From wigs to shoes, Wayne’s Ste­fanow­icz cre­ates cos­tumes for the stage

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ruth Rovner Spe­cial to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

On­stage at the Lantern The­ater, a cast of seven presents the Philadel­phia pre­miere of “Red Vel­vet,” a com­pelling drama which fo­cuses on a key event in the his­tory of Lon­don the­ater. In 1833, New York born Ira Aldridge be­came the first black ac­tor to play Othello on a ma­jor Lon­don stage.

“Red Vel­vet” - ex­tended through Oct. 15 due to pop­u­lar de­mand - is about the ten­sions and con­flict­ing re­ac­tions to this event.

Janus Ste­fanow­icz of Wayne is not in the cast, but she had a key role in what the au­di­ence sees on the stage. As the cos­tume de­signer for the pro­duc­tion, she was re­spon­si­ble for every de­tail of the cos­tumes, from shoes to cloth­ing to wigs.

Ste­fanow­icz’s role be­gan when she read the script.

“I thought it was a won­der­ful script, and for me, it was a fab­u­lous op­por­tu­nity to re­search that time pe­riod and de­velop cos­tumes for his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy,” she said.

First Ste­fanow­icz set to work mak­ing sketches for all the cos­tumes - 16 in all be­cause some ac­tors wear dif­fer­ent cos­tumes for dif­fer­ent scenes. Once her sketches were ap­proved, she set to work find­ing every­thing needed for each cos­tume.

She or­dered some fab­rics on­line.

“There are great sites on­line which do 19th cen­tury re­pro­duc­tions,” she said. Other items were cho­sen from the Lantern The­ater’s stock sup­ply of cos­tumes.

A spe­cial chal­lenge in­volved cos­tumes for Liz Fil­ios, who plays three dif­fer­ent roles.

“I wanted to make sure that the sil­hou­ettes and fab­rics were dif­fer­ent for each role,” said Ste­fanow­icz. She cer­tainly suc­ceeded as au­di­ence mem­bers prob­a­bly don’t even re­al­ize it’s the same ac­tress for all three roles.

In one role, Fil­ios is a Pol­ish re­porter wear­ing a wig with blonde braids and a tai­lored sweater and skirt. In an­other role, she’s an ac­tress for the Lon­don play.

“She’s sort of young and fun-lov­ing,” said Ste­fanow­icz. “And I found a blouse on E-bay that was flo­ral and way more sexy than the sweater for her first cos­tume.”

As for the wig, she’s now a brunette with lots of curls “be­cause it goes with her char­ac­ter,” said Ste­fanow­icz.

In Fil­ios third role, she’s Mar­garet Aldridge, wife of the ac­tor. Now she’s a red­head.

“And she’s wear­ing a beau­ti­ful flo­ral cot­ton dress and a red rib­bon buckle belt,” said Ste­fanow­icz.

That dress was one of two that was made from scratch for the pro­duc­tion. The other was for Lau­ren Sowa who plays the role of lead­ing lady Ellen Tree. She wears a blue silky flow­ing dress - much more el­e­gant than the sim­pler cot­ton dress worn by Mar­garet Aldridge. Ste­fanow­icz pur­posely wanted the cos­tumes to show the dif­fer­ence in their so­cial sta­tus.

Be­sides the outer gar­ments, Ste­fanow­icz also made three corsets, which were typ­i­cally worn by Vic­to­rian women.

“We put bones be­tween two pieces of fab­ric,” Ste­fanow­icz said.

As for the male ac­tors, their cos­tumes in­cluded high col­lared shirts, trousers, and “an­kle boots.” Ste­fanow­icz bought these on­line at a site called Men’s His­toric Em­po­rium.

She also se­lected six wigs on­line. Then she turned them over to her wig de­signer.

“She did magic with them,” said Ste­fanow­icz. “She curled them, cut them, teased them, lifted and braided them.”

Once all the cos­tumes were as­sem­bled, the next step in­volves fit­tings for all the cast mem­bers as they also re­hearsed. Then every­thing had to be ready for “tech week,” when full dress re­hearsals take place and the tech­ni­cal de­tails are ironed out - in­clud­ing any prob­lems with cos­tumes.

Dur­ing this phase, Ste­fanow­icz sits in the au­di­ence, at­ten­tively watch­ing, tak­ing notes, and mak­ing re­vi­sions as needed.

“I check whether the hem’s too long, or whether the curls are block­ing her pro­file,” she said. And she’s al­ways pre­pared for the un­ex­pected - which hap­pened when the bones popped out of one of the corsets. The wardrobe man­ager promptly re­paired the prob­lem.

Ste­fanow­icz is again in the au­di­ence for previews, again at­ten­tive needed re­vi­sion.

But once open­ing night comes, her role is es­sen­tially over and she can sim­ply en­joy what’s un­fold­ing on the stage.

“Open­ing night is al­ways spe­cial,” Ste­fanow­icz said. “You start by putting a sketch on a piece of pa­per and then you fi­nally get to see it all be­come a re­al­ity. ”

Her achieve­ments have been rec­og­nized with three Bar­ry­more awards for Best Cos­tume De­sign. Be­sides her work for the Lantern The­ater com­pany, Ste­fanow­icz has worked for other the­ater com­pa­nies in Philadel­phia and in New York. She serves as res­i­dent cos­tume de­signer for Vil­lanova Univer­sity’s Theatre De­part­ment.

The award-win­ning de­signer says she’s al­ways pre­ferred a back­stage role. to any

PHOTO BY MARK GARVIN

Lau­ren Sowa, David Pica, Liz Fil­ios, David Bardeen, and For­rest McClen­don in Lantern The­ater Com­pany’s pro­duc­tion of Red Vel­vet, on­stage now through Oct. 15, 2017.

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