WIP: “Proof” Costuming

Robert in the back yard of the Chicago house. My director’s request for this character was “tweedy.”

It’s that time again. David Auburn’s “Proof,” the first show of the Suffield Players’ 2019 – 2020 season opens tonight. “Proof” won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play in 2001. The play has four characters: Robert, a brilliant but unstable mathematician. Catherine, his younger daughter, who has spent years caring for him. Claire, his older daughter, who has returned to the family home in Chicago after Robert’s death. And Hal, one of Robert’s former students, who is looking through Robert’s papers to see if there is any important work still unpublished.

We have set the show in present day which means, as a costumer, that I can tell my actors the look I want for their characters and ask them to check their closets for possible costume pieces. In this case, almost the entire wardrobe came out of my actors’ closets.

The relationship between Claire and Catherine summed up in one photo.

When I asked Chris, the director, what he wanted for Catherine’s look, he said “she’s a mess.” She’s been caring for her father alone for years and she’s both physically and mentally exhausted. She wears a lot of sweatpants, tee shirts and hoodies. Those bootie slippers are her footwear for four of her eight scenes. Claire is a professional, a currency analyst in New York, and I saw her as always well put-together, even on her days off.

Catherine and Robert during a late-night discussion.

Robert’s “tweedy” look consists of corduroys, striped oxford shirts and his ever-present “Dad” sweater. I was scouring thrift stores for the right look and coming up short (didn’t fit, not a cardigan, too new and nice-looking) when the actor’s wife, who is also our assistant stage manager for the show, reminded him of this one. It has apparently been in the back of his closet for a few decades. Costume problem solved.

Hal and Claire in the midst of a disagreement

Hal, the fourth character, is a young math professor in his late-20s. He’s usually casually dressed – jeans, oxford shirts, the occasional tee shirt. My actor just brought in a bunch of options and we picked what would work. The only thing I needed to find for him was a light-weight outer jacket that gets used as a prop early in the show.

Hal and Catherine talk after Robert’s funeral. Claire bought her the dress.

Catherine’s Little Black Dress come from the theater’s costume storage. We thought the classic 60’s inspired style looked like something Claire would purchase for her sister. I hemmed it up several inches to give it a more contemporary feel.

Another morning, another argument.

Claire’s elegant sleepwear is courtesy of ebay. The flowered robe is one I used for “I Hate Hamlet” last season, and I bought the silver-gray satiny pajamas for this show. Her slippers are a pair of suede slip-on flats from a local thrift shop. Lys, who plays Catherine, provided the tee shirt and sweatpants. The tee says “Sunshine” over the sunflowers.

“You look nice.”

When Claire comments positively on Catherine’s look, we decided it was because Claire had a hand in the outfit. As it happens, I originally bought this light green shirt as a possible blouse for Claire. It didn’t fit Karen, who plays Claire, but it did fit Lys, our Catherine.

“Proof” by David Auburn will be performed at The Suffield Players, Mapleton Hall, Suffield, CT on October 10, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 8 pm and on October 20 at 2 pm. Tickets and further information at The Suffield Players 

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