Q & A with Costume Designer Kärin Simonson Kopischke
By: Angelica DiIorio
Kärin Kopischke is the original costume designer for The Shining’s world premiere with Minnesota Opera in 2016. Now, she is back, putting the finishing touches on costumes for our Rocky Mountain regional premiere. Learn how she created these costumes and adjusted the originals to fit its new cast.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST THOUGHTS WHEN ASKED TO MAKE COSTUMES FOR THE SHINING?
When I was first asked to do the opera, I knew it was kind of contemporary since the movie was done in the 1970s, so I figured it would be just a few vintage pieces. But when I got the libretto, I got very excited because it wasn’t just the small family and a few other characters. The librettist had decided to add all the ghosts that were in the hotel who had been guests during the 1920s and prohibition.
As Jack stays at the hotel longer, he starts to get haunted and taken over by these ghosts. These ghosts were the most exciting thing to design since there were all specific and damaged people, so it became a much bigger project than I thought it would be.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR DESIGN OF THESE COMPLEX CHARACTERS?
Well, to begin with, I like stories that are dark and disturbing, so this was right up my alley. I read the novel and watched the mini-series, which was much more true to the novel. I wanted to show in the costumes that the [Torrance] family starts out as a loving family who is really trying to make things work, that Jack gets taken over by the hotel, and that the ghosts in the hotel are not friendly ghosts, they are manipulative and threatening.
I really wanted to differentiate the clothing between the real humans in the story and the ghosts. The ghosts are in a very tight color pallet of whites, grays, and blacks, and they are all very extreme. I also wanted to make their faces show that they were not human and of the same world as the family, so their makeup is very specific. As Jack is taken over by the hotel, he ends up going into that world. He starts in the colors of the humans, and gets more black, white, and gray, taking on the pallor of the ghosts and the redness to their eyes, as he becomes more violent.
HOW WERE THE COSTUMES CHANGED OR ALTERED TO FIT THIS NEW CAST?
Whenever an opera moves on to the next company, it is an adventure. For one singer, he is a different size than the original character, but, surprisingly enough, he was able to wear half of the original costume. The other [costumes] we were able to recreate. I am always amazed that singers may be different sizes, different heights, but they ultimately seem to be really well cast. There are similarities to not only the character in the novel but also to the singer who sang the role before. Our Danny is much bigger than the Danny we had in Minneapolis…they are wearing different pieces but have the same feel. For the ghosts, the cast is all shapes and sizes, so people are able to wear costumes that are appropriate to who they are. Everyone is excited about the creepy costume they got to wear.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY OF FITTINGS LOOK LIKE?
Whenever I think about [the fittings], I realize that the actor is very vulnerable; they have no idea what’s going to be put on them. They have an idea of what the character looks like in their head, and then, all of a sudden, here I walk in and say, “No, this is what you are going to look like.” It is always exciting when it is happening because the actors are very excited to see what they will be wearing. In most cases, it informs them of what that character is, and the costumes can even take them further. They really get a sense of rounding out the ideas they have been thinking and playing with, and it becomes more real to them.
WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR MAIN CHALLENGES DURING THIS PROJECT?
I want the actor and the singer to look like how I have interpreted the character and how the director has from collaborations with me. I want the character to look like that, but, almost more importantly, I want the singer to feel like this is who that character is on two levels. Visually, this is how the singer saw the character and how the audience will see them. But I also want the singer to feel confident and comfortable in the clothing so that they can perform, and they don’t have to think in any practical terms about what they are wearing.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COSTUME?
I love the two girls. With the movie, we have that iconic image of the two twin girls in the blue. They are not twin girls; they are two sisters, and they are different ages. That was one of the things Stephen King hated about the movie. I was very concerned so when I rendered those costumes, I made it clear that there was an older sister and a younger sister, and they are not dressed alike.
Costumes can say a lot about a character. The humans and ghosts in The Shining are often troubled and conflicted; their costumes have their work cut out for them to help portray this complexity. Experience the costumes for yourself when you see The Shining, running this February and March.
If you loved getting to know Kärin in this post, you will love seeing her costumes live and in person! Tickets for Opera Colorado’s February/March production of Moravec & Campbell’s The Shining are on sale now>>
What else would you like to know about costume design? Which costumes in The Shining are your favorites? Which adaptation of The Shining do you think has the best costumes?