|Cirque du Soleil costumes are custom made to each performer's specific measurements|
|Amaluna head of wardrobe, Larry Edwards, demonstrates a makeup mask specific to a performer's face|
Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna is loosely based on The Tempest, and is directed by local artistic director of the A.R.T., Diane Paulus. With that kind of pedigree, you can be sure to expect a little magic. And that's just what I found when I went backstage to chat with Larry Edwards, Amaluna's head of wardrobe.
Costume design began a year before the premiere of the show, says Edwards. For Amaluna, Mérédith Caron, costume designer for Cirque, envisioned costumes that were fierce, but also had a Shakespearean influence. All costumes were custom made, most at the company's design house in Quebec. The tour wardrobe teams (which include Edwards) also have a voice in the designs, often speaking to the practicality of a costume. In Amaluna, for example, performers engage in a heart-stopping, high-flying parallel bars routine - they need to be able to feel the bar though their costumes, and a garment that will stay in place as they flip through the air.
Translating the artistic vision to something physically practical for performers can be a challenge, Edwards notes, but one that Cirque du Soleil is particularly adept at solving. "We liken Cirque to the fashion industry because you're creating a masterpiece to begin with - your runway collection - but then you have to have to morph that runway collection into a ready-to-wear line. The team in Montreal has carte blanche, and they really push the boundaries. No one says, "no", when someone says, "well, that hasn't been done before". They just figure out a way to do it.
Another costume challenge lies in Cirque du Soleil's environmental commitment - every costume is washed in a washing machine, not dry cleaned. Keeping with the animal wildness of Amaluna, several costumes were designed in leather. "I've taken leather on shows before, " says Edwards, "and it is very hard, say, when you are traveling through South America, to find someone who can wash leather and not ruin it. So for this run I said, 'I will take leather, but you need to find a way that it can be washed.' They said, 'Leather can't be washed.' I said, 'Well, you need to find a way'. And of course, they did, So, we have leather costumes that go in the washing machine, and then they hang to dry and are in the show the next night."
Even with the best design, the costumes can take a beating. In one spine-tingling scene, a performer slides down a pole, stopping inches from the bottom, with only his jacket breaking his fall. Amaluna keeps a touring staff of three who take care of the wigs, makeup, stitching, repair, shoes and patina work (many of the costumes are repainted nightly). In each city, they hire a laundry staff who spends forty hours a week washing and steaming. Additionally, they hire two dressers to assist performers with quick costume changes. "We have around 300 sets of costumes, about 1000 individual pieces," Edwards notes. "When we get to a new city, new costumes are shipped in from Montreal. Once we've finished, we retire those costumes, and new ones are shipped to us in the next city."
In addition to design, there is a large technical component to Cirque du Soleil's costumes. Every performer goes through Montreal for complete measurements and a body scan. If a costume can't be repaired, the team in Montreal can make a new one perfectly suited to an individual performer. Additionally, scans are made of each performer's face, which are then used to create makeup masks. Instead of sitting in makeup for two hours a night, the performers simply sit, have the mask put on, and have extensive makeup designs airbrushed on - think of it as a makeup stencil!
While life on tour with Cirque du Soleil may seem awfully glamorous, Edwards' best trick is surprisingly one that we can all use: "I can tell you how to get out any kind of stain! Make a paste with equal parts bi-carbonite soda (or baking powder), peroxide and dishwashing liquid (like Dawn), brush it on, leave it on for ten minutes, put it in the washing machine and...poof! The stain is gone."
If you haven't had a chance to catch the Boston run of Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, drop everything and pick up your tickets before the show ends on July 6th!
|Edwards brushes out a wig; a headpiece worn in Amaluna|
|Details from the Moon Goddess costume in Amaluna|
|Leather costumes and a bright headpiece from Amaluna|