Term Paper: Theoni v. Aldredge

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Theoni V. Aldredge

Discussion of Theoni V. Aldredge: One of America's Most Gifted Costume Designers

According to one admirer, Theoni V. Aldredge is one of America's most gifted costume designers. To date, her stage credits have included "I Can get it for You Wholesale," "Mr. President," "Anyone can Whistle," "A Chorus Line," "Annie," "42nd Street," "Dreamgirls," "Chess" and "The Secret Garden." When designing costumes for a period piece, it is not unusual for Aldredge to alter original fashions to make her designs more palatable for modern audiences. To determine how Aldredge achieves this goal, this paper provides a background and overview of the designer, followed by relevant biographical information. A discussion concerning Aldredge's alteration of original fashions for contemporary audiences will be followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview. In the more than 40 years since her auspicious New York debut designing costumes for Geraldine Page in "Sweet Bird of Youth," Theoni V. Aldredge has worked with an enormous range of stellar talents on the American stage, ranging from Arthur Laurents and David Merrick ("I Can Get it for You Wholesale") to Joseph Papp (with a 20-year run as resident designer at Papp's Public Theatre) and Michael Bennett ("A Chorus Line, Ballroom" and "Dream Girls" (Lampert-Greaux 2002). Other biographers enthuse that: "Stately and charmingly masterful, Theoni V. Aldredge has a presence that often awes and inspires her leading ladies. She has worked with all of Hollywood's top actors and has enjoyed association with Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Midler, Angela Landsbury, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Lauren Bacall, Sigourney Weaver, and many others" (Theoni V. Aldredge 2004).

Among Aldredge's recent projects include the 2001 Broadway revival of Follies to new plays at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey. "What I love about the theatre," Aldredge says, "is that you don't do it done. it's the collaborative team that's so wonderful" (Lampert-Greaux 37). Aldrege's most notable design credits include "Skyscraper" (1965), "A Chorus Line" (1975), Annie (1977), "Ballroom" (1978), "The Grand Tour" (1979), "Barnum" (1980), "42nd Street" (1980), "Dreamgirls" (1981), "La Cage aux Folles" (1983), "Chess" (1985), "Teddy and Alice" (1987), the 1990 black version of "Oh, Kay!" And "The Secret Garden" (1991); however, these productions are just a mere sampling of this designer's prolific repertoire which extends to hundreds of productions, including the sampling shown in Table 1 below:

Table 1. Timeline of Theoni V. Aldredge's Designs on Broadway [Source: Owen 1987 and Hischak 1993].

1959: Sweet Bird of Youth (Miss Geraldine Page's Clothes. With Anna Hill Johnstone); Nervous Set, the; Flowering Cherry; Silent Night, Lonely Night

1960: Distant Bell, a;

1959: Sweet Bird of Youth (Miss Geraldine Page's Clothes. With Anna Hill Johnstone); Nervous Set, the; Flowering Cherry; Silent Night, Lonely Night

1960: Distant Bell, a; Best Man, the 1961: Devil's Advocate, the; I Can Get it for You Wholesale; Mary, Mary; First Love

1962: Mr. President; TchinTchin

1963: Strange Interlude (Mils Geraldine Page's Costumes. With Noel Taylor)

1964: Any Wednesday; Anyone Can Whistle; Three Sisters, the (With Ray Diffen); Luv Poor Richard; Ready When You Are 1965: Minor Miracle; Skyscraper; Cactus Flower; Playroom, the 1966: First One Asleep, Whistle; Time for Singing, a; Delicate Balance.

1967: That Summer-That Fall; You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running; Illya Darling; Little Murders; Daphne in Cottage D; Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald the 1968: Portrait of a Queen; Weekend; Only Game in Town, the; Before You Go; I Never Sang for My Father

1969: Billy; Zelda; Gingham Dog, the; No Place to Be Somebody

1971: Incomparable Max, the 1972: Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, the; Sticks and Bones; Voices; That Championship Season; Much Ado About Nothing; Two Gentlemen of Verona

1973: Au Pair Man, the: No Hard Feelings; Nash at Nine

1974: Find Your Way Home; American Millionaire, an; in Praise of Love

1975: Chorus Line, a 1976: Belle of Amherst, the; Eccentricities of a Nightingale, the 1977: Annie; Threepenny Opera, the 1978: Ballroom

1979: Grand Tour, the; Break a Leg; I Remember Mama; Madwoman of Central Park West, the 1980: Clothes for a Summer Hotel; Barnum; 42nd Street; Onward Victoria

1981: Woman of the Year; Dreamgirls

1982: Ghosts; Little Family Business, a 1984: Rink, the 1987: Teddy and Alice

1988: Merlin; Private Lives; Corn Is Green, the; La Cage Aux Folles

1991: Secret Garden, the Aldredge has also worked extensively in film, television, ballet and opera. According to the Costume Designers Guild (2004), Aldredge's film credits include "Network," "The Eyes of Laura Mars," "The Rose," "Moonstruck," "Annie," "Ghostbusters," "Addams Family Values," "The First Wives Club," and "The Mirror has Two Faces" (Theoni V. Aldredge 2004).

In addition, Aldredge has designed costumes for the television productions of "After the Fall," "A Streetcar Named Desire,"* and television specials including "Cole Porter in Paris," "Barishnikov on Broadway," as well as a number of others; in addition, Aldredge also designed the costumes for the 1980, 1985, and 1987 productions of the Academy Award show (Theoni V. Aldredge 2004).

Biographical Information about Theoni V. Aldredge. Theoni V. Aldredge was born Theoni Athanasiou Vachilioti in Salonika, Greece on August 22, 1932 (Brennan 2004). Aldredge was educated at the American School in Athens and then at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. In fact, when it comes to incorporating color into her designs, Aldredge reports that she has a passion for pale lavender: "I use it in every show, often with pale blue and white. These are the colors of my country" (Lampert-Greaux 2002:38). She has designed extensively for stage and film as can be seen from a sampling of her productions at Appendix a. Aldredge's first professional designs were created over a half century ago for the Goodman Theatre in 1950 (Owen 1987). In 1957, Aldredge moved to New York City where she established a long association with Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival. Since that time, in New York alone, she had designed over 165 shows by 1987 (Owen 1987).

Aldredge is married to actor Tom Aldredge and is well-known for the quality of her designs* and her attention to period detail and heightened theatricality; as a result, she has won three Tony Awards** and 11 nominations. In 1969, the designer also won the Maharam Award for her designs for Peer Gynt. In addition, Aldredge has designed a number of films, in particular "The Great Gatsby," for which she was presented with an Academy Award (Barnes 1998). According to the Costume Designers Guild (2004), "The elegant sensuality of Mia Farrow as a flapper in 'The Great Gatsby' is one of the enduring images created by costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge. It was a look that won an Academy award for Ms. Aldredge and underscored her considerable talent in the film genre" (1).

In 2002, the Theatre Development Fund awarded a lifetime achievement award to Aldredge during their Irene Sharaff awards for costume design (Awards & Prizes 2002). The awards are given by Theatre Development Fund with support of the Tobin Foundation for Theatrical Arts, and are named after legendary costume designer Irene Sharaff and honor the art of costume design (Davis 2002). Upon being presented with the award, Aldredge said: "I am excited, as Irene Sharaff was an important influence in my life, a great designer, and my friend" (Lampert-Greaux 2002:37).

Rationale in Support of the Alteration of Original Fashions for Modern Audiences. According to Cole and Krich (1963), staging a theater production is not a one-time endeavor, but it is rather an iterative function that involves some trials and hits and misses. These authors note that in collaboration with the costume designer, stage directors must weave a complete picture of a scene together for the audience, including the entire spectrum of details that goes along with this ideal (Cole & Krich 1963). Many designers, though, believe that the delivery of costume sketches, a major portion of their own creative work is genuinely complete. "What is necessary, however, is an incomplete design; a design that has clarity without rigidity; one that could be called 'open' as against 'shut.' This is the essence of theatrical thinking: a true theatre designer will think of his designs as being all the time in motion, in action, in relation to what the actor brings to a scene as it unfolds" (Payne 1974:35).

According to Barbara Stratyner, curator for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, there are enormous technical challenges and creative processes that are involved in turning a designer's sketch into a finished costume. An exhibition at the library helped to illustrate the processes involved in the construction one costume, Norma Desmond pajamas and robe that were designed by Anthony Powell. These were interpreted by the curatorial staff with the designer's sketch; a muslin mock-up that was used to evaluate the garment's fit, proportion, and comfort; beading samples; and the finished garments (New York's Top Costume Shop Reveals Its Secrets 1996).

Even when all of these elaborate preparatory steps have been… [END OF PREVIEW]

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