At 8 p.m tonight in the Stieren Theater, Trinity Theatre will open its production of “Our Country’s Good” by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Based on a true story, the play follows the first Western settlers in Australia. All costumes featured in the play are designed by the world renowned designer Virgil C. Johnson.
“Our costume designer Jodi Karjala and scene designer Sarah Martin were Virgil’s students at Northwestern,” said Stacey Connelly, director. “He retired and is now working as a freelance artist, which is why he was available since he didn’t have his usual university obligations.”
Johnson is the Stieren guest artist and spoke on Nov. 1 about his experience with costume designing and how he applied this experience to the designs for Trinity’s production of “Our Country’s Good.”
“My question was, given the abstraction of the set, what do we want to do with the clothes? Are they just clothing? What do they look like? Costumes are becoming more and more of an authentic representation of what clothing would have looked like,” Johnson said during his lecture.
Since the action of the play is rooted in a specific time period, ensuring that the costumes reflect the time was a main point of concern for the overall production.
“The uniforms of the military officials are really important, because ranking and social hierarchy are crucial to the plot,” said Chase Lee, a senior. “Because of that, it’s important that all of our uniforms are historically accurate.”
Johnson is famed for his designs in period costumes.
“I’m interested in immersing the actors in the period, which involves an entire range of clothing, wigs and so forth that they are pretty unused to because none of it has a bearing on today’s clothing,” Johnson said.
The play’s characters range from military officials to convicts””as well as a character native to Australia””all with costumes unique to their status.
“Because of the way that the show is designed and written, the costumes are actually the scenery of the play,” Connelly said. “That is not to denigrate the beautiful design that Sarah Martin has come up with, but it is a very neutral design and really the only color on stage will be from lights and the costumes.”
In the weeks leading up to the play’s opening, each cast member had several fittings and appointments to ensure that all pieces of their costume were created for and fitted to the actor.
“It is pretty cool because most of us are wearing costumes that we have never worn before,” Lee said. “To have something specifically made for you by an expert recognized in the field has been a really interesting experience.”
Johnson’s costumes will be brought to life when “Our Country’s Good” opens tonight in Stieren Theater.