Poncho Sculptures

Poncho Sculptures

Erica Friesen and Jody Schmidt, Court Theatre, 2019

Aluminum screening, spray paint, caulk, screen repair tape

Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center, the University of Chicago.

How do you turn a drawing into a wearable piece of clothing? This was the adaptation challenge facing Erica Friesen, Costume Shop Manager at Court Theatre. Costume Designer Sally Dolembo evoked the move to Mexico in Act III of The Adventures of Augie March through costumes. She chose to use colorful metal ponchos that would function both as sculptures and wearable pieces. The designs were then passed on to Friesen, who discovered a way to bring Dolembo’s idea to life. Friesen selected aluminum window screening as the poncho material for its lightness, flexibility and capacity to hold its shape on stage. This choice of material presented a new challenge to actor safety, because the screening’s sharp edges could scratch or scrape the performers as they moved. To protect the actors from the sharp edges, Friesen and Wardrobe Supervisor Jody Schmidt folded the aluminum, and made the ponchos with a double layer of screening. They used screen repair tape to cover any raw edges. Friesen and Schmidt spent two weeks constructing and spray-painting the six poncho sculptures. The ponchos were made in three sizes so actors of different heights could comfortably wear them. The final challenge was to maintain the integrity of the poncho sculptures, through repair and repainting, throughout the five-week run of the show.

Concept art for the ponchos