Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival

By Beth Lynch | Posted: Thursday October 26, 2017

My part in the Shakespeare festival was being a finalist in the costume designing competition.

I’d worked on my design for about three months before sending it off - and getting my golden ticket reply. The process involved researching the character I chose, coming up with the outfit, drawing it out and explaining the details of the design. I had to ensure the design reflected the character’s values and personality, and include fabric samples and a construction plan, as the winning designs would be professionally made. 

When I found out I was a finalist, my mind went into overdrive imaging how my costume would be made, interpreted, whether they would use my fabrics. You can imagine my heart was going a million miles an hour when I got to the Opera House on Sunday night. I was in Wellington for the whole five days, but the only day that included any ‘costuming’ was on Sunday, in regards to the ceremony that evening when the outfits were put on display. That was the night I’d been waiting for. 

The first two hours were reserved for hair and make-up, which led to a small disaster as I hadn’t considered these in my design - and the costumes had not yet arrived. Meeting my model - Brydie - was a huge relief to this as we were both as bad at decision making as the other! We decided on hair extensions, and a neutral make-up look, as my character Rosalind was one of those characters that dressed up as a boy. When you consider that all of Shakespeare’s actors were men - and thus the men played women playing men - it creates an interesting paradox. 

Finally, I got to see my costume. I don’t think I spoke for the first few minutes. I didn’t cry either, as Ahi had predicted, but I will admit there was some excited jumping and dancing. And many, many photos. 

It was so incredible to see the costume on that rack, all the pieces and colours and fabrics I had imagined in my head sitting right in front of me. Seeing it on Brydie was just as surreal - she looked every inch the beautiful heroine. Seeing her transform from Rosalind to her male counterpart Ganymede was also mind-blowing, just as I’d written it months before. Every piece was what I’d created - yet better. 

Getting ready to go on stage was so much fun, and talking with Brydie and Kaarin (who was the head designer/costumier at Toi Whakaari), as well as the other finalists was great - I was so included and there were so many amazing costuming ideas being bounced around and seen. 

All the other costumes were fantastic, and all the places brilliantly deserved. It was an amazing experience and really opened my eyes to the visual and non visual beauty of Shakespeare. 

Another one of my highlights of the trip was finding food. With someone of my allergies in the group, along with vegetarian requirements, portion sizes, and *cough* interesting culinary tastes, organising dinner was a real circus. We tried everything from hipster midnight cafes, Filipino barbeque, and homemade. Often dinner ended up being served at around nine o’clock at night! 

Cooking together was a great experiment, and heaps of fun. We divided up the cost of budget pasta and eighty cent cans of tomatoes, and made sure there were drinks, so everyone had their ‘choccy milk’. Or just lemonade. 

The kitchen was wonderful, and soon enough everyone had a job, and everyone did it well. We had tonnes of chopped carrots, and enough onions to use as a military weapon. Me being the stirrer of all this, had an interesting time trying (and failing) to keep the whole mess from spilling over the edge. 

There were some discoveries made - there is more than one type of can opener, and three bags of pasta is a few bags too many for six people… But we got there. The meal was delicious, and well enjoyed with toppings of cheese, and for some of us; choccy milk. 

Another fan favourite was the kitchen itself, which had a constant hum from the fan (or something else, I don’t know) and we all harmonised at various musical intervals, creating an eerie symphony for the other guests. 

All in all, Wellington food was ridiculously good, and I think some of the best meals of my life were discovered - I would recommend the food markets (they’ll make your head spin with all the variety). The combined cooking was an experience to remember for sure, plates were cleared and mouths were full - when we weren’t laughing, of course!

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