In this week's Take Ten, Helen Hayes Award nominee for Scena Theatre's The Cripple of Inishmaan, costume designer Robert Croghan shares his past as a failed puppeteer, and his dreams of finding some Light in the Piazza. Catch his work in Forum Theatre's The Pillowman, now playing through April 2.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
The first production (that I can remember) was a local high school production of The Music Man back in MN. While the acting may have been questionable, everyone looked like they were having a great time! For a loner kid like me, that production motivated me to experience more theatre and join in the fun!
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
Freshman year of High School, I auditioned for the spring musical Once Upon a Mattress and was cast as Sir Studley. While I enjoyed the dance numbers, I don’t think I was particularly good at being a performer. After that production I started to experiment with other aspects of theatre like: costume design, wardrobe, run crew, stage management.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Oh, this is the worst question to ask! I have so many in mind!!!! I would say I am particularly fond of a musical called Bare: A Pop Opera. I was introduced to this musical during my high school years when I was struggling with coming out, Peter (one of the main characters) really resonated with me, especially the struggle he had trying to come out to his family. This show still tugs at my heartstrings.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
I worked at a Barnes and Noble ages ago. While I am an avid reader, the environment amongst the employees was quite poisonous. I felt really uncomfortable most of the time, which is why I preferred to do the solitary jobs like re-stocking the shelves. If it wasn’t for the discount, I would have quit sooner.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
For three summers I worked at CPCC Summer Theatre in Charlotte, NC. Like most summer stocks, there were 4-5 shows produced within a 2-3 month timeframe. Along with assistant costume designing a production of Children of Eden, I was also the puppeteer. There is a part during Act II where a dove puppet is supposed to land in Noah’s hand. One evening, I may have given the puppet a little too much energy and the dove’s beak may or may not have poked the actor playing Noah right in the eye…All hopes of being a famous puppeteer died shortly after that event.
6) What are you enjoying most about working on The Pillowman?
I have really enjoyed the collaboration and discussions with Yury Urnov and the rest of the production team members! Yury, Paige Hathaway (scenic designer) and myself had some amazing discussions early on about the Story World and the two additional characters created for this unique production. I have also thoroughly enjoyed working with these actors on this production! As the costume designer, I am so appreciative for these actors who breathe such life and energy into these characters.
7) Who is your dream date (living or dead) and why?
I would have to say I would love an opportunity to meet with designer Christian Lacroix. He is an incredibly talented artist. I adore both his executed work as well as his rendering abilities. As for a DATE DATE, I would say Michael Fassbender…because it is Michael Fassbender.
8) What is your dream role/job?
I have many dream jobs on the bucket list! I would have to say my current obsession is to costume design a production of the musical Light in the Piazza.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
I would love to travel back to the 18th century to witness the first production of The Impresario from Smyrna by Carlo Goldoni. It was produced in Venice during the 1761 Carnival. It is an incredible show about the romanticized artistic personae as well as the mythologies that surround stage life. Truly remarkable.
10) What advice would you give to an 8 year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
While theatre is absolutely wonderful, don’t forget to go out and experience life! Life experiences only make your artistry stronger!
ROBERT CROGHAN recently obtained his MFA in costume design from the University of Maryland – College Park. Some of his recent productions include; The Pillowman (Forum Theatre), Señorita y Madame (GALA Hispanic Theatre), Big Fish (Imagination Stage), The Cripple of Inishmaan (Scena Theatre, Helen Hayes award nomination for Outstanding Costume Design), L’occasione fa il ladro (Maryland Opera Studio), Grains (Kennedy Center). Robert’s assistant costume design credits include; The Nether (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), Women Laughing Alone with Salad (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Folger Shakespeare Theatre), Machinal (2013 Broadway Revival), Godspell (2011 Broadway Revival), Shrek the Musical (Broadway). For more information, please visit his website; www.robertcroghan.format.com/