Nashville Production Of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Turns Recycling Bin Into Costume Closet

From skirt ruffles made from newspaper bags to a mayonnaise jar turned hat, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream digs into the recycling bin for its fairy finery.

Seeing Climate Change In Shakespeare’s Text
The concept comes from a second act speech by Titania, the Fairy Queen. She’s arguing with her King, Oberon, and the ripple effects are catastrophic: rivers are flooding, corn is rotting in the field, and the seasons themselves are all out of whack. It’s a problem for everyone, not just the magical creatures:

“The human mortals want their winter here…
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which.”

Artistic Director Denice Hicks saw a description of climate change in those lines. From that jumping off point, she decided to set this Midsummer right here, right now, complete with fairies that take a very contemporary approach to caring for nature: these woodland sprites recycle and repurpose everything they can–with the help of Costume Designer June Kingsbury.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the costumes:

Actress Apolonia Davalos plays Titania. Rather than a flowery crown, she wears a hat made from a plastic jar that's dressed up with odds and ends of fabric left from past costuming projects. The production's scenery is similarly cobbled together from pieces used in other shows, carrying the recycling ethos deeper into the production than audiences may notice. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN Several of the female fairies wear skirts made from plastic bags, each in a different color.  Costume designer June Kingsbury specifically wanted blue bags for Titania, but had a hard time finding the right shade locally. She knew the New York Times used blue bags in other parts of the country, so she asked friends and family members to save theirs and ship them to Nashville for her use. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNDuring a costume fitting, the actors compared this top to a Scrabble board or Chinese finger trap toy. It's made from three different kinds of plastic bags, cut into strips and woven on a makeshift cardboard loom. Then, to prevent the risk of snagging, the plastic was fused into a solid sheet using an iron. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNIt took roughly 25 hours to construct this vest by punching holes in the hard plastic, stringing them on sturdy, yellow cord, and then weaving the strings into a garment. It's upkeep should be relatively simple, though. Costume designer June Kingsbury jokes she'll just dump it in a bucket of water or hose it down. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNAustin Hunt, who plays Kudzu, probably has the best ventilated costume, although the hard plastic lids and caps making up his vest do run the risk of chafing. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNCostume designer June Kingsbury holds up a skirt in progress, made from heavy plastic coffee bags, destined for the fairy Peaseblossom. This costume is a second attempt for that character. The first one consisted of a top knit from strips of Target bags (it stretched out way too much to be practical) and a skirt made from coffee cups (deemed too fragile for withstanding the show's five-week run). Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNThis 'fabric' made from coffee bean bags is held together primarily with adhesive tape. There is some stitching along the top, but the costumer's usual sewing techniques had to be kept to a minimum. Once it's punctured by a sewing needle, plastic becomes more likely to rip and tear. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

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