Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with costume designer LeVonne Lindsay about her process and work on Virginia Stage Company's upcoming production of The Hampton Years. She spoke candidly about what inspired her to work in theatre, her creative process, and generously offers advice for emerging designers. Additionally, she was kind enough to share her research and renderings for The Hampton Years. Please enjoy this interview and her beautiful work.
Interview with LeVonne Lindsay
Jacqueline Lawton: To begin, tell me how long you have been a costume designer. What inspired to work in the theatre?
LeVonne Lindsay: Technically, I began my career as a costume designer shortly after I graduated from Philadelphia University in 1992 with a degree in Fashion Design. I became interested in getting involved with theater after I took an elective class in performing arts and I had been volunteering and a community theater during my summers. The transition from stage crew to costumer didn't take me long once they discovered I knew how to sew.
JL: What excited you about designing costumes for THE HAMPTON YEARS at Virginia Stage Company?
LL: I took a break from costume designing for the past few years once I began my position as shop manager at The University of the Arts. I simply didn't have the free time or the project didn't interest me enough to make the effort. The Hampton Years came at the perfect time and we had just been discussing finding the right opportunity to work together. 1940s Americana falls right into my wheelhouse for costuming, particularly when it comes to Black History. Everything about this play felt so serendipitous, I could not resist.
JL: How did you prepare for the costume designs for THE HAMPTON YEARS? How much research goes into it before you even sketch your first drawing?
LL: First I refresh my basic knowledge of costume history for the time period. In this case, I knew I was dealing with non-fictional characters so I felt their costumes should try to ring true to their image as well. I also have to break down the script to create a costume plot and account for all the changes and how they could best be handled. For instance, I chose to change Samella from a skirt into a pair of culottes rather than slacks or jeans so she could get in and out of them without taking off her shoes.
JL: Finally, what advice would you give a young person interested in becoming a costume designer?
LL: Costume designing is not a job for anyone who gets easily discouraged. Costume designer are often faced with situations that make our job seem like an afterthought because clothing is so personal and readily available. Creating and producing costumes that fit well, function correctly and enhance the production, no matter what size the cast, is always a lot harder than it looks. The more skills that you acquire as a designer and a technician increases your chances of success in an extremely competitive field. If you are serious about working as a designer, you should choose the best grad school you can afford that will provide you the most connections. Once you've established yourself as a reputable designer, don't sell yourself short. You have to love what you do so much that you would do it for free while commanding enough respect to be paid what your contribution is actually worth.
About LeVonne Lindsay
LeVonne Lindsay- B.S. in fashion design from Philadelphia University and M.F.A in costume design from University of Maryland, College Park. Teaching credits include: The University of the Arts Philadelphia, Stevenson University, James Madison University and Valdosta State University. Design credits include Arena Stage: Yellowman (Allen Lee Hughes Fellow, 2001-2003); 1st Stage Theatre- Almost Maine, An Italian American Reconciliation; Everyman Theatre: Crimes of the Heart, Topdog/Underdog, A Raisin in the Sun, The Brothers Size, Proof; Theatre of the 1st Amendment: 24-7-365 (Premier); African Continuum Theatre: Blues for an Alabama Sky, From the Mississippi Delta, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Blood Knot (Resident Designer 2002-2004); Theater Alliance: Black Nativity (2011); Hangar Theatre, NY- Gem of the Ocean Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences- Jason Invisible, Locomotion, Handspeak, Color Me Dark; Imagination Stage: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters; Metrostage: Sidney Bechet Killed a Man, Three Sistahs, Sea Marks; University of Maryland Opera Studio: Tales of Hoffman/Clara. Related Experience: Stages St. Louis- Assistant Shop Manager; Washington National Opera- Assistant Costume Coordinator; Arena Stage- First Hand, Design Assistant; Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp- Costume Shop Manager, Cutter/Draper; Shakespeare Theater Company- Publicity Costume Stylist; Wolftrap Opera Company- Assistant Shop Manager.
Costume Research and Design by LeVonne Lindsay
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!