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From page to stage: Costume designers bring Denver's plays to life

The music could be moving. The set could be breathtaking. But without the costumes, the hit show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts would feel hollow.

Needles poke, scissors cut, and fingers pull on all manner of thread and fabric in Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ costume shop.

“I just love telling the stories,” says costume designer Meghan Anderson Doyle.

Meghan designed the costumes for American Mariachi, a play that made its world debut at DCPA last week.

Meghan dug through historic photos and records, and talked with the director to come up with the right look. When she has the initial idea in her head, she then comes up with a sketch, which is followed by a full-blown color rendering that takes about four hours to design.

Inside the DCPA costume shop

“I absolutely love the rendering process,” she says. “I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator when I was a kid, so this is kind of a way to take that illustration and take it one step further.”

She then hands off her rendering to one of the tailors or drapers in the costume shop.

“It’s really fun I love it,” says draper Jackie Scott. “Usually we work with the women’s costumes,” she explains.

The work Jackie does alongside the tailors (men’s costumes) isn’t just fun; it’s also rewarding.

“Some of [the performers] will actually say in the fitting ‘this is who I am!’ It really helps them do their job when they have their costume on.”

The costumes are then fitted and tweaked during dress rehearsals. Finally they go across the street to the wardrobe department, where they are cleaned, repaired, put on, and taken off throughout the run of the show. It’s on the stage where the people who crafted these costumes see them come to life.

Inside the DCPA costume shop

“The costumes are so much fun to build and create,” say Meghan, “but they aren’t anything without the performance.”

American Mariachi, from Denver playwright José Cruz González, runs through February 25.