SAN DIEGODressing the Part: Costume Design at the Old Globe celebrates one of the great costume collections in San Diego, and presents one of the first hands-on, interactive exhibitions to be offered by the newly re-organized San Diego History Center. The collaborative exhibition emphasizes the process involved in moving costumes from concept to stage, and offers visitors behind-the-scenes access to the Old Globe costume shop and the team of professionals that create and care for the thousands of costumes and props used at the Old Globe. Visitors will also have the unique opportunity to try-on authentic Old Globe costumes. Dressing the Part will be on view at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park October 15, 2010 through April 15, 2011.

Dressing the Part is a departure from the norm,” said History Center Executive Director, David Kahn. “It is more than just an opportunity to collaborate with another Balboa Park organization, it is an example of our new focus here at the History Center, which is to offer our visitors truly interactive experiences. Expect more interactivity from the History Center from this point!”

Dressing the Part uses technology to provide the visitor behind-the-scenes access to a costume being sketched, patterned, fabricated, fitted, and finally on stage. The costume – for the character of Bianca from the Old Globe’s summer production of “The Taming of the Shrew” – is followed from sketch to stage, with the final, original costume on view in the exhibition. There is time-lapse photography of a wig from “The Taming of the Shrew” being made. The video condenses a weeklong process into five minutes, and shows in detail the meticulous effort made by the Old Globe’s award-winning wig team. Visitors can try on original costumes from the Old Globe’s productions of “The Taming of the Shrew”, “King Lear”, and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Visitors will get a feel for how a costume transforms an actor into the character, and finally how it feels to then step on stage as that character. The exhibition includes a small stage that is theatrically lit by the Old Globe team; when visitors step on stage the house lights dim, stage lights engage, and the house begins to applaud.

Noah Tafolla of local “Wonderland” fame is working with the History Center to conduct and videotape interviews with Old Globe actors Jonathan McMurtry and Kandis Chappell as part of the exhibition. The interviews reveal first-hand the importance of costumes, and an actor’s perspective on becoming a character for the stage. The videos also present how members of the costume department at the Old Globe create the costumes and how they work with the actor to breathe life into each character through the costume.

The San Diego History Center contracted with the nationally renowned exhibition developer, Janet Kamien, to create the interactive elements of the exhibition. Kamien is well respected in the museum community for her ability to develop engaging exhibits that are inclusive of visitor diverse in age, ability and interest. She has consulted to a variety of museums including the Chicago History Museum, Boston’s Children’s Museum, the National Constitution Center (Philadelphia, PA), and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH). Technical support for videos and computer activities within the exhibition is provided by the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, a project of the Legler Benbough Foundation. Additional funding for Dressing the Part is provided by U.S. Bank, San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, and the History Center’s Costume Council.