Rehearsals are in full swing for the Educational Tour production of The Taming of the Shrew. Designing for a tour is a challenge. It has to appeal to school age audiences, many of whom have never seen a live theatre production. Venues vary in size from a theatre to a gymnasium to a cafeteria. The costumes and set has to withstand lots of wear and tear.

Christina Leinicke is the costume designer and Ben Hohman designed the set, and we learned how they are making this work.

First Christina. This is her second year designing for the tour. She did her undergrad in Theatrical Design and Production at Illinois State University and she has a MFA in Costume Design & Production from the University of Alabama. In addition to her work at the Festival, she has worked at Illinois Shakespeare Festival and toured with Lord of the Dance.

When you’re designing for a show, where do you start?

First, the director sends me thoughts. I got a list of things Shelly had been thinking about and a few research images. Then I went and created a research response to that initial conversation. “Why this show, what we like about the show, what we don’t like about the show, what we saw and thought and felt while we read the show… that initial conversation turned into a research response with lots of visual images. The result is a combination of Victorian circus, gypsy carnival and commedia dell’arte – very colorful and active.

Shelly Gaza (the director) told us that “The Zanies” are playing many roles. How will the costumes help differentiate?

Everybody has a base costume and then from there we add and subtract pieces to create an evolution of character, to indicate a different character and a different time. It can be as simple as an apron and neckerchief for the servants or it can be as complex as a whole change of clothes for the Petruchio wedding.

What considerations do you include for a tour?

The performers are changing and maintaining the costumes themselves, so it has to wear well with minimum maintenance. Before they go on tour, the actors have a wardrobe workshop. They will learn some basic hand sewing, machine sewing, and emergency quick repairs.

What considerations do you include for a tour?

The performers are changing and maintaining the costumes themselves, so it has to wear well with minimum maintenance. Before they go on tour, the actors have a wardrobe workshop. They will learn some basic hand sewing, machine sewing, and emergency quick repairs.

Ben Hohman, Director of Props and Displays, has been with the Festival for 21 years. This is the 13th tour for which he has designed the sets. He has a BFA from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Tell us about the set…

For the backdrop, we started with the idea of gypsy curtains. It was a great idea for a backdrop but all gypsy curtains are really colorful. So we decided, knowing what Christina was doing with costumes, we would create the look with all neutrals and texture. We sewed them seam forward so that breaks them up as well so the lights can create shadows.

For this show, it’s a lot of locations. Shelly wanted some pieces she can move around to show the different locations. She also liked the idea that they’re a traveling troupe; we’ll see them putting their costumes on and off, so some trunks make sense in this world. We used trunks and ladders and painted them bright colors. That gives you levels – you can stand on the trunks or ladders.

Tell us about the set…

For the backdrop, we started with the idea of gypsy curtains. It was a great idea for a backdrop but all gypsy curtains are really colorful. So we decided, knowing what Christina was doing with costumes, we would create the look with all neutrals and texture. We sewed them seam forward so that breaks them up as well so the lights can create shadows.

For this show, it’s a lot of locations. Shelly wanted some pieces she can move around to show the different locations. She also liked the idea that they’re a traveling troupe; we’ll see them putting their costumes on and off, so some trunks make sense in this world. We used trunks and ladders and painted them bright colors. That gives you levels – you can stand on the trunks or ladders.

It’s a very simple set. There’s so much going on with the costumes and the characters that we didn’t want the set to get in the way. The director wants the audience to be engaged, watching the character transformations: open a trunk, grab a cloak, put on the costume, change their physical nature so we engage the audience’s imagination.

Any other thoughts about this show?

This is one of those fun shows where you don’t need to know anything about it. You can come in and pick up the story very easily. It’s a great introduction for young kids. They’re all going thru this angsty love thing in their world. I think Shelly because of her history with the Festival, having done the tour and now being an educator herself gets the idea of the show, how to pass that info onto the audience.

The Tour, beginning late January and ending in mid-April, will visit three states and over thirty cities. In future guest blogs, you’ll meet the cast. You can learn more about the Tour at

http://www.bard.org/education/tour.html