by Donatella Galella, Dramaturgy Intern
I don't normally get excited about clothes, but when Arena's Costume Shop Director Joe Salasovich showed off Guenevere's luxurious costume from Camelot in all of its leather and lace glory, I got giddy.
On Wednesday, Joe gave the
interns from Arena Stage and Studio Theatre a special tour of the costume
shop and answered questions about his profession. He introduced us to
the process from designers to drapers, and invited us to peruse the
extensive collection of costumes, shoes, hats—of course Arena, with
its multiple stagings of Crowns, would have tons of hats—and
so on. The experience was overwhelming as we carefully ran our hands
over custom-made pieces with eyes of amazement and appreciation.
Joe eagerly pulled costumes
and pointed to their specific features. From August Wilson’s Gem
of the Ocean, he presented Aunt Ester’s paisley dress. Joe explained
that this sort of pattern was popular in the 1860s and, though the play
takes place at the turn of the twentieth century, Aunt Ester likely
inherited the dress from her mistress and mended it with similar fabrics.
While the audience may not notice such fine details, they inform the
actor, helping him or her get into character. This became literal in
Legacy of Light when Lindsey Kyler had to quick change from a pregnant,
modern-day Millie to corseted, eighteenth-century Pauline; her costumes
physically changed how the actress held herself for these different
characters. Asked to describe costume design in one word, Joe replied,
“Sincerity,” which comes through with these particular costumes.
Shortly afterward, he smiled and added, “Caprice,” and showed us
the fun, frilly pieces for Lola of Damn Yankees!, sequined baseballs
Joe spoke with such enthusiasm about his job in the theater, which lets him explore a new array of subjects every six weeks from vivacious church ladies of the south to the history of physics. He told us, “You never know what your day will bring.” When working on Arena’s production of Cabaret, he spent one day at the Holocaust Museum studying the stars that Jews were forced to wear in order to identify themselves, and later that day, he went out to purchase fishnets for men.
Utlimately, his job as Costume Shop Director is to support the costume designer and look for solutions to problems that come up, even if he may have a differing opinion on the actural design. But, according to Joe, he and the designers are best friends. A true proponent of DC theater, Joe warmly described the local community and cooperation between companies that allow each other to borrow costumes and equipment. He repeatedly told the interns that we're doing the right things by working in the DC area to get the experience we need to advance in theater. His encouragement and excitement assure me that I'll be having a fantastic internship this summer.