“Cabaret” Costuming Brings the Taboo to the Stage

todayNovember 15, 2018 69

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By Addison McKissack
Guest Student Journalist

*The following article was not written by a KTSW staff member, but by a student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It does not reflect the opinions and values of KTSW.

Through costume and makeup design, Texas State’s “Cabaret” will transport audience members to the sexually liberated communities of 1930s Berlin as the Nazi Party rises to power.

lulu look 2
An evolved version of the costume design for Lulu. Design by Alexander Stearns.

According to costume designer Alexander Stearns, the goal of the design was to create a world that is “dirty, inhibited, seductive and dangerous.” This is highlighted by the chorus costuming, where each character is based off of a different fetish or element of the LGBT+ culture.

“They’re all based off of different kinks and fetishes and when I ran out of appropriate ones to put onstage I started taking from different subgroups of the LGBT community that existed in that time period,” Stearns said. “So Rosie and Lulu are our twins and Herman is based off of the wild boys, which were a group of young men that lived on the outskirts of Berlin that were basically prostitute fraternities.”

Stearns spoke about each design with pride, but the design that he was proudest of was for the Emcee. Stearns decided to embrace the ambiguity and fluidity of the character and slowly strip that away as the show goes on.

“Our emcee is a trans drag performer. We looked into many drag performers at the time, they were called femulators,” Stearns said. “And over the course of the show, her being stripped away from femininity until the very end. She has the waist cincher, the high heels and the wig and they’re taken away until she’s left in the uniform in the end.”

Nick Eibler plays the Emcee, a role that is perhaps one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre. Eibler worked with both Stearns and director Tom Debello to create an Emcee that is unlike any other iteration of the character.

Emcee Look 1
The Emcee’s initial look. Design by Alexander Stearns.

“The Emcee is like this interesting creature,” Eibler said. “I show both sides of the spectrum in the show, so definitely showing some more of the more elegant and extravagant of the queer side of the role.”

As important as costuming is, a character without a unique make up plot is like a fine painting without a frame. Stearns’ makeup design is used as a story telling device to enhance the tragedy of the Kit Kat Club.

“Everything is kinda fading away as the show goes on because Cliff knows what’s happening,” Eibler said. “The characters and these people in his life he knows are coming to an end so they’re starting to melt away.”

For Eibler, the show is focused on dealing with the hard truths of the time, while presenting them in a way that is easy for the audience to digest.

“It’s very much about entertaining and letting the audience escape, but subtlety showing them the reality of the world they’re in through this entertainment they see,” Eibler said.

“Cabaret” has its sold out run from November 12-18 at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theater. For more information go to Texas State Presents.

Featured image by Lauren Jurgemeyer.

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