Dial “M” for Murder is the 14th IRT production for freelance costume designer Tracy Dorman, whose previous shows here include Jitney, The Heavens Are Hung in Black, The 39 Steps, The Crucible, The Game’s Afoot, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and last season’s The Great Gatsby.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A COSTUME DESIGNER?
I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t do any theatre until I got to college. And I never performed—it’s my worst nightmare. Truthfully! But I was very crafty, always did art, started sewing very young, making my own clothes and stuff. So I was interested in fashion and costume design.
I went to Washington University in St. Louis and I started out in the Fine Arts program. Then I took an Intro to Costume class and I was hooked I had been always interested in other time periods, and I loved reading, and characters, and movies, and going to the theatre. So costuming really embraced all of those different areas of interest, because I could read and then imagine the characters in my head, and make it happen on stage.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PART OF THE COSTUME DESIGN PROCESS?
I still love what I first loved about it, which is reading plays and re-imagining them and inventing ways to bring these characters to the stage. I love the research. I love the collaborative process of coming up with the concept. When I first started out, I think that it was more cerebral. I really liked the solo process of designing, the sketches, the research and development process. And now I sort of love it all equally. I love the fitting part of the process, where it starts to come together. I really love tech, figuring it out on stage, and the physical part of making it happen. Each step of the process is so distinct for a costume designer, because one is on paper, and then you’re putting it on actor’s body, and then you’re putting all those bodies on stage. The arc of that journey from the very first moment you talk until you get it on stage can be a really long, arduous process, and I have come to appreciate all the parts of that process.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT WORKING AT THE IRT?
Since I did my first show here in 2004, I’ve done a show at the IRT almost every season pretty consistently. Janet [Allen, executive artistic director] has put me with different directors, and that’s been really lovely for my career, because it has helped me develop other collaborations over the years.
Because I have worked at the IRT so long, spanning 14 years, it feels like a family, like I’m going home to an institution that I have a deep connection with, both artistically and personally. As someone who works mostly in regional theatre, and travels for most of my job, it is really lovely to go to a place where it feels really comfortable and I feel really supported.
Professionally, what I really appreciate—and when I talk to other designers and directors I work with, everyone really appreciates—is the design process at the IRT. A lot of careful thought and support is put into developing the show and the design, long before the production happens. And that does not happen everywhere. At the IRT, they bring us in for a design conference, and there is a lot of follow-up, and you have a lot of time to really build a production. I think that really shows when you see the final product on stage.
At the end of the day, I love when it’s opening night, and you can say, I did it. We did it. When you’re in that moment, and you see those people on stage, and they are who you imagined…. It’s such a collaboration with the actors and the director and the costume staff. It really takes a lot of back and forth to create those characters on stage. That’s what we’re all working towards—bringing those characters to life.
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