It’s October, which means it’s almost Halloween! Stores have been selling candy, pumpkins, and creepy animatronic decorations since August. As a theater, our favorite part of Halloween is the costumes! Getting to dress up and act like a different character – it’s a holiday meant for theater lovers.
We chatted with Terri A. Lewis, who has designed the costumes for many Antaeus productions, including The Little Foxes; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Picnic; Henry IV, Part I; Top Girls. She was nominated for an Ovation Award and an LA Drama Critics Circle Award for her work on The Little Foxes.
What originally attracted you to costume design?
I got involved in theatre classes in high school, and since I could sew I began helping to make costumes for our school productions. I continued to study costume design and construction in college and graduate school, and received my MFA in 1989. I’ve always loved the idea of telling a character’s story through their clothing, while helping to build the world of the play in collaboration with scenery, lighting, sound, the actors, and the director.
What’s a standout costume you’ve built for a show at Antaeus?
Partner casting at Antaeus has always posed the greatest costume challenges, especially when both actors playing the same role are different sizes and can’t share costumes. The blue sequined lace dress (we called it the moonlight dress) for Madge in Picnic was a particular engineering feat as there wasn’t enough budget to build a complete costume for each actress, so I built one skirt and 2 different bodices, then figured out a system of different colored tabs and buttons to attach them together in the correct combination for each actress. Creative problem solving is a necessity! As for the most fun, I’d have to say Top Girls. Reliving the 80s styles of my college days was a blast and I had so much fun shopping on eBay and Etsy for many of the costume pieces.
What production was particularly interesting to work on?
I’ve loved working on all of my designs for Antaeus, but my favorite production so far has to be The Little Foxes-I love the play and the period so much, and I was so proud of our production.
What show would you love to make costumes for?
I would love to do a full period Shakespeare someday (with an correspondingly large budget of course!)
Do you dress up for Halloween?
No, I don’t do Halloween anymore. Too much of a busman’s holiday for me.
Is there a Halloween costume that sticks out in your memory?
In college, during my vintage clothing/thrift store phase, I dressed as comedian Phyllis Diller one year when I found a fabulous 60s pink/silver brocade cocktail dress that had rows of rhinestones around the neckline and the sleeve cuffs, to which I added white gloves, white kitten heeled ankle boots, a silver fright wig, and a cigarette holder. The next year I went as Joan Crawford in a Mommie Dearest-40s evening gown and hairstyle, overdone makeup and red lipstick, and I carried a copy of the book and a wire hanger around the party. I was nominated for best costume and was defeated by a preppy zombie (it was the late 70s and the preppy look was popular). Once I started working professionally as a costume designer, my interest in dressing up for Halloween waned, but I appreciate the effort and ingenuity that other people devote to it.