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Secrets of a Costume Designer

by Kärin Kopischke, Costume Designer

Fake is about the discovery of the "Piltdown Man" skull in 1914 England and the subsequent proof that it was a hoax four decades later in 1953. Five actors portray five characters from each decade. The 1914 characters are based on historical figures (including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and the 1953 characters present a fictionalized account of the uncovering and confirmation of the hoax. The play jumps back and forth between the two decades, with the actors each jumping back and forth between their two characters. The 1914 characters live an Edwardian world: The colors are dark and saturated; the textures are rich and plush; the atmosphere is full of mystery and intrigue. By contrast, the 1953 characters exist in the scientifically advanced 'carbon-dating' age: The colors are bright and modern mid-century pastels; the textures are cold and steely; the lines are clean and spare; this world is stark and rational. Playwright/Director Eric Simonson and I didn't want to go to extreme lengths to 'fool' the audience about the actors' transformations, but we did want each character to be immediately recognizable within their world and time period. The costume changes themselves need to convey the period but happen almost instantaneously. For example, ensemble member Kate Arrington transforms from Rebecca Eastman (1914) to Katarina Meras (1953) and back to Rebecca again. To make those transitions seamless, I'm trying to incorporate what Kat wears on Rebecca's costume. We see a little bit of Kat coming through at the neckline, which will add a nice little touch to Rebecca's suit. The change from Rebecca to Kat involves literally opening up the jacket and taking it off, then opening up the skirt and taking it off. Technically, it's a fun, quick change and hopefully it's magical. When Eric wrote the play, he just wanted the two decades and the two groups of people to tell the story. He really didn't see a specific connection between characters through actor doubling. But I think we, as audience members, are going to look for that. I like the very subtle touch of there being a little bit of texture and color that is a constant between Rebecca and Kat. The two are very strong women; they're ahead of their time. Maybe there wasn't a connection when he was writing it, but there is one subliminally or subconsciously. I imagine that Kate Arrington will explore with how these women are similar but also how they are different.