Meet the Costume Designer of Rapunzel:
Lesley Nielsen Bowman
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience with designing.
I have a BFA in Studio/Fine Arts and Art History from Syracuse University. While at Syracuse University, I took a Theater Design class as an elective, which introduced me to theater. I realized all of my art and history training could be valuable on stage and I was hooked. I have been a professional designer for theater since 1992. My affiliation with the Downtown Cabaret Theatre as a costume designer began in January of 1995.
Can you take us through the creative process of designing costumes for the DCT Children’s Theater?
My process always starts with the script. I read it a couple times for content and then follow up with an analysis of the costume plot to recognize quick changes, special needs, etc. Research follows and then I let it sit for a bit. When I have a clear design vision, I start my design sketches. More dialog follows between the production team and the director. Fabric shopping, meeting with the costume technicians, overseeing and participating in the costume build…lots of creating, building, and sewing. Additional conversations and collaborations follow to meet the needs/challenges of the actors and production team during tech week, revisions and then we open!
What were some of the challenges you faced for Rapunzel?
The hair! It needed to be pretty but also functional…it is Rapunzel after all! There is a lot of action going on onstage, so the hair needed to hold up for each show. One of the joys of working in theater is the collaboration that happens. We worked together backstage, figured out the challenges, and made it work.
Do you have a favorite article of clothing to design?
I definitely have an affinity for millinery. I love working on the headpieces and hats. I always try to include that element as an integral part of the costume design whenever possible.
What has been your favorite costume to design for Rapunzel?
I love them all. All of the characters always have their unique quirks and challenges, but if I had to pick I would say Hammish and Hagus (Rapunzel’s parents). I envision them planning their coordinating tartan wardrobe each morning before their daily scrabble game.
Describe the production of Rapunzel in a few words.
Fresh and Witty.
Meet the Playwright of Rapunzel:
I take inspiration from everything from Disney cartoons to British Panto to Star Wars to The Simpsons to The Muppets, but my biggest influence for everything I write is Pixar. Pixar has a way of telling stories that is really unlike any other. My absolute favorite thing they do is to write shows that are accessible to everyone; children, teenagers, adults, everyone. It isn’t just about writing for children while including things adults can also enjoy, but rather it is about writing something that whole families can enjoy equally on different levels. This is the biggest challenge for sure, and I am inspired by anyone who can achieve that.
Can you take us through your creative process for writing the scripts?
The first step for me is always to tell a story. It sounds like such a basic construct, but I have seen original works getting bogged down with focusing on the silliness of a script that the story gets lost. My goal when I first approach a blank page is always to get a story from start to finish. After that the fun really begins! Once the story is set, it is about giving it life with endearing and often unconventional characters, punchy dialogue, homages to popular culture, and an array of music that spans generations. The most exciting part of writing for me is letting the story take shape in real-time as I am writing it. It is amazing how much a story can unfold and grow without much effort, and the best scripts are the ones where everything effortlessly falls into place, and I am thrilled to say that Rapunzel was one of those!
Do you have a favorite Playwright?
Any playwright who doesn’t appreciate how much they have been influenced by William Shakespeare is as naïve as any musician in the last fifty years who believes they weren’t influenced by The Beatles. I am also personally a big fan of more contemporary playwrights like Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, and Aaron Sorkin.
Who is your favorite Princess?
I suppose if I am being really honest, I’d have to say Princess Leia, but I am also a fan of Merida from “Brave.” When compared to the other fictional princesses, those two are pretty unconventional, and I am always drawn to unconventional characters.
Any last words for the audience?
We talk a lot about the “Cabaret Experience” which is really an experience unlike any other. Not only are the styles of our shows unique, and there is a lot to be said that the Cabaret encourages people to bring their own picnic to the shows to enjoy with their families, but I think it goes even deeper than that. So often I talk to people who say, “I just love the Cabaret! I used to come and see shows here when I was little, and now I bring my own kids,” and to me that is the real Cabaret experience.
Meet the Director of Rapunzel:
I’ve been a fan of the Children’s Company since the first production I saw in 2009. I had a voice student in the show and ended up having an amazing time! When Hugh approached me about directing this season, I immediately gravitated toward “Rapunzel” because I’m a huge fan of the recent Disney movie “Tangled” and felt that this story and brand of comedy would be a great match for my own sense of humor!
What may audience members not expect from this production?
Our playwright, Phill, has included a lot of humor for the parents/adults. There are homages to “Princess Bride,” iconic bits from cult classic movies, and a lot of other things I don’t want to give away! I love that this show has something for everyone! Kids and adults alike will be in hysterics.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
The Children’s Company is so iconic and there’s a definite style and feel to their shows. I’ve seen just about every show since 2009, so I feel very familiar with that style, but it’s still a lot of pressure to make sure that we remain true to the brand of comedy that the Cabaret audiences have come to love!
What’s your favorite thing about the Downtown Cabaret Theatre?
I love the BYO tradition of the Cabaret. It’s so much fun to pack a picnic and watch a show at the same time! I’ve seen people bring some amazing spreads- from lobster dinners to fondue! Also, you cannot beat the lighting and sound design here. It rivals the best regional houses around.
What type of person is going to enjoy Rapunzel?
I’m gonna just say that if you like to laugh, you will like “Rapunzel.” There’s seriously something for everyone. From princesses to KISS fans and everything in between. It’s a great show that the whole family can enjoy together.
Do you have a favorite Princess?
This is hard because I’m a huge Disney fan, so I’m partial to any Disney Princess. But if I have to pick one, I suppose it would have to be Snow White because I played her for three years!