino would carry are a bule, which is a dried gourd used as a canteen with a leather strap tied around the neck. Contemporary Campesinos would also always have a machete on hand. 

All of these images range from the 1980's to now, all over South and Central America also. Sara thinks about using the Campesino as a unit or base costume with possibly a mixture of hat styles for the actors, representing the different regions. The actors will all have a cotton shirt and pants, ideally in a light tan color with huarache sandals or some type of sandal; possibly the women could apply their skirt as an apron when playing Yerma or Medea. We would introduce the elements of the "conquest" - "soldier" or occupier - and "original" Aztec or Mayan Warriors and other strong indigenous and historical symbols and iconography through the use of silhouettes and signature pieces or strong singular gesture pieces. 

For example, for the Spanish Conquistador, we could construct a simple silhouette piece that gestures towards the shape of the conquistador helmet and is identifiable but not a "real" helmet; or an Incan or Aztec head dress but out of a simple material, not realistic yet suggestive, relying primarily on silhouette; or simply boots to represent the modern "soldier". 

These pieces can either be worn by an actor or held in place by one actor for another, like a prop-costume or a full scale human puppet costume piece, relieving the need for individual fit and allowing for use by multiple people without the need for any quick changes. The nurse would be in a typical, generic nurse uniform and the driver could be in a slight variation of the Campesino silhouette to distinguish him. 

submitted by Sara Ossana

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