In the spring, many high schools put on school plays that showcase the individual talents of the students. That may be acting, choreography, dance, singing or playing a musical instrument. Or, as in my case, it may be a particular talent for taking up space on a stage and nodding whenever the main characters talk to each other. Whatever the role in the school play, everyone needs costumes in order to lose themselves in their role. I don’t think I could have nodded even half as well if I hadn’t been wearing a floor-length Victorian dress.
One of the best things about high school plays is that fewer kids try out. Not all students are interested in being in the play the way they often are in earlier grade levels. That makes for a smaller cast that is able to delve deeper into a handful of characters. This makes plays like Death of a Salesman, Our Town, Macbeth and other character-centered plays possible.
My break-out role as Spectator #3 was in a musical melodrama that featured a few main characters and then the rest of us who milled around those characters. A smaller cast means that each and every costume is vital to the play as a whole. One person without the proper costume means that the audience is not quite transported to land where the story takes place. It can put things slightly off kilter when a costume is out of place or one person is trying to make due with a pieced-together costume. With few characters, each costume should be appropriate to the time and place and each one should be as authentic as possible.
With high school plays, the better the costumes are, the more seriously everyone in the cast takes it. This happens because the better and more realistic the costume is, the easier it is to get lost in a role. With the right gown, the whole world becomes the action on the stage and the actor’s own part in it. With my elegant Victorian dress, the whole world seemed about walking and nodding. I wasn’t worried about looking foolish or that I might nod at the wrong time- the costume gave me the confidence to nod as I had never nodded before. Just imagine what a great costume could do for someone with actual lines to say.