Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Rainmaker, Designing a Drought With Theresa Ham

When I first heard that BoHo would be producing Richard Nash's The Rainmaker, I knew I wanted to design it. I had been in love with this story of discovery, chance and hope for years.

At the first production meeting the director, Steve Genovese, made the statement that the world of this play is "desolate, not desperate." The idea that, even in these difficult times, this family still has $100 to give to Starbuck says they may be down, but they are certainly not out. The challenge then became how to represent their extreme situation, while maintaining a stronghold on hope. These characters are experiencing both a literal drought and a symbolic drought, so we decided to use the symbolism of rain in a drought to inspire the design.

We decided that the costumes needed to have color and texture that helped the audience feel the dryness and hopelessness of the drought. The outer garments all have rough textures, such as leather and denim, and bland colors that would match the dry earth. Yet, if you were to dig beneath the surface, you will see cool tones of water beneath. This helps us see the hope that lies at the core of all of these characters.

When Starbuck appears, he looks and feels different than the other characters. The color and texture of his clothing is light  to  symbolize the hope that he brings to this family. Lizzie also goes through a significant color change, she sheds her dry outer shell and dons a dress that is lighter and brighter showing how the hope of change lightens her life.

I am so fortunate to be working with such a talented team, both production and cast. I hope that as the audience watches the play unfold, these subtle costume touches allow them to get more deeply connected to these characters. I hope that as people walk away, they are inspired to take a chance on hope even if it means taking a great risk.

-- Theresa Ham is a Chicago based costume designer and adjunct faculty member at Wilbur Wright College. She has been working with BoHo since 2005. In 2010, she won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Outstanding Costume Design for The Glorious Ones. She lives in Beverly with her husband Patrick and their son Cole.

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