Laughter is the Best Medicine

Snapshot: Humor, Poetry & Magic in the Designs of Helen Huang

I’m Cristofer Jean. This is my 14th
season with the Festival, and I am in Winter’s Tale playing Camilo, and I’m also
in Great Expectations playing Wopsle, the aged P and others. And I’m Amy Kim Waschke. This
is my second season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I am playing Hermione in
The Winter’s Tale, and I’m playing Huong in VietGone. Hi! Paul Juhn. I’m in my second season
here at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’m currently in The Winter’s Tale playing
Antigonus, and I’m also in Great Expectations playing a million characters.Helen Huang is the
designer of the costumes for The Winter’s Tale. She was also the designer of the
costumes for Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land which some of you might
have seen last year and she is Chinese from China, born in China and now teaches
on the East Coast, but I know she was relied on heavily because of her
experience with both China but also Stan Lai and the association with Secret
Love in Peach Blossom Land and then definitely heavily relied on for
our very Chinese take on the Han Dynasty inspired costumes for the Winter’s Tale.
I was with Cris last year so what we worked on… I’ve worked with Helen twice,
and yeah the first collaboration was with Stan, and we had a bunch of pretty
crazy costumes last year. And she actually took, last
year, for Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, she took actors shopping to the Rogue Valley Mall
to put them in things that they wanted to wear. Not me, but others got to
go to the Rogue Valley Mall and that’s why Kevin Kennerly looks so good
in the show. And speaking to that, when I went to my fittings this year for
Winter’s Tale, there are things that are in the story in terms of 16 years going
by and in terms of adapting and adopting another culture when Camilo goes from
Sicilia to Bohemia and then back to Sicilia that I wanted to highlight in
hair, in costume, and she did all of that. And if I asked for it, she listened
very carefully and then we made decisions from there. For example in
Sicilia–China– we wear our hair in topknots or top buns and then
when I said when I go to Bohemia, at least in the disguise, let’s go ahead and take that away so
that the young prince Florizel will not recognize me when I’m in disguise and
then when we got back to Sicilia on that journey back, I said what if we leave
that hair down and what if there are some tendrils hanging down so we’re watching
him age, we’re watching a wilder side of the
gentleman, and she was on board with all of that. So that’s just one example, and
that was just hair so that does not actually include things that happened with
costumes. This is my first time working with Helen, so I didn’t have
any chance to know her before, but I was just so thrilledr by my costumes
because my character’s a queen and in my other play I play, a refugee.
So I was just like, yes, bring on the beautiful costume. The first time
you see Hermione, she’s wearing this gorgeous dress, and it has these wings
and whenever i lift my arms, there’s this beautiful kind of gold silk
that flashes to the audience and I just love how you can tell
that the clothes are loosely inspired by the Han Dynasty. A lot of our clothes have very
long sleeves. They’ve got the Y neck collars, and I
think the color, choosing the gold, and I guess my understanding is
that black was a big color but I think that because of the Winter’s Tale, you
know, I mean I’m just guessing, but that Helen wanted to go with this kind of
frosty silver and gray that we’re all wearing, maybe to fit the time and season. Also just think also
because she knew that stage, the Elizabethan was so brown, she knew
that black was not going to be a great choice, so she went with something a
little more, you know, fashionable, a la mode, right now, a little silver gray, and she’s
very fashion conscious actually as a designer and fashion forward frankly and
that is part of her fun and her wit. When she’s designing, she’s a great
personality in the fitting room and just as an artist when she’s creating
the costumes, and I mean definitely in Secret Love and Peach Blossom Land she
had a tremendous sense of humor about what different people would wear, from
the old hippies who work on the show here in Ashland, to a flow on a
skateboard, you know helping the Chinese touring troop come to fruition on their
journey in that story. So she really embodies a great sense of humor
and also a tremendous intelligence for what is the passion and the beautiful
sort of poetic lines of the costumes in Winter’s Tale. I will say that she
certainly wants your feedback in terms of isit comfortable? Can you move in this? In fact Helen wants
to see you move in everything that you wear and so it’s like you walk the
runway or, you know I have this one night gown that I wear and she
said, Well, what happens in the scene? I said, Well, I’m getting thrown to the
ground, dragged around, and she’s like, You just do that. I was like, by myself? Ok, and I went. But she does really
take a lot of time to watch how the stuff moves in the fitting when you’re walking to make
sure that… I mean I know she ended up padding my first robe because she wanted
me to look a little bit thicker and a little healthier, so that when I got
older, I looked a little more frail and not quite as padded out, so she
really paid great attention to detail, and very open and accommodating. She had her
specific vision, I think, for Winter’s Tale. The color palettes that she picked I
think and that really kind of gets Sicilia kind of cohesive unit or
whatever. And then, I play Antigonus, so I get killed by a bear, so I need clothing to move around in,
so like what these guys are saying, you know she makes sure. She’s very open
and very willing to make sure that you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing. There’s this thing about all these
things tying in together, yet each character has its own individual look, too. I’m part
of the court, yet I don’t look like anyone else in the court. The colors of my costume
do, but there’s something very distinctly different as well as design. The
silhouettes are quite different from one another even though the color palette is
the same, and you definitely get from Sicilia a sense of being sort of
locked up more tightly in a courtly, more officious sort of way than the
incredible color splash among the lower classes in Bohemia, but also Polixenes’ costume, my costume in Bohemia, are flowing robes
and very different from what the feeling is in Sicily, and even when we get back
to Sicilia at the end, there’s a different feel to the costumes. The color
palette opens up into a more meditative white, cream-color. The robes are
looser flowing, and you sense that the country has gone through a change in
mourning for the loss of the young prince and Hermione. And then she comes
to life in this amazing dress that is… I can’t ruin the
surprise of that. If you haven’t seen it yet, you have to buy a ticket and come
see what happens. If you remember the Olympics in Beijing, when the drums light up when
they’re drumming on 10 million drums in the Olympic stadium, that is a clue as to
what might happen to a dress in Winter’s Tale and Helen Huang’s design magic.

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