2015-2016 Season,  Beauty and the Beast

Building the Beast: An Interview with Costume Designer Shannon McCurdy

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

This week I sat down with costume designer Shannon McCurdy to learn about her process and what inspired her as she was tasked with creating costumes for such a iconic and challenging production.

Shannon is a senior majoring in theatre art studies with an emphasis in costume design. Her design credits include assistant designer for BYU Young Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Fisherman and His Wife. She recently received the O. Lee Walker Award for Outstanding Technician.

When asked about her “process” and how she began this daunting project, Shannon indicated that “knowing that George [Nelson, director of Beauty and the Beast] wanted to focus on the themes of the story and take a non-traditional approach, I focused on this idea of change and creating costumes that would reflect that.” As Shannon explained, there will be many moments when the cast will change their costumes right on stage. She also explained that she drew much of her inspiration from fashions of the turn of the century and fashion of the late 19th century, early 20th century.

While the costumes will be a departure from what is seen in a traditional production of Beauty and the Beast, Shannon mentioned that she has been careful to choose colors that are faithful to the color palette that audience members will be familiar with.

Her favorite costume in the show? Belle’s gold dress. “As cliche as it sounds,” she says, “it is my favorite piece in the show.” She explained that while it will be a more simple gown than is traditionally seen, it is beautiful and she hopes that all the girls in the audience will be thinking to themselves, “‘Gosh, I would like one of those in my closet!'” She explained that it was designed to not only be a beautiful gown, but also to highlight the body of the actress playing Belle and essentially be “a beautiful dress on a beautiful girl.” Following is a rendering of Belle’s iconic gold gown and some other exquisite costume renderings.

IMG_3104IMG_3111A fun fact about some of the costume pieces? They are actually antiques! Some of the trimming on Belle’s dress is from the early 20th century. Additionally, Lumiere’s jacket and the doublet worn by the Prince are antiques which Shannon estimates are from the turn of the century or shortly thereafter. (Stay tuned for a sneak peek at the costumes, as seen in the publicity photos!)


IMG_3106When asked what the most challenging part of this project Shannon immediately said “the sheer volume of costumes and the number of people to clothe”! With a cast of over 30 people, that’s a lot of costumes to create and gather as well as many costume changes to orchestrate. While it will no doubt appear seamless onstage, it requires precision and many hours of rehearsal to pull it off. Stay tuned for next week when we learn a little more about the rehearsal process and move closer to opening night!

IMG_3109IMG_3108Also, I’d like to make you aware that there will be a special event between the Theatre and English Departments on Nov. 18th from 5-7pm at The Wall in the Wilkinson Student Center on the BYU campus. Entitled “Setting the Stage for Beauty and the Beast,” cast members will be performing, I will be giving a brief presentation on production and the history of Beauty and the Beast and there will be games, prizes, and food available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public–please come and learn more about this treasured fairy tale and its debut at BYU! Details can be found at the following site: http://humanitiescenter.byu.edu/events/setting-the-stage-for-beauty-and-the-beast/


  • Miri

    It is interesting to see how McCurdy pulled silhouettes from multiple eras to create a cohesive fairytale look. The task of making stage actors look like characters that on film are personified objects sounds difficult, but I like the renderings of Cogsworth with his pinstripes and Wardrobe with her outstretched arms as a function of both utility and personality.

  • Abby Mensching

    Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite shows! I love that Belle’s dress did not have the traditional look. It was a beautiful and new take on what Belle looks like. I also loved the fact that the costume designer used antique pieces on each costume. Even though the costumes did not look traditional, the costume designer still used the same color pallet. The same color pallet was crucial because it made the audience members see the play with a whole new take while helping them see that this is still the story they know and love.

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