Preston Butler III, Desireé Mee Jung, Rebecca Mozo, Hilary Ward and Dileep Rao in Sense and Sensibility. Photo by Jordan Kubat/SCR.
Costume designer Maggie Morgan is drawn to the Regency era of Jane Austen. Read on to learn what it's like to research and design costumes for Sense and Sensibility (Sept. 1-29, 2018) and about her creative process.
What was your design inspiration for the Sense and Sensibility costumes?
The contemporary approach of our director, Casey Stangl, inspired me to give a fresh look to the story and the period costumes. The wonderful fashion of the time (1811 or so) was very colorful and sexy—it felt very modern to us. Last year, I had the pleasure of visiting the Fashion Museum in Bath, England, where Austen lived for a time, so I got to use some of my research from that trip on this show, as well.
What’s the best part—and the biggest challenges—about working on period costumes?
This adaptation is very swift storytelling and it presented me with a big challenge about how to take the audience along on the journey with the use of costumes to help define the characters and to indicate when and where we are. Over the course of just a few minutes, the seasons change, we travel through England, go shopping in London, attend a ball and have a picnic by the seaside. So, I needed to keep our costume changes lean, swift and practical without slowing us down or losing the romance. This is really my favorite kind of piece to design because I love researching the clothes of other times and I love working with beautiful fabrics—perfect combo for me! The fantastic thing is the opportunity to work on a big, pretty, period show with the support and talents of the SCR costume department. I always relish the weeks spent in the costume shop, working on the details and helping the actors bring their characters to life.
What inspired you to delve into costume design?
As a young person, I loved art, textiles, music, dance, going to the theatre, vintage clothes, writing, history—all the things I get to use in this job every day. My parents took me to shows and when I saw the original production of Pippin on Broadway, with costumes designed by Patricia Zipprodt, the bug really bit me! Later, I was encouraged by my college teachers and especially my
mother to pursue a design career.
What do you enjoy most about costume design?
In theatre and film, I get to explore all those things that interest me and I especially enjoy figuring out how to take dramatic literature and combine it with fashion history and the story of our characters. I love collaborating with many very creative, talented and interesting people—including costume makers, actors and the creative team.
What are some favorite productions that you’ve designed costumes for (at SCR or elsewhere)?
Here at SCR, The Countess was a highlight for me. SCR's costume shop staff and I visited the costume department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to do research; since the play was about the painter, Sir John Everett Millais, we looked at his wonderful art as part of our research. The period comedy, Bach at Leipzig, was another really fun one to design. I loved doing the world premiere musical The Haunting of Winchester about the Winchester Mystery House at San Jose Repertory Theatre. Being able to design the first production of any show is a wonderful challenge and a privilege.
Learn more about Sense and Sensibility and buy tickets.