Head Costume Designer Enlivens Productions With Her Work
In theater productions, costumes carry the weighty responsibility of transporting the audience into the story being told on stage. To fulfill this mission, Lynne Forth, Liberty’s head costume designer, transforms simple threads and fabrics into wearable masterpieces, bringing the audience into the full story experience.
“When I first stepped into this job, I had no theatre background,” Forth said. “I just knew that I was passionate about fashion and the arts. This job, thankfully, gave me an avenue to channel those passions.”
Forth began working as head costume designer in 2018. Since then, she has worked closely alongside Liberty’s design staff each day pouring creativity into new costume pieces for upcoming shows.
“Right now, I am sketching designs for Liberty’s upcoming show, ‘A Christmas Carol,’” Forth explained. “My day-to-day looks very design heavy: from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. I am sitting down and sketching out my design ideas for each character who appears in the play.”
According to Forth, the process of designing intricate costumes for each character in a show is a long journey.
“At the center of everything is the director’s concept, and that’s the true starting point of my work,” Forth said. “The director often times gives us something as simple as a phrase, word, or color that is visually inspiring; from there, the process just takes off.”
For one set of each performance, adjudicators from The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. attend and evaluate the production’s design, creativity, acting, and overall performance. The Kennedy Center then assesses the recorded performance elements and gives awards accordingly.
“I won the Kennedy Center Merit of Design Award in 2014 for my design in the show ‘The Rivals,’ and then again in 2017 for my designs showcased in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’” Forth said. “I was unaware members of the cast other than the performers themselves could win awards like this… I was so pleasantly shocked and honored.”
Although Forth is instrumental in creating the costumes of characters seen on stage, she attributes much of the design execution to her staff members and student workers.
“Being a part of a Liberty production is a uniquely special experience,” Lillian Sharpe, assistant designer at Liberty, said. “There are so few limits when designing for our shows…each play presents new creative opportunities along with lessons to be learned.”
Both Sharpe and Forth have the unique opportunity to not only engage creatively with the characters they build, but to engage personally with the students they create for. They are passionate about mentoring theater students to pursue excellence in the arts – both onstage and behind the scenes.
“There are so many students and staff members that are truly integral in getting the entire costume production up and running from start to finish,” Forth said. “I couldn’t imagine everything coming together without their assistance.”
Costume design unexpectedly opened doors for both creativity and relational engagement for Forth.
“I truly love my job,” Forth said. “And I feel like I am one of the few people who can honestly say that I wake up every day excited to come to work, which is such a huge blessing.”
Jessica Green is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @jessigreen0.