Episode 111: Costumer Service
Tituss Burgess shows the Greenies how clothes can make the character when he helps them design the costumes for their upcoming show.
Featured Art: Costumes
Lots of shows manage to make do without elaborate costuming and sets. But many of those that stick with us do so because of the incredible work of the costuming department. Costumes consist of different elements: make up, clothing, and handheld props. And when the right outfit can’t be found at store, costume designers have to make it themselves.
As such, the costume department wears a lot of hats, both figuratively and literally. They may need to be tailors, sculptors, hair stylists, or make-up artists, all at a moment’s notice. The job comes with lots of unique challenges: for example, costumes for a show like “The Lion King” need to create the illusion of majestic animals onstage, but still remain light and simple enough for the performers to handle.
Costumes are an ancient art. Humans have been dressing up as mythical figures for thousands of years, passing on stories and traditions with a bit of added visual panache. When theater later became popularized in some cultures, outfits were designed to add realism (or build the fantasy) for the performance. Many children won’t have their earliest memory of costuming from theater or film, but rather from dressing up on Halloween. Humans love to play pretend.
Most schools won’t have an implicit costuming course, but much costuming is just an extension of arts and crafts activities taught during early education. Students should be careful when learning how to sew, and ask an adult for help, just like the Greenies ask Ms. Julie.
Emmy and SAG nominated actor, musician, and writer Tituss Burgess is quickly emerging as one of the entertainment industry’s most versatile and dynamic performers, with his work in television and theater generating both critical and commercial acclaim.
Most notably, Burgess stars as ‘Titus Andromedon’ in the Emmy®-nominated comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, starring opposite Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski, and Carol Kane. The show follows a young woman named Kimmy Schmidt as she adjusts to life in New York City after living in a doomsday cult for 15 years. Burgess’ character becomes a friend, roommate and mentor to Kimmy while he pursues his dreams of Broadway superstardom and becomes a viral sensation on YouTube. Tina Fey created Burgess’ outrageous character specifically for him. For the actor’s scene-stealing performance on the series, Burgess has been nominated for two Emmy® Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series and two Critics’ Choice TV Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He was also awarded Best Actor at the 2015 Webby Awards and Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy at the 2015 Gold Derby TV Awards. Season three of Kimmy Schmidt will begin streaming on Netflix on May 19.
The actor was first introduced to television audiences in Tina Fey's Emmy®-winning NBC series 30 Rock, where he played ‘D’Fwan,’ the vivacious hairdresser and sidekick of 'Angie Jordan' (Sherri Shepherd). Burgess quickly became a breakout star in the series' fifth and sixth seasons. His other television credits include A Gifted Man, Blue Bloods, and Royal Pains.
On the big screen, Burgess recently lent his voice to two major studio films: The Angry Birds Movie and Smurfs: The Lost Village. Both were released by Sony.
A veteran of the stage, Burgess made his Broadway debut in 2005 as ‘Eddie’ in Good Vibrations. Since, he has held many memorable roles on the Broadway stage including ‘Hal Miller’ in Jersey Boys, 'Sebastian the Crab' in The Little Mermaid, and 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson’ in the 2009 revival of Guys and Dolls. Burgess has also performed in regional theater productions such as The Wiz and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Burgess recently acquired the rights to the beloved film The Preacher’s Wife, the story of one woman (Julia’s) journey to find her voice and strengthen her husband (the Preacher) and larger church community during a moment of financial crisis and emotional overwhelm. The Broadway Musical will include an original score and lyrics by Burgess, book by Azie Dungey, direction by Olivier nominee Stafford Arima, and musical direction by James Sampliner.
In addition, Burgess evolved his solo music career in 2012 with the debut of his album Comfortable, in which he wrote the music and lyrics for ten of the eleven songs.
Burgess currently resides in New York City.
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) uses water, flour, newspaper, paint, and unlimited imagination to tell stories that explore the struggles and celebrations of human existence. Founded in 1973, In the Heart of the Beast is a singular theater company recognized internationally for both its artistry and service to the community. Through performance, ceremony, teaching, and community building, In the Heart of the Beast explores and celebrates the human experience and the wonders of the world’s natural and cultural richness.
Through a collaborative artistic process, In the Heart of the Beast’s educational and community programming draws together diverse communities to address local and global issues and celebrate our shared humanity. Work is devised “from scratch”, combining original design, writing, music, movement, and varying types of puppetry to create stunning visual theater to serve the specific project and constituents. Now in its 43rd year, In the Heart of the Beast’s annual Mayday Festival is a much loved ritual of creativity and participation attended by over 50,000 Minnesotans each year.
Warm Up Game: Props!
Props are a fundamental piece of putting on a show that transports the audience into a different world. But they don’t have to be fancy or professionally made! That’s the lesson of Episode 11’s warm up, Props.
Props is a popular improv game within the comedy sports world, giving players a chance to project their imagination upon a physical object for fun and laughs. They Greenies do the same, with Ms. Julie assigning each a scarf to play pretend with. Then everyone has to guess what the scarf-holder is acting out!
Gus adds a song:
Scarf go up, scarf go down,
Gonna wave our scarves all around
Scarf for me, scarf for you,
Let’s see what our scarves can do!
You can grab your own scarf or a bandanna and play along! A prop can be a costume, or a new body part, or whatever you like! It’s all about imagination: Gus puts his scarf on his head and pretends to have long flowy hair like a rock star, while Ms. Julie covers her mouth and pretends to be a surgeon!
Hank pretends to be a pirate by wrapping the scarf around his head. Fizz uses her scarf as an elephant trunk, and Peri pretends to be a chef wearing an apron. Spike uses his scarf as a superhero cape, and Riley makes a space helmet.
Gus finishes things off with another song:
Scarves are great, scarves are fun,
But now our scarfin’ game is done!
This game can be played with almost any object, but make sure it’s a safe one. A cardboard tube, a pillow, a slinky… the options are limitless. Have fun, and use your imagination!