Amanda B. ’21 as John N. Fail, comforting his dying dog friend (Hailey T. ’23).

Westridge  Theatre Department

(left to right) Devon S. ’21 as the Grandfather Clock and Athena N. ’23, Althea L. ’20, and Mim H. ’22 as the Gramophone.

Westridge Theatre Department

Far left and third from the left: Chorus member Marley M. ’22 and Jenny June Fail, played by Sophia R. ’20.

Westridge Theatre Department

Costuming the Chorus in

Failure: A Love Story

Jamie G. ’20 as Mortimer Mortimer and Julia S. ’21 as December the parakeet.

Westridge Theatre Department
Emerson.JPG
November 18, 2019

Westridge Theatre’s main stage play for the 2019-20 season was unlike any before it; Failure: A Love Story is narrated by a multitudinous chorus that counts animals and furniture among its ranks, taking away the concept of main and minor characters. Starring clockworks, a vaguely orchestral gramophone, and an exotic menagerie—all portrayed by 20 actors—Failure was an interesting exercise in costuming versatility. Curious about this aesthetic balancing act, Spyglass sat down with Io Hawk, its costume designer, and Brandon Kruhm, its production director.

Failure’s script is heavily concerned with the motif of time: the titular Fail family is clockmakers born and bred, and life and death are both spoken of, often, in terms of transience and passage. The ticking of clocks underscores most dialogue. Ms. Hawk described her designs for the show as, “‘20s but not really,” and “timeless and clean.” “We were talking a lot about Grandma’s house,” Mr. Kruhm added, perhaps referring to the sepia-toned, in-character family photos decorating the set or the vintage-y prints and fabrics.

 

 

 

 

The majority of performers in Failure were not playing human beings, but Ms. Hawk and Mr. Kruhm had a non-literal vision from the start, though research into past productions turned up very straightforward interpretations. 

“We never wanted to have people dressed up as clocks or dogs,” according to Ms. Hawk. “It would have been distracting.” The animal costumes were more loosely “inspired” by their models, and “the costumes were more support for the idea of the clocks, to distinguish them from each other. … I knew that Mr. Kruhm was going to make the actors use their physicality, so I didn’t have to make it explicit,” Ms. Hawk explained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ms. Hawk’s a genius, I don’t know what else to say. … She definitely came up with the idea of the clocks being dressed more like clock shop/factory workers,” Mr. Kruhm added. 

Another interesting aspect of Failure’s costuming audience members might not have caught on their first watch is the “suggestion that the chorus is made up of the ghosts,” Mr. Kruhm mentioned. “I wanted to play with the idea of chorus costumes that somehow align with the main characters.” For example, the chorus member who plays the Cuckoo Clock (Marley M. ‘22) mirrors the costume of Fail sister Jenny June in her hair bow and color scheme.

 

Failure’s chorus might have presented an unusual challenge, but Mr. Kruhm and Ms. Hawk rose to the occasion to create an unforgettable fall show.

(from left to right) Jenna H. '20, Rowena H. '20, Mirelle L. '21, Marley M, '22 and Amelia H. '23

Westridge Theatre Department