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SummerWorks Interview: Susana Vera, Costume Designer for The Haunted Hillbilly

donna g: I like to think of costumes as the silent ammunition in an actorís arsenal, but in The Haunted Hillbilly the costumes are at the forefront of the play because the lead character, Hyram Woodside (Matthew Raudsepp) is trying to establish his country music image. Could you please describe your progression in developing Hyramís style?

Susana Vera: Well, from the beginning of the process I was in direct communication with both Graham Cuthbertson(playwright) and Andrew Shaver(director) to understand the story they wanted to convey through the wardrobe. I was informed that Nudie (the vampire) was based off a real man: Nudie Cohn. He's known for designing crazy rhinestone covered suits for celebraties such as Elvis Presley and Gram Parsons. And I was directed to 50's western wear for the general. With this base I was able to play with with my own sewing past.... how I made clothes before and after I studied costume making.

Hyram's clothes were first made by his loving wife Audrey with her self-made talents--as mine when I was young. Then his wardrobe was "professionalized" into super stardom with Nudie's tailored suits which I made with my new tailoring expertise.

donna g: Another major character in the play, Nudie (Greg Kramer) is a couturier with his own atelier, not an occupation, or a workplace that I ever expected to see in a hillbilly musical. What were your first thoughts about the character of Nudie, and how did you decide on his look?

Susana Vera: Nudie was a lot of fun for me. A tailor who has been on this planet lurking for who knows how long. Who would he have tailored for? Who would have he been taught his trade by? I decided to take him back to the 17th Century where men were just as decorated as women. I tailored his suit as a modern version of an embelished 17th suit with "goth" embeshiments. I embroidered the flowers with deep blood red floss in the form of stitches...stitches for repairing a cut on flesh.

donna g: How did you arrive at the contrasting looks of Audrey Woodside (Gemma James-Smith) and Bobbi (Alexis Taylor)? The two women have such distinctive styles.

Susana Vera: I wanted to make Audrey look like a "homemaker" and "supporter" of her husband's plans, what ever they may be. To do this I choose a red gingham blouse embelished with green trim. Why? Well it just reminds me of the "How to" Singer sewing books that most housewifes worked from in the 70's. The inspiration for Bobbi was was Katy Keene a sexy bombshell from the comics of 1940's. Someone who looks better than her capacity or need to achieve anything.

donna g: In a festival such as SummerWorks, the play is sandwiched between other shows on a daily basis. Do you have to design the costumes based on the fact that The Haunted Hillbilly doesn't have a permanent home?

Susana Vera: The Haunted Hillbilly was created to work on it's own no matter where it's presented. It wouldn't matter what it is sandwiched between as the play brings you into it's own fantastical world of music and blood.

Susana Vera has been designing costumes for Montreal theatre and dance productions for the past five years. She is a recipient of a MECCA (Montreal English Critic Circle Award) for The Jungle Book (Geordie Productions). Recent credits include designing and constructing the flamenco show El12 by La Otra Orilla. Ohter credits include Death and the Maiden (Centaur), Swan Song of Maria (Black Theatre Workshop), Inherit the Wind (Segal Centre), and Dracula (Fallen Angel Production).


Friday, August 13, 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 15, 12:30 PM
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
(1 block east of Bathurst, 1 block north of Queen)

For complete details visit:
Box Office: 416-504-7529

All photos by donna g


This is so bloody awesome! Thanks to Donna for giving Susanna some well deserved love and credit. And thanks to Susanna for her incredible work, we all wish you were here celebrating with us, the success of Haunted Hillbilly is due to your work as much as anyone else's.

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