Making the old look young – then old again | Issaquah’s Village Theatre costume designer Deane Middleton finds clothing the perfect fit

The Village Theatre’s Anne of Green Gables is a study in how to make an adult appear like an 11-year-old girl and then age her back over a three-hour musical.

Matthew John Kacergis playing Gilbert Blythe

Matthew John Kacergis playing Gilbert Blythe

The Village Theatre’s Anne of Green Gables is a study in how to make an adult appear like an 11-year-old girl and then age her back over a three-hour musical.

“You can suspend your disbelief and accept that the gorgeous 23-year-old women are 12-year-old girls,” said costume designer Deane Middleton, who has been working with the theater for about 18 years.

Many of the characters, including lead Anne Shirley, start out as children and in one scene transform into adults on their way to college. The hard part is making the actors appear like children.

Middleton looked for her tricks in history. She started with reprinted antique clothing catalogues, where she learned that there was a defined transition from adulthood to childhood. There wasn’t a teenage culture.

This helped make the transitions clear for the characters.

Middleton put the boys in short-cut pants, rounded collars and caps. They transitioned into long pants, stiff collars and a proper tie.

She planned that the men would have mustaches, but after trying the facial hair for a dress rehearsal, the director decided actors looked too old, she said.

Women were more of a challenge.

“I was thinking of young girl’s bodies, of what they don’t have,” Middleton said.

Tight bras and a low-cut waste line helped conceal chests and hips. She found a popular pattern for girls that did exactly what she needed. Flat shoes kept the actors shorter and less refined.

Anne Shirley’s long braids (which eventually get cut off), were replaced with a striking woman’s updo.

The change to an updo is historical, Middleton said. “This was a sign that they had become young women.”

The audience watches Anne Shirley, played by Kasey Nusbickel, transform from a chatty, accident-prone girl into a glowing woman.

The costumes were helped along by solid acting. Nusbickel’s dancing was more coordinated and her posture was taller. Her voice softened and so did her temperament.

The Village Theatre shop made and rented about 70 costumes in all.

Anne of Green Gables tells the story of orphan Anne Shirley’s adventures and struggles after she’s adopted to a farm in Nova Scotia, Canada.

When Anne arrives, her new caretakers Matthew Cuthbert and his sister, Marilla, are shocked find the asylum sent them a girl instead of a boy, who could work on the farm.

They decide to keep Anne, who quickly fits in with her wild imagination and eagerness to please.

She’s not without a rivalry, however, after the class favorite Gilbert Blythe makes fun of her red hair.

An original production from the theater, it’s sentimental, lighthearted and written for those who grew up reading the original book by Lucy Montgomery.

Celeste Gracey can be reached at 425-391-0363, ext. 5052.

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