by Nina Meehan
Last night I served orange and black ravioli for dinner--not for Halloween, but for the GIANTS!!! And today, the entirety of San Francisco is going to be filled with folks dressed in the Orange and Black for the parade, because what we wear helps us connect with each other around a common theme—in this case, the world champion San Francisco Giants!
Halloween is no different. We put on our costumes to be a part of the community celebration. We go trick-or-treating, visit friends who are having parties, carve pumpkins, and serve candy to children who come to our doors. But, what does a costume signify for a community event like Halloween? Is it inclusiveness? A moment to express our inner demons? The delightful joy of wearing what we would like to wear to the office every day, but know it might get us fired?
For those of us who work in the theatre industry, costumes have a completely different significance—we need them to do our work. I can remember going wedding dress shopping for the first time, and the woman at the store asking me, “Have you tried on any gowns before?” I responded, “Oh, yes, I’ve been married in at least four shows.”
So, how does Halloween differ for those of us who work in and around costumes? I asked Maggi Yule, costume director at Berkeley Rep, what she thinks is the difference between a Halloween costume and a theatrical costume:
“A Halloween costume can be whatever you want, and it only has to last for one night,” she said. “A theatrical costume often has a list of requirements, like time period, economic level of character, budget, and it has to last through many, many performances and look good every time.”
I also asked my four-year-old son, who is the resident costume expert in my house, the same question: “A Halloween costume has spooky stuff,” he said, and then he thought for a moment: “Actually, they’re the same, because you can wear a bird costume for Bye Bye Birdie…I want you to make a giraffe costume for me.”
In my work with Bay Area Children’s Theatre, we often have small audience members who arrive at the theatre dressed as their favorite character from the play they are about to see For instance, when we produced Pinkalicious, the Musical, little girls came from miles around dressed in pink with their pink wings and pink wands. After the show, they proudly took photos with Katie McGee who played our Pinkalicious. These little girls wanted to be part of the event--to be as much a part of the story we were telling as they possibly could. They were celebrating the story, the character, the imagination that can be unleashed by throwing yourself into a world of make believe and character.
And, isn’t that at the heart of dressing up--be it in theatre or at Halloween? When we go to see a show, we want to be immersed in the experience of the story and the community of the audience. When we go to a Halloween party, we want to release our hearts and minds into the land of make believe that a mask or a fantasy outfit can provide. Costumes can provide that moment of connection—and, fortunately, on Halloween, they only have to last one night.
The views represented in this Chatterbox Art & Opinion post are those of the individual author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Theatre Bay Area or its staff.