Barbara Pollard’s interview back in July was so popular we were delighted when she agreed to share some more of her ‘behind the scenes’ moments. In this post, Barbara describes the challenges and fun she had with the costume team in bringing Queen Gertrude to the stage for Hamlet.
“It was very exciting to be cast as the Queen of Denmark and mother of Shakespeare’s most famous character and I will remember the audition all my life. To be in the room with Kim (Collier) and Jon (Young) was exciting enough but to actually be cast was a tremendous thrill.
Once we got close to rehearsals – that’s where the fun began. Wardrobe asked me to come in for measurements the week previous to rehearsal and as I was eager for the process to begin, I was more than happy to meet with the design team and get a peek at what the vision was for the show.
I think everyone can agree that the costumes at Bard are stupendous; of the highest and most gorgeous calibre and while I have always wanted to work with Mara Gottler, I knew she was working the Studio Stage as she specifically wanted to dress Elizabeth I in Elizabeth Rex. Who could deny her that creative challenge?
Luckily for me, Nancy Bryant was the costume designer for the Mainstage productions. Nancy is a doll: smart, bright, creative, exacting and while she and I hadn’t worked together, I have long admired what she does, having seen so many of her designs both with Kim as a Director and my friends Morris Panych and Ken MacDonald, who also love to work with her.
Nancy is sensitive to dressing a woman of “a certain age” and did her absolute best to make me feel happy and, let’s face it, visually attractive. It’s show business after all. (General rule for dressing woman over 40: no bare arms – unless you’re Jane Fonda or Michelle Obama and I am a far physical cry from either of those ladies).
The fittings were interspersed throughout the rehearsal process and the “build” of the costume starts from the inside out. I was used to wearing corsets from my early days doing Shakespeare and not surprised that they would be part of the look, even in the modern take on Hamlet. I understand from our wardrobe head, Sydney Cavanagh, that it has mostly to do with posture than waist size and there is no denying it aids in that as it is almost painful to bend forward.
The Gertrude corset was a “new” design that didn’t lace but zipped up. My dresser, Meghan Kennedy, loves how quick that one is, as one cannot do up one’s own corset! The original corsets had whalebone in them as the support but these were plastic and, as it happened one day in rehearsal, I had my long hour and a half fitting interrupted by lunch so I just kept it on. Off I went and am I happy I wore it then and not in tech rehearsals as the supports were not well enclosed and poked through the fabric. Needless to say, I returned from lunch with some nasty scratches on my ribs – I guess it’s true when they say you have to suffer for your art!”