Costume Designer Devon Painter previously designed productions of Cyrano, Macbeth, and Measure for Measure at the Folger before turning her talents to A Midsummer Night’s Dream this season. You can see costume renderings from her past Folger productions on her website.
From Devon –
From the beginning, Director Aaron Posner was interested in focusing this Midsummer on the actors; my job was to discover what the actors “type” was and reflect that in the design. Midsummer has three worlds that must be distinct to tell the story.
The Court: We wanted a reflection and a mix of cultures—something “made up” by mixing several cultures together. I used African prints in Hippolyta’s turban, draped her in an Indian Sarree, and gave her “tribal” jewelry that I bought in a recent trip to Mexico.
The Fairies: We worked quite a bit to get these to feel Magical, yet simple. The idea was that the fairies are the natural ones, and the humans were the ones who tried to “put on” their personalities, as we do when we choose the clothing that we wear.
The Mechanicals: The schoolgirl uniforms were an obvious and early choice for our mechanicals, but then I had to spend some time in rehearsal to discover what each girl would choose to wear going to the forest to rehearse the play. Many of the actors made Pinterest boards for me to view that they felt reflected the characters they were developing.
I designed the costumes for the play within a play while I was in rehearsal, watching the actors and Aaron rehearse it. It’s an intensely creative process, and allowed me to give the actors a sense of where they were heading as characters.
Bottom’s head: I had this idea early on, that Bottom’s transformation should not cover her face—but actually manipulate the actor’s face so that we could always see what she was thinking. Isn’t that the fun of being turned into an Ass? The hoof request is an idea that came out of rehearsal—and one I loved; how would this change affect what Bottom was doing in the bower? How would she use her hands if they were hooves? How would her walk change if her feet were hooves? These explorations led me to add more to the design, but always trying to keep it simple and be reflective of the actor.
Bonus! Listen to Midsummer Director Aaron Posner describe his inspiration for Bottom.