“Darling, I always wear black!” Designing costumes for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”

We are so thrilled with the design work that Hayley O’Brien, our Associate Costume Designer and Construction Coordinator, has sketched, sewn and built to make the characters in The Addams Family – A New Musical come to life. Hear from her about her particular design process for this spooky show!

What makes “The Addams Family – A New Musical” different from designs you’ve done in the past?

Designing The Addams Family is very, very different from previous shows I’ve done! This show is very unique since it is so dark, visually and in terms of comedy. Every member of the Addams family is traditionally dressed in dark tones, yet the humor and personality of each character is very playful and quirky, even light–as they joke about death! 

What creative inspiration did you draw from to make these designs?

During the design process the director and I really wanted to stay true to the iconic silhouettes of the original Addams family as our pop culture knows them. I referenced the illustrations of Charles Addams along with the 1964 TV show and, of course, the 1991 and 1993 films. For the Beineke family, I was mainly inspired by the classic 1950’s “All-American” family to create a distinct visual contrast between the two households that highlights their differing behaviors and tastes as well. In regards to the ancestors, I enjoyed looking through history with a costuming lens and focusing on time periods and silhouettes that would be distinct from one another and also plenty of movement for our actors to dance in.

What was rewarding about designing this show? What was challenging?

It was very rewarding to design this show with the production team and work with all actors, especially since this was the first show of the season I designed with our new Resident Actors. It was amazing watching our talented actors come in for fittings, put them in costume, then see how excited they were to transform into these characters. I really love this show, and it has been so rewarding to see it come to life and share the excitement with the rest of our cast, crew, and production team. 

The most challenging part was figuring out all the makeup for the show. Makeup and wigs are essential to creating these characters. And there’s a wide range: from spooky, glamorous makeup and a long black wig for Morticia to bald caps and full-head makeup coverage for Fester to turning a whole ensemble of actors into ghosts that are in head-to-toe grayscale! However, I found a lot of joy in this challenge of problem-solving and exploring all the possibilities!

What are you eager for audiences to see and notice in your designs when they come to the show?

I make many references to the original Addams Family that longtime fans of the characters will recognize. My interpretation infused a new variation to an old love. I am also eager to introduce the audience to a whole new group of characters: the Beineke family. The Addams are very dark and textural, while the Beinekes are brighter with pops of color. On top of that, there is an ensemble of dead, ghostly ancestors! Overall, I hope our audiences notice the fine details in every costume and enjoy this kooky group of characters!

(Left to right) Costume Designer Hayley O’Brien’s rendering of Gomez and Resident Actor Cedar Valdez as Gomez.

(Left to right) Costume Designer Hayley O’Brien’s rendering of Morticia and Resident Actor Eliza Knode as Morticia.

(Left to right) Costume Designer Hayley O’Brien’s rendering of Wednesday and Resident Actor Jenna Barricklo as Wednesday.

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky!” A closer look at the props for our production of “The Addams Family – A New Musical”

Aline Toloto, our super-talented new Properties Supervisor, has been working particularly hard on props for this huge upcoming show! Hear more about her work as a designer and the specificities of “The Addams Family – A New Musical” here:

What makes “The Addams Family – A New Musical” different from designs you’ve done in the past?

The direction we decided to go with the Properties Design Concept for the show was not about historical accuracy, but about how we could make fun props that feel like they would belong to the members of the Addams Family. That provided a great space for my creativity and imagination as an artist that sometimes, depending on the story we are telling, is not possible in other shows. 

What has been rewarding about designing this show? What has been challenging?

Connecting this answer with the previous, it’s been rewarding to be able to freely create this world of the Addams with our design team. Yet this freedom has also proven to be a challenge! We are constantly brainstorming and problem-solving–trying different things that sometimes don’t work as expected.

What are you eager for audiences to see and notice in your designs when they come to the show?

I believe the props are the “cherry on top” in theatre. In the world we create onstage it’s the little things that complement and bring life to the overall space. The goal is not to make the audience distracted by something exuberant, but the opposite: we aim for simple details that sometimes can be imperceptible to the audience. We collaborate with the actors and let them inspire the audience to believe in the story that is being told. 

What creative inspiration have you been drawing from to make these designs?

In one of my first meetings with the Scenic Designer he told me he was interested in a spooky concept–not scary-spooky but goofy-spooky! I loved the direction he desired for this design and kept that in mind throughout the process. We also established a muted color palette with grays, purples and blues for both scenery and props, letting the light and costume designs bring brighter colors into the space. 

Properties Supervisor Aline Toloto crafting a bear rug for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”
Properties Supervisor Aline Toloto’s process of building a rocketship prop for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”
Shop Manager Josh Teal holding a prop designed by Properties Supervisor Aline Toloto, with inner lights installed by Lighting Designer Caleb S. Garner.

Get a Sneak Peek at our Set Designs for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”

If there’s one thing that’s fun for a scenic designer, it’s a spooky set full of tricks and surprises. Adam Jehle, Charleston Stage’s Technical Director and Resident Scenic & Projector Designer, shares more about his design process for this quirky Halloween show:

What makes “The Addams Family – A New Musical” different from designs you’ve done in the past?

I haven’t done a show with so much outside content and source material before. In my research process I’ve found a treasure trove of ideas–I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going back and looking at the old comics, TV episodes, and movies to find inspiration to make a set design that blends the nostalgic with the new.

What creative inspiration have you been drawing from to make these designs?

The biggest inspiration I drew from was the original Charles Addams and Edward Gorey comics. Their use of texture and scale were striking to me, and I drew heavily on that idea. Another idea I found funny and interesting from the Gorey was the house being in such a dilapidated state, but to the Addams parents that was their perfect version of their house. So naturally peeling wallpaper and dirt stains were a fitting route I went down.

What has been rewarding about designing this show? What has been challenging?

I’ve felt so rewarded in seeing such a large scale show seamlessly come together thanks to everyone’s hard work and thanks to the talented cast, crew, and production staff. The team I work with in the scenic shop is nothing short of amazing, and it makes me so proud to see all that we can build when we come together.

On the flip side, ironically, the scale has been the biggest challenge. With so many locations set in this show, furniture, and props, The Addams Family – A New Musical makes for a massive design challenge to bring all those pieces together cohesively. 

What are you eager for audiences to see and notice in your designs when they come to the show?

I want the audience to leave thinking what they saw felt like the true “Addams Family,” with call backs to the original show and vintage comics. But also I want them to feel like the story and set they experienced was a fresh take on this classic series. Our Design Concept for the show is this phrase “Everything is not as it seems.” I hope audiences will take a good look at the set in each scene, because that very well may be true. You’ll be delightfully surprised by all the tricks we have up our sleeves!

Rendering of a scene for “The Addams Family – A New Musical” by Adam Jehle
A set in the process of building for “The Addams Family – A New Musical” by Adam Jehle

“Theatre as a Means for Connection:” Resident Actor Brietta Goodman on the Meaning of Live Theatre

We sat down with Brietta Goodman, a Season 45 Resident Actor, to hear her express how the power of live theatre has impacted her life as a human and an artist. Read on below:

I always enjoyed the performing arts as a child. It was a way for me to express myself freely as a person and as an artist. And with being the last of 8 siblings, it was my calling to be the artsy one. My first encounter with live theatre was seeing Phantom of the Opera at The Orpheum in Memphis, TN–needless to say, it was beautiful! That was the start of a tiny seed that sprouted my love for theatrics. I was a choir kid from middle school to college. Starting off, I participated in show choirs and several other ensembles throughout high school and college. My first love was music, and while it is still a big part of my life, overtime that love grew into live theatre. Aside from choir, my high school’s drama club was the most comfortable place where I felt safe and a sense of community with my peers. 

I did not pursue theatre until my second semester of freshman year in college when my professor, Sadie Shannon, said she wanted to take me to a musical theatre competition but that I had to be a theatre major in order to go. So, I changed my major from General Studies/Hospitality to Theatre. Being cast in my first musical that semester, Calvin Berger, was my first experience acting onstage, and I loved it. I enjoyed coming up with backstories for the characters and collaborating with so many talented people on and offstage. I was able to travel to New York for a week to participate in a week-long Broadway Intensive Bootcamp, which was the most eye-opening week of my college career. During that week, I realized that theatre was what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve never felt more passionate about creating and performing live theatre than in that week. 

My love has only grown for all the wonderful elements at work on and offstage that make live theatre so amazing. To me, live theatre means community, passion, and outreach. Everyone involved is so driven and dedicated to creating one final cohesive beauty of a production that the audience witnesses. It gives me more awareness about myself and about others that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Live theatre doesn’t have a barrier–it can reach and affect everyone in it and those who watch it. I am so grateful to be able to create and perform art with such a beautiful community here at Charleston Stage.

Brietta (she/her/hers) is ecstatic to be a Resident Actor with Charleston Stage this season! Originally from Horn Lake, Mississippi, she received an A.A. in Theatre from Northwest Mississippi Community College with credits including: Polly Benish in Play On!, Aida in Aida, and Ellen Van Oss in Two Rooms. Recently a graduate from University of Southern Mississippi with a B.A. in Theatre with credits including: Cathy Haitt in The Last Five Years, Bunny in Detroit ’67, and Lucy Grant in Bright Star. While at USM, she was an Irene Ryan Finalist and was awarded First Place in the Musical Theatre Initiative Region IV Competition. She is so grateful for this opportunity and the support she has received from her friends and family going on this new journey! Stay Connected: https://briettagoodman99.wixsite.com/actor-performer