In pursuit of her Master’s thesis, graduate student Anna Sorrentino has undertaken the monumental task of designing for the sweeping creative undertaking BAKKHAI VARIATIONS. What’s it like designing for five plays instead of one as the sole student designer? Hear from this incredibly talented rising star as she is interviewed by Dramaturg Zach Apony.

  • What brought you to costume design? Why do you love it?
    • I spent my middle school years doodling dresses and blouses in the margins of my notes. When I began seriously pursuing theatre in college, I came to understand that costume design marries everything I love about theatre and gives me an outlet for thinking visually and strategically about clothing. I love figuring out how to help an actor transform with just a few key clothing pieces. A certain pair of shoes can help ground an actor or change the way they walk. A certain crown or pair of glasses can entirely change the way they carry their head. I love seeing those transformations happen, especially when the choices I make as a designer are driven by thorough script analysis!
  • What changed for you when you found out you were going to be designing five individual pieces rather than a single big one? What didn’t change?
    • Our original project, Bakkhai, demanded that I develop a singular aesthetic framework for a single production. When that project became 5 different plays, that framework exploded, and I was able to pick up certain ideas and ditch other ones. In some ways, it was freeing. In other ways, it was terrifying. 
  • What about this new world of digital theatre? What did the transition to recorded material do to your process?
    • Every detail around the face becomes 10x more important. I included far more pairs of earrings in these 5 projects than I have in anything else I’ve designed. I also found that designing for the Zoom plays required thinking less about what the characters look like as an ensemble, because the actors would never actually be next to each other. Instead, I began to think of characters in their individual Zoom boxes. That helped me to push each individual character’s design to its aesthetic limit. It didn’t matter if these costumes would clash on stage; in Zoom world, contrast is key.
  • What’s a little detail of your design you hope everyone notices when they see all the shows?
    • In Beginning, Autonoe’s apron picks up a little bit of each of her sisters’ dresses. As the sister trying to “keep the peace,” it is so fitting that her costume brings together each of her sisters’ colors. It’s also extremely cute, and so perfect on Manda (especially since she sewed it herself!)
  • What about you? What can you be found doing when you’re not making theatre?
    • Thrift shopping and watching terrible TV “for the clothes.”