Costumes and curation: A visual exhibit on what makes Indy theater look so great 

IRT mounts a visual art show about theatrical design

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"I really thought I would be here for only a year or so and move on ... and then I just fell in love with the city. And here I am still."

This is something I have heard time and time again in interviews from folks in the arts realm of Indy. It's not said with regret, but more with a sense of awe and accomplishment. Major players at Dance Kaleidoscope, the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT), Garfield Park Conservatory and Garfield Park Arts Center (GPAC) have said this very thing. There are some big names who come from big cities who are now proud to represent the best of Indianapolis artistic visions.


Get ready to be proud again: All through September the IRT and GPAC have united to bring a free exhibition to the community, to the city, entitled The Art of Theatrical Design. Art on the stage is not simply the actors and actresses, the musicians and directors — it's also the costume and set designers and the stage effects. According to Brian Newman, IRT's production manager it will be "professional designers from all over the United States who design shows for the Indiana Repertory Theatre, and those designs are realized by the IRT's professional staff of artisans and craftspeople." And a small, but select assortment of these designs, chosen by both Newman and IRT costume shop manager Guy Clark, will adorn the exhibition space at GPAC.

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"We really wanted to show the community, all of Indianapolis, really, what artists do here," says Clark. He didn't want to spoil all of the surprises, but he did mention a few of the items on display. Clark was born and raised in Indianapolis, but spent 20 years in NYC working on Broadway designs.

"I Iearned to sew as a kid, studied different things at different schools, and got in on Broadway at a time when a lot of money was spent on costuming, on design," Clark says. "I worked on big shows like The Lion King, like The Phantom of the Opera, and I'm really grateful for my time there. There's something really fantastic about designing a piece for Aretha Franklin, too. But when IRT offered me a position, I felt ready ... to return home and do what I do for a living. It was an honor. I've done 13 shows for the IRT, for Dance Kaleidoscope, for the Heartland Shakespearean Festival, and my 14th will be the upcoming Stuart Little for the IRT."

"For this exhibition with GPAC, we provided a dress from the IRT's production of Fallen Angels, a dress from The Crucible worn by Elizabeth Laidlaw who will also play a villainess in the upcoming IRT production of The Three Musketeers, as well as model sets and renderings," he says. "There's six different costumes in all, and I chose the best of the best to represent what we do in both period and contemporary performances. There's a design from Devon Painter and a costume designed for a first-person show we had written by a Pulitzer-nominated playwright."

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Clark is obviously excited about the show, as is Elsy Benitez, the assistant manager at GPAC for the last three years. She's from LA, has studied both in California (UCLA) and in England, and she's passionate about her job and the upcoming exhibition.

"I really want teens and young adults in the community to know they can do this for a living," says Benitez. "They really can create art for a living," she says. "For this particular exhibition, architecture is represented, set design, fashion design, renderings, among other things. I want visitors to see what goes into a production — the hard work, the energy and the effort."

For those who attend the exhibition in September, every Saturday from 12-4 p.m. at the GPAC, there's an Art for All Project happening. Artists of all ages can create a piece of art to take home with them. Mask-making is the topic of the month, and so alongside guest lectures and Q&A sessions, budding artists can create a mask.

"We're a really community-focused gallery and I want those interested in art to know that sometimes it's all about making the attempt and having an interest in the process, in the idea," Benitez says. "The GPAC is really unique to Indianapolis but also unique in regards to art offerings in major cities. We're all about making art informative and interactive, as well as accessible to the neighborhood and surrounding communities. I love this city and I am often taken aback by the coolness, the awesomeness and the availability of our free, and low-cost programming."

(Editor's Note: This article was graciously boosted on social media by Penrod Arts Fair [www.penrod.org]. Penrod Arts Fair had no input on the content in this article or the decision to create it.)

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Dr. Rhonda Baughman

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Dr. Rhonda Baughman loves to travel, eat, write, watch movies, go to concerts, and play with her vinyl record collection. Her latest novel is about an English teacher who's also an assassin. Follow her on Twitter, not in real life, because she's actually an English teacher, but probably not an assassin - although... more

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