November 25, 2011
Before a word is spoken or a move is taken, the costume identifies a characters’ station in life, frame of mind and personality. The best of the costume designers make costumes that feel perfectly in balance with a production while simultaneously forming an ever-lasting image.
According to one of the theater, dance and opera community’s most active and beloved costume designers, Martin Pakledinaz believes his job is to support the director’s or choreographer’s vision. And that he does.
This year alone--the two time-Tony Award winning, in-demand costume designer--Pakledinaz suited up Frank Langella for Manhattan Theater Club’s “Man and Boy,” glamorized “Anything Goes” and added dazzle to costumes for the famed Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
As a young person, Pakledinaz who liked drawing, felt an immediate affinity for the theater. “I just wanted to be in the theater and I had a talent for drawing clothes. When I looked at people, I noticed what they wore and how it was designed. Cuts and colors, and draping fascinated me. When I came to NYC after getting a graduate degree in costume design from the University of Michigan, I worked with Theoni Aldredge for seven years. She always said to learn from everyone you ever meet. Look and then think about it. For instance, I might borrow an overall style, and then tailor it to my sensibility. In the end, the costume becomes an extension of the production. My costume designs are character driven and known for a certain elegance--not funky—I’m not known for funky.”
“For instance, a strong, deep thinking actor like Frank Langella poses a different design situation from the vibrant Sutton Foster in “Anything Goes.” You know, I designed the costumes for Sutton in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” – the production that brought her into adulthood. She’s wearing those lavish evening gowns in “Anything Goes” like they are blue jeans—she’s terrific! (And anyone who has seen her perform knows she can belt songs like the old style Broadway stars).”
“One thing I do that surprises people at a fittings is to ask them to show me how they move. The actors (and dancers) need to feel comfortable executing the largest as well as the smallest gesture or movement. You have to find a good fit and one that breathes with the character. “
“Inevitably, each form (theater, dance, opera, film) has its own needs, but sometimes it’s surprising what does not change. Comfort factors in for everyone. There’s always a woman who wants a smaller waistline or man who wants his body lengthened. What I find, is that everyone breathes in a different place. Some breathe from the back, others from the abdomen. I ask questions—pretend you are hugging someone very tight. Then I can see how much their back expands. Or I might ask them to squat or lunge in order to better calculate how the costume fills out the bottom half of the body.”
“For Frank Langella, I brought a chair and told him to sit and cross his legs. See if the fit is comfortable no matter what position the body assumes. Along with the director Maria Aiken, we decided on a double-breasted, dark suit to telegraph seriousness and power. I try to be logistical about breaking down the script. I don’t feed artistic vision in it until I hear the idea.”
“When I walked into Radio City Music Hall and met with the Rockettes, they were delighted by my urging to move around and explain what was comfortable and what was problematic so I could change the costumes accordingly. They couldn’t believe someone was asking their opinion. And you know those dancers work as hard as any professional ballet or modern dancer. The Rockettes have countless costume changes and have to do everything from tap to ballet while looking perfectly collected.”
“Everything I do has its own joy.”
And Martin Pakledinaz gives many people untold joy.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis