Before I started on my final renderings, I did some character sketches for the characters I felt changed the most over the course of the novel. Those characters were Valjean (whom I did three sketches for: one of him when he was imprisoned, one when he becomes mayor, and one shortly after the climax) and Cosette (one when she was a foster child at the Thénardiers’ and one shortly after she meets Marius). As for Javert, Fantine, and Marius, their clothing changes are much less drastic. Javert frequently wears his uniform. Marius leaves his grandfather’s house shortly after his introduction (from that point, his clothes become steadily more worn). Fantine was a little more difficult: her changes are mostly in health (and therefore make-up) but her clothes do become incredibly more revealing when she is forced to turn to prostitution. However, because she is not a part of the novel for a very long period of time (much less than the other characters I completed renderings for) I decided to keep her at one rendering.
Initially, when I discussed choosing a time period for the show with my advisor, she suggested perhaps working with in the 1970s, a time period when student protests were common. While I do love 70s fashion and find the translation intriguing, I have decided that the idea I am most interested in is doing a modern-day adaptation of the novel, with the Baltimore Protests as the novel’s climax instead of the June Rebellion. When I originally stated my goals for the project, I said that I wanted to demonstrate how timeless Les Mis is, and how relevant its story and characters still are to us today. And today, les misérables aren’t the young men being drafted into the Vietnam War; they are the men and women who have lost their lives to police brutality.
Before starting anything else, the most important first step of my research was rereading Les Misérables. It had been a few years since my first read through of Victor Hugo’s epic novel, and I wanted the whole scope of the work to be clear in my mind as I created my designs. At 1,194 pages, it was a fairly daunting task; especially with the added pressure of marking all Hugo’s mentions of character appearance and clothing, but having made it through the other side I can definitely say that the reread was absolutely crucial to my research. Not only do I have a much fresher perspective on the characters I will be costuming and modernizing, but I also have pages upon pages of research notes directly from the book to back up my artistic choices.
I want to generate more queer theater that does not focus on queerness, because this genre is underrepresented in the theater world and I think its creation is important. In order to generate this new theater effectively I would like to explore existing research both in queer and feminist theater theory and I want to further explore for myself how Brechtian theory can be implemented in playwriting to clarify queer and feminist themes. Frequently I have found that plays that seek to communicate the importance of social issues or convince the audience of a certain argument tend to become preachy and distract from storytelling. I would like to write a play that focuses on plot but through Brechtian and other techniques still provides enough distance and alienation in certain moments to force the audience to contemplate the issues it inherently touches on. The play I would like to write is a murder mystery, which is solved by two young, roughly twenty-year-old girls who fall in love with each other over the course of the play. Representation for young queer people in all forms of media is important because of the massive rates of depression and suicide in young queer people as a result of feeling isolated and alone. Creating characters they can relate to is significant and particularly rare in theater, where productions tend to either focus on queerness and ignore other issues or ignore queerness completely. Theater is also full of plays that are very male-centric, and creating new theater with more roles for women is the only way to create a shift towards performing more plays featuring more female and queer leads. Because the plays do not yet exist, generating new work, as I want to do in this project, is the only way to solve the problem.