Dressing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Sabrina Stace on costuming a cast of sixteen for the this month’s Motyer-Fancy production

The cast and director of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead are hard at work memorizing lines and fine-tuning blocking. Two floors up in the costume shop, Sabrina Stace is repurposing a prom dress, crafting glitter beards and hand-stitching eight Shakespearean neck ruffs.

Stace, a fourth-year drama major, has taken on the task of costuming R&G’s 16 actors for an independent study of her own design.

Sabrina Stace’s watercolour renderings of costumes for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Sabrina Stace/Submitted

Decima Mitchell, Motyer-Fancy’s resident designer and director of R&G, explained that “the students are tailoring to their individual interests, with some guidance from their mentors.” I learned last week how much tailoring Stace has done, both in her course plan and in the costume shop.

Growing up in Moncton, N.B., Stace was exposed to theatre through Camp Centennial’s Drama Camp. Throughout middle and high school she attended New Brunswick Dramafest, and took part in shows such as Happy Little Whispering, an absurdist piece that was “really dark, but helped me get through a lot of stuff.”

Mt. A has turned out to be the perfect fit for Stace. “There’s so many other opportunities to drown yourself in theatre,” she said, adding that her drama major has “pushed me to think critically about my art and what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”

Though she has appeared onstage in The White Snake, Love of the Nightingale and Dr. Faustus, she has come to primarily focus on costume design. Her Mt. A credits include The Russian Play, Punch-Up, Metamorphoses and Legally Blonde.

She also spent the summer working for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. While working on six shows in four months seems exhausting, Stace says it “was the recharging I needed from third year. It helped me find myself again both as a theatre-maker and as a person.”

Her summer job also prepared her for R&G. “I spent the summer, on my dark days, researching contemporary fashion, which is really weird,” she said. This was combined with research into Elizabethan style, as the play borrows heavily from Hamlet. Stace melded the two by considering how Denmark’s elite would dress in modern times. “What is a posh royal wearing? What is a badass angsty teen wearing?” This has led to a design concept that relies on contemporary base outfits with Elizabethan add-ons, such as “trunk-hose, ruffs, sleeve-slashing and hats.”

Extra attention is paid to the Tragedians, a troupe of actors that appears numerous times throughout the play. Stace said, “We wanted them to come from their own little world, outside of the traditional Elizabethan.” They wear a mixture of H&M printed tees and stark white ruffs.

They also get a distinctly 2017 twist on their costumes. “Decima wanted a way for the actors to have their faces obscured,” Stace explained, an idea that led to one of the biggest surprises. “I didn’t expect glitter beards.”

What’s after Mt. A for the multi-faceted costume designer? It’s a mystery. Stace is currently trying to decide between a certificate program, graduate school, or she may “just see if I can string gigs together for a year and I’m happy with that, sure.”

Her end goal is Ontario’s Stratford Festival: “I’d love to work at Stratford, either as a designer, a head of wardrobe, a cutter, anything, because Stratford is like a bigger Sackville with more theatre and so I feel very much at home there.”

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead runs Oct. 25 to 27 at the Motyer-Fancy Theatre.

Sabrina Stace’s watercolour renderings of costumes for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

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