Costumes set to bring comedy to life

This week, the Southeastern Theatre Department will put on four performances of the dark comedy “Baby with the Bathwater” by playwright Christopher Durang. The play first premiered off-Broadway in 1983, and from April 16 through 19 starting at 7:30 p.m. each night in the Vonnie Borden Theatre, audiences will witness firsthand the hard work and long hours the entire Southeastern crew has put into making the show a visual success.    
Putting on a play is no easy task for it cannot be done with just one person. There is the director, set designer, make-up artist, stage crew, actors and last but not least, the costume designer. Cody Stockstill, who intuitively gravitated toward costume design as a child, has been working at Southeastern teaching costume design, make-up technology and introduction to theater for two years now.
Since “Baby with the Bathwater” is set in the 1980s, he decided to go with original aspects of the script to keep the authenticity but still make the costume designs genuinely his.
“Anytime you do a period show, you do your own version of that period,” Stockstill said. “The audience sees that period, through our modern eyes, and I like design because I think it tells stories in an individual medium.”
This period entails big hair, shoulders, silhouettes and loud colors. The 1980s comes with its own retro fashion sense, but that does not mean the clothes and characters cannot be relatable. Costumes in plays are another way of telling the story and speaking to a character’s personality.
“Costumes are another level of communication,” Stockstill said. “It gives the characters another level of life. The audience can identify with what kind of world they’re living in, and you realize what kind of characters these people are by the way they are dressed.”
As a crew, working together in unison is something Stockstill says can occasionally be a challenge. With the set design, costume designers must always be mindful of colors and how well they will look on stage. The idea is to get the character to pop off stage, and this starts with looking at the script since some costume pieces are needed to make the show work.
“I have to pump up the colors,” said Stockstill. “I have to look at what the rest of the play is doing, and what the scenic design is doing, and I have to work with them. For example, the main back wall of the set is yellow, so I put people in costumes that are contrasting to that color so they bounce off of the set.”
The play centers around new parents Helen and John and their new infant, whom the couple finally decides to name Daisy. Throughout the play, it becomes apparent Daisy has gender identity problems, so Daisy’s wardrobe will reflect that.
“With Daisy, it’s about that gender confusion,” said Stockstill. “In the dialogue, there are some very specific things with color, so we go into baby blues and baby pinks, sort of playing on Daisy’s confusion.”
Director Chad Winters always has one objective in mind when starting a new play. Making sure every aspect compliments the other is a large factor in the success of the production.
“The goal is always working toward a unified vision of the world of the play,” Winters said. “When the audience sees it, you want them to be pulled into the play, and that works best when everything fits together.”