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Costuming Who do you say that I Am?

With each play we perform, I try to add a few new costume pieces. This adds variety, flexibility, and greater dimension to the characters. For Who do you say that I Am?, Shara is Syrian, so we wanted more of an Arabic look to her costume. Hananiah is a money-changer at the temple, so more of a distinguished look was in order. Erastus is a gardener, so it's down and dirty for him.

Shara, the baker

When Dave and I were in Egypt years ago, I bought a galabeya of Eqyptian cotton. A galabeya is an A-line, floor-length kaftan. It has embroidery at the neck and down the front and down the sleeves. Stage costumes for Biblical plays always look better with more layers, but I didn't want to cover up the embroidery with an apron (Shara is a baker).

So to accomplish a layered look without doing this, I made fake leggings and sleeves to wear under the galabeya. These are essentially just tubes of light weight fabric with elastic at one end (to hold them up). The leggings go from just below the knee to the ankles. The sleeves go from just below the elbow to the wrist. This gives a layered look, making the galabeya the outer garment, without destroying the line of the garment with a bulky layer underneath.

Since Shara is a business woman, she would have funds for an occasional extravagance. I made her a scarf from a sheer drape and sewed satin to the ends. I made a fastener for the scarf by bending a paper clip and sewing it to the scarf on the inside. Then I attached a few beads to the outside of the fastener. The fastener works with a beaded head band: the scarf drapes under the chin and back up to eye level, where it is fastened to the headband. This gives more of an Arabic look to the drape of the scarf.

Hananiah, the banker

We wanted Hananiah to have a more distinguished look, so I made him a distinctive hat rather than using the traditional yamaka. It's a pill box shape made out of duck cloth--a sturdier material often used in the upholstering of outdoor furniture--so the hat holds its shape. I attached a band of embroidered cloth (a repurposed portion from a vintage camera strap) to decorate the hat. Hananiah will also have a small money bag hanging from his belt with several metal washers to make coin sounds. Being Jewish, Hananiah will wear the traditional robe-type first layer and a long vest-type outer layer.

Erastus, the gardener

The outer layer for Erastus needs to be well-worn and dirty from all of his gardening and outdoor work. Since we already had a basic costume piece for that, I concentrated on making an under layer. For this we turned inside out an old sweat suit, cut off the elastic at the wrists and ankles and sewed up the legs to make them fit more snugly. The underside of the sweat suit has more of a rustic "homespun" look (from the stage). To emphasize this all the more, I used a wire brush to rough up the texture of the fleece. I'll then dye them a dark color and make the knees look dirty. Making a costume look dirty can be done with a variety of materials: ashes, charcoal, road dirt, paint, and tea are some suggestions.

For Erastus' hat we are using a basic stocking cap I crocheted. This type of cap, worn snugly on the head (like a skull cap), is good for any rough laborer or peasant. For this production I gave it more of a thick, rolled edge.

The design of the costumes for this play emphasizes the different station and personality of each character, giving not just authenticity, but contrast and visual interest.


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by Dr. Radut.