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Had a second crack at my Crow makeup! I think I made a real stride forward.


This time I remembered to prime my skin first, the way I did for my Death makeup, and it made a big difference. I used Nivea Men's Post-Shave Balm, which is a great cheap primer for full-face makeup. I also made more of an effort to "pat" the greasepaint over my skin with the sponge rather than drag it. These combined to make a much more even white expanse, unlike the streaky, uneven version from last time.


It had the effect of being kind of aging, emphasizing my eye bags, rather than the smooth, less patchy result I got this time. I also took the picture in better natural lighting this time, which likely helped.

That was the biggest difference. But I also used better products this time. I bought black and white eyeshadow, as well as an actual black lipstick. They're just Nyx brand, not super high quality, but okay. I attempted to highlight with the white, but it didn't make much difference, so I then switched to trying to use it as powder to set the greasepaint. I also contoured with a much lighter hand, and even though it doesn't blend with the greasepaint very well, I think I achieved more of a carving effect, rather than just making dark places on my white mask.


The last thing I did was take a little more care about my eyeshadow. I filled in the entire expanse from my lid to my brow bone-- which is not much, since I have Cara Delevigne-style heavy, low-set eyebrows --but with a careful angle from corner of my eye to end of my brow. I also didn't go too close to the insides of my eye, or too far below it, which I think makes things look neater and brighter.


It's certainly not perfect. My eye and mouth spikes are still a little sloppy and not as opaque as I'd like. I should probably just use liquid eyeliner for that rather than pencil. I also notice there's a spot in my hairline that's still noticeably pink. And I'm just so damn sloppy when it comes to applying lip color. But overall, I'm really happy with this improvement. Not only do I think it looks closer to the Brandon Lee original, I think I look prettier in it. Never going to get mad at that!

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For a while now I've had a bee in my bonnet about putting together a costume, maybe even something that would could as a cosplay, for a gender-swapped version of the Crow. Being a good little goth deep in my soul, I've always been a fan of the Brandon Lee movie; I know it's not quite as sacred as others of my stripe and generation often see it, but I think it's good, and I've always liked the look. Though I don't goth it up very often anymore, I still have a fondness for it, and I thought maybe I could do a photoshoot or something with whatever I put together.

While I've got plenty of goth clothes still lying around-- and they still fit, because I'm in EVEN BETTER SHAPE NOW than I was in college, thank you very much --the biggest challenge was what to do about the makeup. So I decided to finally experiment with doing my own translation of the look from the film. Brandon Lee's version looks like this:


I don't think I want to replicate it exactly. Though back when I was doing my goth makeup, I basically did the plain white face, but I have soft features and now I think the plain white makes me look a little soft and moony. I wanted to contour a little bit, just to keep my cheekbones. I think the angular look suits the character and the style anyway. The trouble, as I discovered when I tried to do it when I dressed as Neil Gaiman's Death, is that it risks falling into corpsepaint territory pretty quick, and I'm not exactly going for the skull look. And I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to contouring even when trying to do it on my actual skin.

First I applied a layer of white greasepaint. Then I took black eyeshadow and tried to carve out my cheekbones, narrow my jawline, take down my forehead, and slim down my nose. I wanted to eliminate any softenness or broadness, as lean and narrow better suits my aesthetic of goth. I'd like to highlight, but I didn't currently have much in the way of product that could look lighter than the white greasepaint. I tried to use pale eyeshadow, but ended up just adding extra swipes of greasepaint between my eyebrows, down my nose, and on top of my cheekbones. Then I blacked out my eyes with shadow, liner, and mascara. I even mascaraed my eyebrows to make them darker. I don't currently have black lipstick, so I just used an eyeliner crayon. The signature lines on his mouth and eyes I struggled with. First I tried the crayon, but it wasn't very precise, so I went over it with a felt-tip eyeliner pen.

Then I parted my hair down the middle and took some pictures. Here are the results:


It's not bad; it's definitely in the ballpark. It's tough to contour on white face, as every little bit of black out of place shows up. I kept trying to take it down with more greasepaint and then build it back up. Blending was tough, so I'm not totally pleased with it. I also think I suffer from not having the best products. I am most unhappy with the eye and mouth lines. My eyeliner did not make a deeply pigmented black line, so it's smeary rather than sharp like his.


I will have to iterate more. First thing I'll do next time is apply more than one layer of greasepaint. I think I can get it more opaque and plain white that way. Also I'll apply the contour more slowly, building up the darkness a little bit at a time. I might be able to make it seem more like shadow rather than just dark swipes across my face. I struggle with that in regular makeup contouring as well.


I am definitely getting better products as well. I think that will help with the opacity of the lines. I NEED A GODDAMN BLACK LIPSTICK SINCE I DON'T SEEM TO HAVE ONE ANYMORE. And I could use some nice white eyeshadow, maybe to use as highlight. I may want to try at least once to do it without contour and see how it looks. Still afraid of looking like a big bland featureless moon that way, but I used to do it that way when I went goth and liked how it looked then. I don't know if the evolution of makeup has changed my tastes too much, though. We'll have to see.

And now, I'll give you the classic Crow stare:

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I really need to overhaul my personal website, I slapped it together years ago so that it would exist in case anybody wanted to look up me or my work, telling myself I'd improve it later when I had a minute. But I never really got around to it, and as it is, it doesn't look very slick. I'd like to make it look a little more aesthetic and professional. I'm no web designer, but I did put together and it looks okay, so I can probably do a little better than the thrown-together version I've got now.

Now I'll tell you a kind of funny story about my personal website. A while ago I wrote a post on Captain America's hair in The Winter Soldier, and it's easily the most popular post on there. It gets more hits and comes up in more Internet searches than any of the others. Sure, it's partially because it's the only one that deals with a popular branded character. But it gets a LOT of hits specifically from people searching his hairstyle in that film.

But what cracks me up is probably NONE of these people are searching for what that post actually is-- an exegesis on what that styling tells us about the character from a narrative standpoint. I'd bet money that every single person searching that wants information on how to imitate that hairstyle, or what to tell their stylist in order to get it. That post has NOTHING in how to do that hair, only what I think that hair "means" as character information. Which is interesting to only the very tiny subset of the population that cares about the semiotics of costume design as a storytelling tool.

It cracks me up that the far and away most popular post in the site is probably enjoyed by literally zero of the people that were drawn to it. 😝

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I've been wanting to create a drag look for myself for a while now, and I finally got around to doing a little experimenting this weekend. At the moment I'm calling my male persona "Alexander Brandy"-- because Alexander is my favorite male name, and I like drag names that are puns.

I haven't done that much yet and I'm going to have to perfect a lot of things. So I give you Alexander Brandy, mark 1. I've cut my head out because it's not masculinized in any way and I don't want it to distract:

I COULD NOT seem to get a great picture of myself, but these will do for now. I bought a pair of men's slacks and a men's dress shirt that were the closest to my size I could find. I want a full suit eventually, but I couldn't find anything that wasn't ridiculously huge on me, so this is what I went with for now. The shoes are from my dress shoe collection I use for the Mrs. Hawking wardrobe, and the tie was from somewhere in my costuming. I didn't have a men's belt, so I just used my plainest black leather one.

Underneath it, I put on a camisole and then bound my chest down with an ace bandage. I didn't do it anywhere near properly, but just quickly to get a look at things. Lucky for me, when I do it right I can get pretty much board-flat. I also bought a padded bra which I cut in half and used it to pad out my shoulders. As you can see, my hips are pretty flat in these trousers, as honestly they're not that round naturally. However, I think I had the belt too tight, as it drew the waistband of the pants in too much to emphasize what roundness is there. The padded shoulders help create the rudiments of a masculine triangle shape that I'd like for my upper body.

It's not bad for a start. The shirt in particular is too baggy, which makes it bell out in the back and gape at the neck. I suppose I shall be continually vexed by the fact that I'll never be the kind of man I find most attractive as I'm just too small, but I would like to do more to create that triangle-shaped torso, while not making the taper of my waist emphasize the swell of my hips. In that case, I have to make sure my hips appear to drop directly from the narrowest part of the waist. Not sure how to do that-- some kind of padding? The trousers are a hair too long so they're not quite breaking where they're supposed to, though honestly a lot of men wear them like that. The tie looks too short for some reason, even though it's hitting my belt buckle like it should be. Perhaps it's just because I'M so short, I should lengthen it to lengthen my torso. As a woman I like when my legs look long in comparison, but I'm not sure what would look more masculine.

I'll have to do research on hair and makeup. I don't want to cut my hair, but I'd like to find some way to style and conceal the length of it. I'd love to do a photoshoot when I have the look down to where I want it. Any idea, particularly suggestions from more experienced drag kings, would be welcome!
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At the end of this week, all my enormous commitments for the last several months will be fulfilled. I am going to have a very light summer, which I am incredibly glad and excited for, that even begins with basically a three-week break even from my day job in the gap between spring and summer trimesters. So I practically have a summer vacation, like back when I was in school!

I don’t want to LOAD MYSELF UP WITH COMMITMENTS RAWR. That’s my normal MO with any free time, and I know I need a break from deadlines, responsibilities, and appointments. But though I’d like to get more sleep and spend more evenings at home, I’d would like to use the time to work on stuff that’s fun and meaningful to me. So here’s some ideas of the stuff I’d like to pursue at least on a casual basis for the next three or four months.


Going back on my diet. I felt so good and looked freaking amazing on my smoothie and paleo diet, so I’m going to put myself back on it. It’s tough transitioning from sugar and carbs, but once I push through that I like how it makes me look and feel.

Start exercising again. Like my diet, my exercise regime had me in really great shape and health. I’d like to get back on that regular schedule for it. I may even return to circuit training appointments. I’ll be making less money for the next few months, though, so I’ll have to see if that’s in the budget.

Fix up my skin. My skincare routine has COMPLETELY gone by the wayside, and my acne is worse than it’s been in forever. I really need to get it sorted out. Having the time to take proper care of it made a big difference, and I’m hoping having less stress will help too.


Journal every day. My blog is really important to me and I’ve been too busy to keep it up. I want to go back to posting at least every week day, to have a record of my life and thoughts, as well as a way to keep present in the thoughts of the people who read it.

Throw a party. I love having parties, and I haven’t done it in forever. Maybe just the “cool people come over” kind or maybe with a theme. Like, a Fancy Party where everyone must dress up, or a Costume Party to make up for how I missed Halloween this past year.

Write seriously. I haven’t been doing much writing and it’s seriously slowed down my output. I want to not let the responsibilities of work or production make it so I’m no longer generating work. Not sure which project to focus on— Mrs. Hawking part 4? Adonis 2? Something else? —but I’d like to make some significant progress on something.

Learn how to do makeup. At least, better than I can right now. I’ve actually gotten pretty okay at basic, pretty, semi-natural makeup, but watching so much RuPaul’s Drag Race has gotten me fascinating with the transformative powers of makeup artistry and there’s a bunch of looks that I’d love to learn how to master.

Rework my Problem of the Protagonist theory. This is an idea I’ve been developing as a literary critic that I’ve recently done some mental refining on. I should do a rewrite of it to reflect the progress I’ve made. I think it’s actually a really useful idea and I’d like to make it as clear and precise as I can.

Write up the GM notes for my latest tabletop roleplay mod. I wrote this recently to run for inwaterwrit and some friends, and it came out better than it had any right to given how swamped I’ve been. Entitled “Silver Lines” and set in New York in 1889, it involved Mary and Arthur from the Mrs. Hawking series, and included some cool characters and interesting history. I’d like to write down the information needed to GM the thing so I don’t lose it.

Finish Lady Got Back. This is my idea for a parody of Baby Got Back about Victorian bustles. I have a lot that I like so far but it isn’t quite done yet. I’d love to finish it and then find somebody to record it in a perfect posh Victorian accent. That would be hilarious.

Rewatch all the Marvel movies. Just for fun. Not everything has to be work, right? That’s what vacation is for!


Changing my hair. I’ve still got this bee in my bonnet, I’m afraid. I was kind of disappointed by my attempt to go blonde, as it seemed to just fade to a light brown after like two washes, so it didn’t really satisfy my craving for something really different. Part of me wants to use the fact that I have no real need for a professional presentation this summer to try something really unusual— an unnatural color, an undercut? –and if I hate it, let it grow out or dye it back or whatever before the classes I’m teaching start this fall. But as usual, I’m nervous about not liking it, as I hate not feeling pretty, and the last attempt was really not worth the great expense.

Drag myself out. Related to my desire to develop greater facility with makeup, I’ve wanted to see if I could make myself look like a boy for a long time now. It might be fun to actually attempt it, with makeup and clothes and all that.

Work on my fashion designs. I know it’s not the best use of my time, because I don’t really have the time or resources to fully realize it in any way, but last October I started drawing up some ideas for a collection as a change of pace from my current creative work. It kind of has a post-apocalyptic aesthetic to it and I think I came up with some really cool stuff, so part of me would love to play around with it more and refine the ideas.

Make a costume of some kind. Don’t know what, but I haven’t been exercising my sewing or design skills enough recently. Maybe I should make something for a Hawking play, or maybe try my hand at a cosplay.

Record vocal diaries. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, like blogging by voice rather than by text. I might start with stuff I’ve already written just to try it, and then branch into doing podcast-like new things on various topics. Maybe I’d review stuff, or just do new blog entries that way.

So that’s all the stuff I’m considering. Almost certainly won’t do all of it, and maybe new ideas will occur to me. But I’m really looking forward to having a lower-key life for a while, where I can do stuff that seems fun rather than just stuff that’s become a responsibility.
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A new gallery of images is available on!

Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016, Act I

Photography by John Benfield
Costume design by Jennifer Giorno
Makeup design by Jessicalee Skary
Set design by Bernie Gabin
Production design by Phoebe Roberts

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"The color of Vivat Regina"

I’ve always loved the potential for storytelling in the choices one makes in costume design. In Mrs. Hawking, we used a series of oppositional color pairings to make statements about the characters and their circumstances. In Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016, with the help of costume designer Jennifer Giorno, we devised a new palette to support the new story.




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Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina will be performed on May 7th as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016 in Waltham, MA.
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I was thinking this week how much I would enjoy teaching a class about how to design costumes. Not a building or construction sort of class, but one where the focus was on the theory of how to come up with costuming that supports the narrative of whatever medium it is part of.

I would talk about the various ways costumes tell a story-- how to use the color, shape, textures, and cultural signifiers to convey information. I'd go over how many media costume design is relevant in, from theater, to film and television, to animation, to roleplaying, to static photography, to graphic novels. I would discuss how differing media all have different practical requirements, such as how things on stage must read from far away, how a motion picture camera tends to flatten out some details while highlighting others, and in animation a costume has to deal with the demands of a moving image. I would talk about everything you'd have to consider when choosing costumes, both in the greater story as well the nature of the particular character, including personality, milieu, time period, class, taste, and position in the world. I'd go into the principles of period costuming, not just the historical knowledge you have to have, but the process of adaptation, to the needs of the project as well as the effect you want it to have on the audience. I'd mention how costumes have to work not just in isolation but with the other costumes, not to mention the other aspects of production design, and how that interaction works.

I can imagine the projects I'd assign. Pick an example of costume design that already exists and explain how it supports the narrative. Choose a dramatic work and come up with a design scheme for it, explaining the reasoning behind your choices. Choose a period of history and analyze the elements that are most emblematic of it, that must be captured in order to convey the feel. Adapt a historical costume and explain what choices you made in the adaptation. Final project: actually design a costume, pulling together whatever elements you need to convey your ideas, and then write about your process of deciding on each element.

It would be fun, and I would be good at that. I wonder if a school would ever let me do it. I don't have a degree in it, but I've studied it a LOT on my own, and I have a lot of practical experience. I should keep my eyes open for any chance to pitch it to someone, be it a university I'm working for, or an adult education program, or anything like that.
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No, this isn't me making good on my threat to rhapsodize over each of Chris Evans's individual attractive features in turn. Okay, there's a little of that in here, but I swear I have more of a point. This is about costume design.

If you're like me, and you are closely attuned to the tiniest details of the presentation of the most physically desireable man in existence, you may have noticed that Steve Rogers's hair changes between his original 1940s look introduced in the first Cap movie...

...and the updated look in The Winter Soldier.

(Yes, those are all from a personal collection in my photo library.)

Or maybe you (like Bernie, who has already been subjected to this rant) didn't notice the styling of his hair at all. But I actually think it was a significant design choice, with a lot of meaning in it, and it's a change I'm not sure I'm on board with.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Cap's hair, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. Whether old-fashioned or modern, short, blond, and styled is my favorite look for the man who IS just about my favorite way anything looks in the universe. So from a plain prettiness standpoint, I'm cool with it. But from a costuming standpoint... I'm not sure I buy it.

Hear me out!

Look at THIS hairstyle they chose to use in Winter Soldier in particular. First of all, it's noticeably modern, particularly in contrast to the sideswept, side-parted, and likely pomaded 1940s good boy look we were introduced to him with. I know why they chose to update it. Probably partially to take advantage of Evans's boy-next-door good looks, but also, like all costuming and styling choices, to tell you something about the character. In this case, I think it's to show he's making an effort to adapt to the present day, to not live in the past. That's borne out in his acknowledgement of all the good changes since the 1940s, and his effort to learn about current culture.

But what bugs me is not that he has adopted a modern hairstyle-- it's that it's THIS hairstyle. 'Cause that look? Is NOT a roll-out-of-bed, low-effort, natural look. It's not even the Hollywood version of how average men wear their hair, where all the work of styling and product applied are deliberately concealed in order to create the illusion of natural hair. THAT hair is a clearly, obviously, carefully curated, meticulously designed, faux-messy style involving a lot of work and hair gel, associated with young, contemporary men who not only care about fashion and appearance, but about giving off a hip, current vibe to the people who see them.

I am a costume designer. I believe very strongly that truly good costuming (as with all aspects of production design) helps to tell the story. So the baggage the audience attaches to the clothing and styling of the characters should give them information about the characters and narrative.

So, diegetically... why would Cap have that? Now, he might not a be a stranger to styling product. He went into the ice a bit too early for the wet look of the 1950s, but he was probably pretty used to pomading things down as a matter of routine. But this modern look? Is LABOR INTENSIVE, and involves a fair bit of skill to execute those soft spikes and artful back sweep that's just the right height. In order to wear hair like that, he would not only have to put in the not-inconsiderable time and effort to do it every day, he'd have to deliberately learn how. Where from? I get the idea that he'd choose something more modern to indicate his attempt to update to the present day. But does he really strike you as the kind of guy who'd choose a high-maintenance style that could say anything from "trendster," "vanity," "metro," or even "douchebag"? I could see Steve, with his respectful, good-boy military background, wanting to be neat and turned out, but I don't see him as hip or invested in preening. To give you an idea, taken from this most excellent video, this is how a 1940s young man with a little bit of daring and vanity did his hair to be eye-catching:

Compare that to Steve's wartime look. Clearly he's a much more modest guy than that.

It's not that big a deal. Probably most people didn't even notice. And hell, other aspects of his presentation have more to do with his status in a superhero and the attendant stylistic choices-- I also doubt a truly diegetic Steve would wear his clothes that tight either.

But tight costumes are part of the superhero genre, Steve's extreme physique is likely going to fill out ANY article of clothing, and Hollywood is sure as hell going to show off that exquisite heroic figure. I'm the LAST PERSON ON GOD'S BLESSED EARTH to complain to you about that. Hell, I like the fanon joke that all the ladies at SHIELD told him that in the future, everyone wears their clothes that way.

But the hair bugged me. I felt like you could have communicated "Steve is trying to update" without making an out-of-character choice.
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In my hero's boast, I laid out everything that I have to do from now until the end of the year. It's a long list, a fairly overwhelming prospect, but I am determined to conquer it.

This weekend, Dana Hall's fall show went up, which I did the costuming for. Today we will strike the set and properties, and with that, the project will be completed.


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I was Betty Draper for Halloween this year, and I was pretty pleased how my costume turned out.

I used Mad Style,'s examination of costuming of Mad Men, to figure out how to create a look that would be iconically Betty. Floral patterns in blue and white were a frequent part of her wardrobe, and I wanted early season Betty, which meant a full skirt with a close bodice. So I dug around in thrift stores until I found a sundress with those features. I took it in a bit at the sides to make it fit better and to flare out the skirt a little more, but I wish I had done it even moreso. This promotional image was my primary inspiration.

For the accessories, I wore my costume pearls, my pearl stud earrings, my grandmother's ring to act as a wedding ring, and I bought a white beaded evening bag. I wanted a low-heeled white pump of some kind, and I found a very vintage looking pair with a crisscross strap. I put a short crinoline under the skirt to make it fuller. I even dug out this old-fashioned girdle I had for authenticity in the silhouette. A paper cigarette to wave around all night completed the look.

The only thing I didn't manage was Betty's hairstyle. Even though I dyed my hair blonder, it never got as light as January Jones's, and that tight, curled Grace Kelly-like style was just utterly beyond my skills. I've never been very good with hair at the best of times, much less something so labor-intensive as that. So I just put it up in a headband. A sixties look, actually, but Betty's look was always stuck in the fifties, so it wasn't quite right for the character. Overall, though, I was happy with the costume and enjoyed gesturing with my paper cigarette and making Betty bitchface.

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So I did what I was threatening to do, changed my hair color for the first time in my life. Because I wanted to be Betty Draper for Halloween but don’t have the right coloring for it, the idea occurred that maybe I could use the costume as an excuse to change it. The idea, once pondered, of a change seemed nice, not just for the costume but to try something new. I was nervous, because I was really afraid it wasn’t going to come out, and some stylists warned me off because of how big the transition was going to be. But you should do something drastic with your hair once in your life, and I never have. So, repeating to myself the mantra that it’s just hair, it grows back, I took the plunge.

I am actually pretty happy with it! It is noticeably a different color, not just a different shade of brown, and doesn’t have that brassy falseness a lot of brown-to-blonde dye jobs turn out. It’s honestly not exactly what I wanted— I was hoping for something a little lighter, a little more golden –and it’s not quite Betty’s color. But one Halloween costume is just the excuse, not the point, and I will take looking good over trying and failing for perfection. I was also concerned that my eyebrows would look odd still being so dark, but now that I think of it my mom's were darker than her hair too. For reference, here's the brown I was previously, in case the difference isn't obvious.

My younger self would be very surprised this was the direction I went in. But my tastes have gotten blonder as I’ve gotten older. I used to be drawn almost strictly to brunet men, but these days I’m finding blonds catch my eye more and more. I don’t know if it’s because of my favorite look for Chris Evans, or if my love for it is symptomatic of the larger pattern. Though I’ve always admired the looks of a number of blond women. I’ve always adored crearespero’s wavy golden hair, and that feature of course naturally made it into my visualization of Mrs. Hawking. There tends to be a particular shade I’ve gone for— not too dishwater, not too platinum, but that medium gold is my favorite.

And then, of course, there’s my mother. My ur-blonde, the first beautiful woman in my life. I remember when I was very small, wondering what I would look like as a grownup, and having a tough time picturing it for some reason because I wasn’t blonde like her. She was also the origin of my admiration for blondes with green eyes, a feature that Frances and therefore Mrs. Hawking share.

I’ve been working to remake myself in a way recently. The shape of my life, generally, but specifically my body. The diet and exercise have been to really to make me become more like what I feel is my true self. But this hair thing doesn’t feel really ME, not really PHOEBE. I thought that might make me uncomfortable. I’ve never been much of an experimenter before. I tend to find myself always working to get to the place I want to be, rather than seeing what possibilities are out there and trying them on knowing they won’t all be forever. So it’s very unlike me to make a change in the service of being something other than what I want to truly be. But I find I’m okay with it right now. It’s fun for right now, it makes me smile and shakes things up a little. Overall I like my natural hair better for me. But this is a nice change of pace.

I wonder if, now that I’ve made the transition, if I could make it more the blonder shade I imagined. I don’t want to over-process it. There was no bleach in this treatment, which I was told spared my hair a lot of damage. I also don’t feel like dealing with that now. But I’m curious, now that I know it’s possible to change at all without completely wrecking things.
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"Costume interviews with Jenn Giorno - Mary's new ballgown"

In our first production at Arisia '15, we were very generously lent our leading ladies’ eveningwear by the costume company Pendragon Costumes. They are gorgeous and beautifully made, and we were really grateful to have them.


But for the recent performance at the Watch City Steampunk Festival ’15, we had to find alternatives to use. Given the elaborateness of Victorian ballgowns, and the fairly punishing quick costume changes I wrote into the script, that posed a pretty big challenge for our costume designer, Jennifer Giorno. When I interviewed Jenn about her design process, Mary’s dress proved a perfect example of how she attacked that particular problem.

Circe Rowan as Mary

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Did you admire the lovely Victorian costuming in our production of Mrs. Hawking? It was the work of Jennifer Giorno, our primary designer and the actress who portrayed Grace Monroe, and my very dear friend. She, like me, believes very strongly in the power of costuming to help tell the story and define the characters.


I had the chance to sit down with Jenn and ask her how she approached the fairly challenging task of emulating historical fashions on a tight budget that had to stand up to the rigors and quick changing of theater. She had some fascinating things to say about the process, on a wide variety of costuming issues! So I'll be breaking it into parts, and today's section will be on one of my favorites, the menswear!

The menswear of Mrs. Hawking was designed after the very regimented styles worn in Victorian England. There was a separate uniform for respectable gentlemen's daywear, the morning and frock suits, and eveningwear, the white and black tie tuxedos. It's a very visually recognizable style, so it would be clear if we did it wrong. Given that we were working mostly with found, borrowed, and thrifted items, it's amazing just how dapper our gentlemen turned out!

2.2. "Why, yes, sounds a capital idea."

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"Act II photo gallery by John Benfield from Mrs. Hawking at WCSF '15"

Photos of Act II of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival '15 now have been posted in our gallery section! Courtesy of John Benfield's ready camera!

2.2. "Looks to be a service knife."
2.2. "Looks to be a service knife."

2.5. Battle of the stick weapons.
2.5. Battle of the stick weapons.

2.6. "I hear you help women in rough spots."
2.6. "I hear you help women in rough spots."

So check out the second half of the photos of our show! And, if you didn't get a chance to see the first half, they have their own gallery. And, if you'd just like to get a good look at our characters in their costumes, we have a fabulous character portrait gallery taken by Damian Hickey.

Thanks so everyone whose hard work made these beautiful images come together!
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Thanks to Damian Hickey, the CDA photographer at the Watch City Steampunk Festival, we now have a beautiful gallery of in-character portraits from our most recent performance of Mrs. Hawking!

Francis Hauert as Lord Brockton
Francis Hauert as Lord Brockton

Brian Dorfman as Colchester
Brian Dorfman as Colchester

Circe Rowan as Mary
Circe Rowan as Mary

These shots are really gorgeous, and I'm very proud of the cast for their ability to evoke their characters in their modeling. Not to mention Jennifer Giorno's lovely costume design! This is the first section of our new Gallery page, which will be soon followed by shots from the performance itself. But for now, enjoy these gorgeous portraits by Damian Hickey, and see how a combination of good photography, talented actors, and beautiful costuming can capture the spirit of these characters.

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My favorite blog these days is Tom and Lorenzo: Fabulous and Opinionated, a style and media criticism site that really attacks the subject from a perspective I can get behind. They are a married couple, one with a background in film and the other in fashion, who do commentary on the world of fashion and have a roster of television that they review. I’m very interested in fashion design, but I get frustrated with the associated toxic consumerism, body image, and superficiality. From Tom and Lorenzo, however, their knowledge and perspective keeps it in the realm of criticism of the art of dressing and clothing design.

Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez are extremely educated and intelligent. They predicate their work on the ideas that clothing is communication, dressing and design are art forms, and different circumstances call for different approaches. They make critiques as to how things look and what a given person might have looked better in, but they openly acknowledge that fashion should be fun and that in the real world people should wear what they want. They never criticize people’s bodies or looks, only how they are styled and how their clothing, hair, and makeup choices affect their appearance. They are aware of issues of class, race, and gender, which influences their perspective, and they make special effort to feature people of color and events that are specific to them.

Where they really shine, in my opinion, is their television crit. Tom in particular— being a nerd with a film degree —is incredibly observant of what’s going on in a particular TV show, and always has something incisive to say about the story meaning, the design choices, and the value thereof. They’re super-good about always taking a show on its own merits, but never dismissing anything just for its genre or conventions. I’d really enjoyed what they’ve had to say on many diverse shows, from Mad Men to American Horror Story to Daredevil. They particularly shine when they’re analyzing well-done costume design. Their series Mad Style, which examines the storytelling contribution of the truly excellent wardrobe on the show Mad Men, is not only freaking fascinating, it really is an education experience on how really narrative costuming is done.

I highly, highly recommend their blog for their intelligence, their perspective, and their taste. Anyone who loves to examine how various types of design speak and tell stories is going to love their work.
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"Baby got bustle"

Oh. My. God. Vicky, look at her bustle.

Mrs. Hawking goes up this Saturday, and we're in tech week! That means making sure all the technical elements are finalized. Part of the fun of our Victorian setting is getting to dress our actors in the eye-catching styles of the period. Our costumer Jennifer Giorno is very concerned with capturing the authentic look for this time and place. Because of this, you may have noticed that our ladies have got an awful lot of junk in the trunk. Because Jenn, you see, likes big bustles.


She likes big bustles and she cannot lie.
You Victorians can't deny
That when a lady walks in with a corseted waist
And a bustle made of lace
You get sprung!

Read the rest of the entry on!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed on Saturday, May 9th at 2PM and 6PM at the Center for Digital Arts at 274 Moody Street, Waltham as part of the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival.
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New post on!

"Tuxedos, fine ladies, and ruffians – more costuming for Mrs. Hawking"

Jennifer Giorno, our amazing costumer, put together such a gorgeous collection of looks for our production at Arisia 2015. Historical Victorian dress, particularly for men, was very strictly regimented, but we still wanted to balance that with creating a visually engaging stylization that spoke of our characters' personalities as well as provide texture to the world they live in. In addition to our leads, Jenn assembled a beautiful collection of looks to round out our supporting cast. Many pieces came from our personal collections, while others were very generous loans from our friends Lise Fracalossi and Nicholas Magruder.

Read the rest of the entry and see the rest of the looks on!
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New post on!


Photos by Jennifer Giorno and John Benfield

"The ballroom scene by Pendragon Costumes"

When I was first writing Mrs. Hawking, I knew a big part of the appeal of the story would be the trappings and the spectacle. The look of the steampunk setting would add a great deal of gloss to the tale I was trying to tell, and I wanted to take advantage of everything that setting would afford me. And you can't tell a grand caper set in Victorian London without a few gorgeous period costumes.

Though I pitched in with a few looks for the Arisa 2015 production, mostly ones I’d already put together for the Mrs. Hawking photoshoots, our primary costume designer was Jennifer Giorno, also the actress playing Grace Monroe. So the challenge of putting together Victorian ballroom looks that could be changed in and out of in very short order fell on her. Not an easy task on our budget! But she got a great idea to see if we could a costume company to agree to sponsor our production by lending us some pieces. That is where Pendragon came in, a maker of fine costuming with a fabulous selection of steampunk and Victorian looks in their Mad Girl Clothing line.


In return for credit in our program, they very generously agreed to lend us three pieces of handmade eveningwear for our leads. It was an incredible thing to happen to us, as it gave us the opportunity to have some of the most important costumes in the play be particularly beautiful, as well as practical for the demands of the quick change.


A full Pendragon outfit can be seen here on Samantha LeVangie in her role as Mary. It was particularly important that Mary come out looking exquisite-- transformatively so --as an indication of Mary's potential to become a powerful, brilliant, dyanmic person. Jenn asked the company if it would be possible to get Mary’s garments in blue, as I’ve long imagined it to be Mary’s signature color.


The other piece Pendragon so graciously lent us was for Mrs. Hawking, modeled here by Frances Kimpel. This was also a Corset with Bustle, a particularly useful piece not only because it looked so cool, but because its toggle-hooks running down the front assisted in making the quick change a little easier. Because Mrs. Hawking is a widow, of course it had to be in black.

Read the rest of the entry and see the rest of the pictures on!


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